Foreigners to the Fore as CR Punish Airmen
They huffed and puffed but several mistakes and a nasty case of whiteline-jitters followed as Air Force SC, who had hoped to record an unlikely victory over CR & FC, were brought down to earth, beaten 44-27 in their Dialog Rugby League ‘A’ Division game played at Longdon Place yesterday.
If they were convinced that having a fresher side would work in their favour, Air Force, who had a week off, learnt otherwise as handling errors and poor options in attack – especially with the try-line there for the taking – cost dearly. CR on the other hand put to bed any concerns that may have been raised after last week’s close win against Army SC, with this next to dominant performance.
The hosts got their money’s worth from their foreign players as they hogged the lime-light, effectively and efficiently contributing both in offensive play and in defence.
Their New-Zealand based centre Slaimanahal Shabir scored four tries, including a first-half hat-trick, as he helped his team to an imposing 25-3 lead at the break. He showed sheer determination – if not flaunting his physical prowess – as he broke through several Air Force tackles and caught the opposition defence napping, making a stand-out contribution to his team.
Not to be outdone fellow-import, CR’s other New Zealand-based player, fly-half Luke Muggeridge put on a scintillating kicking display firing four out of six conversions and two penalties, also scoring a try with a typical fly-half’s chip and chase run. He scored first – a penalty for a ruck infringement well in-sight of goal – in the third minute, before Shabir broke off tackles and made a solo run to touch down three minutes later, for a converted try.
Just as quickly, the slack Air Force defence failed to deal with a high-ball, and Shabir grabbed the loose ball right in front of their faces to have an easy run at goal to give his team a 17-0 lead following the conversion.
Air Force were given a reprieve later in the half, when CR had a man directed to sin-bin, but the visitors failed to get anything more than a penalty, scored by their captain Suranga Arunashantha, during that period. In fact, CR scored another unconverted try in that ten-minute spell, when Shabir made another tackle-breaking run completing a hat-trick. Muggeridge had one more successful pop at goal, adding three points as CR finished the half 25-3.
They were soon to add to that score as full-back Ashan de Costa finished off a slick move studded with some crisp and quick passes, with Muggeridge putting over another conversion.
Pradeep Kulakurasuriya then scored a try for Air Force, which by then was apparent to be nothing more than a consolation, following a passage of play where the Airmen were camped in CR territory, though it took many attempts and several turn-overs before they could breach the opposition defence.
Shabir scored his fourth a little later in the half, before both teams shared a try each – Dinesh Weeraratne and Muggeridge being the respective scorers – which were converted.
If there was one blatant flaw in CR’s game – one that could prove to be costly against tougher and more clinical opponents – was that they let off in the dying stages, particularly after taking off their foreign players, which allowed Air Force to score two tries in the last five minutes to flatter their otherwise unpalatable performance. But it was perhaps, a risk that CR could have afforded to have taken.
Air Force’s Dinesh Weeraratne and Suranga Arunashantha scored the final two tries for their team. The game was refereed by Gamini Indrasena.
- By Shehan Daniel