Army Stun Police with Second Half Rally
A frenetic ten-minute spell that produced both sublime rugby and abject defence assured Army SC a likely place amongst the league’s best, when they came from behind to beat Police SC 3327 in their Dialog Rugby League ‘A’ Division game played at Police Park yesterday.
Army have been the most unlucky team this season, despite playing refreshing rugby, with all five of their defeats – some controversial – being by less than a single score. And with their hopes of qualifying for the Cup segment of the second round hinging on yesterday’s result, they looked destined for second-rate rugby when, with 20 minutes left in the game, they trailed by 10 points with the hosts pushing to add to their lead.
But a lucky break came in the 62nd minute, when Police winger Jeevan Amaradasa was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, giving Army a numerical advantage that they still needed to capitalise on. And capitalise they did, as they threw down the hammer and plundered their way through the opposition in a ten minute frenzy, during which they erased the 10-point deficit and took an 11-point lead.
The game’s first score came in the fourth minute, when Sam Aolele succesfully attempted a long range penalty from just inside the Army half. That was the only score of the game till late in the half, as both teams made headway but were stuttered by last-gasp – sometimes excellent – defending and poor handling and overall attacking play.
Army scored the first try in the 31st minute when Neshantha Kotalawala burst his way through the Police defenders, with Upali Wickramasinghe putting his team ahead with the conversion, But that was cancelled out just at the stroke of half-time however, as Police took back the lead when T Sivanathan was forced over the line in the far left corner. The acute-angled conversion that preceded was put over confidently by Aolele. The second half was more open as possession switched hands quickly. But it took all of 11 minutes for the first score of the half, this time by Army SC, who took back the lead through a Steave Kunaga try.
Police hit back hard, and their marauding Williyam Batiratu crossing the Army line, as Police took a three-point lead, after Aolele was successful with the conversion. Aoele added to his hero status two minutes later when he weaved through the Army defence and touched down easily – his conversion extending the Police lead to 10 points.
Following Amaradasa’s yellow card, Army’s expat Cocanasiga Epi got over the try line, as he made his way through the back peddling Police defence with Wickramasinghe successful with the subsequent conversion.
They then completed the comeback four minutes later, when Sarath Kumara ran at the defence off-the-ball, with a perfectly timed pass finding him just when there was a gap in front of him, as he scored untouched and under the posts, giving Wickramasinghe an easier conversion.
Having fallen behind again, Police took on more urgency in their attack, though it was done carelessly.
Aolele turned villain when, being the last line of defence, he attempted a chip in his own half, which was blocked by an Army player who picked it up and passed between his team mates, with Wickramasinghe given the honour of scoring the points which virtually decided the result. Dushantha Lewke scored a late try for Police, but they could not add to the score thereafter giving Army a memorable win.
With that defeat, Police’s chances of qualifying for the Cup segment of the tournament, when the first round ends next week, look relatively slim and even if they beat Air Force SC with a bonus point, will still have to wait on the results of the Upcountry Lions, who play CR & FC today and Havelock SC next week.
- By Shehan Daniel