By Shannon Nicholas at Havelock Park
In what turned out to be a one sided show, Kandy SC showed true champion grit as they put on a second-half blitz to beat Havelock SC 26 – 11 in the last fixture of the penultimate week of the Dialog Rugby League 2016/17 played at the Havelock Grounds on Sunday.
The winners collected their points through four tries, a drop goal and a penalty while their opponents were only able to manage a solitary try and two penalties.
From a houseful audience to the papare bands, the atmosphere was set for a perfect match-up between the two powerhouses, which result was certain to play an important role in the title-decider come next week.
The game kicked off with both teams displaying urgency to score but it was the hosts who drew first blood with just five minutes on the clock. Wing Dulaj Perera’s perfect bisection of the posts through a penalty saw the first points put up on the board, making the home fans go berserk. (Havelock 3-0).
Havelock were reduced to 14-men soon afterwards when Hirantha Perera was sin-binned for unwarranted play, and Kandy, taking full advantage of the ‘extra man’, stormed in to the opposite territory. Kandy missed out on scoring after a penalty was missed but fullback Thilina Wijesinghe’s quick reflexes in front of the posts saw his drop kick sail between the uprights and both teams were tied on three points apiece.
Dulaj had to be taken off the field a few moments later after the wing picked up a leg injury, and it was a mighty blow for the Havies, as the game proceeded. Richard Dharmapala put the visitors in front as he touched down picking up cleanly the lucky bounce off a deep clearance kick by Thilina Wijesinghe for the first try of the evening and the scores were amended to 3-8.
Kandy’s lead was cut down to 2 points when scrum-half Rahul de Silva made no mistake in a penalty awarded to the hosts, a few minutes later. Kandy’s Roshan Weerarahne was shown ’yellow’ for a high tackle on Sudarshana Muthuthanthri, but Kandy’s defence was strong enough to not to entertain any sort of slip-up.
The scores read 6-8 when Singaporean referee Charlie Brown blew for half-time.
It was an adrenalin rush when play resumed as both teams pushed forward into their opposite halves.
Kandy saw a penalty sway away from the posts through a penalty, but hooker Damith Dissanayake managed to extend Kandy’s lead when he planted a perfectly taken try, for which the Television Match Official’s (TMO) decision had to be consulted for confirmation minutes later.
Kandy’s Danushka Ranjan, who donned the pink shirt last season, scored the visitors’ third try after producing a superb sprint along the touch line before ultimately touching down. The conversion was not successful and the scores were set to 18-6.
Centre Nishon Perera was able to reduce the mounting pressure off the hosts after he fought his way through four Kandy players to touchdown five minutes later. De Silva squandered at the relatively easy conversion and the scores were amended to 18-11.
Kandy were disallowed a try with just five minutes on the clock remaining, much to the relief of the Havelock players, but were able to grab three points off a Wijesinghe penalty, to go up 21-11. With the title slipping off their hands, Havelock deployed numbers up field in a frenzy in search of points, but all efforts were wasted when Srinath Sooriyabandara scored Kandy’s fourth try off a solo effort The scores were set to 26 – 11.
With the win, Kandy would be able to defend the title successfully, when they go into next week’s fixtures as favourites against minnows CH & FC, having one hand already on the title.
Elsewhere Police SC defied all odds to emerge victorious against Army SC, who they beat 27-21 in their fixture played at the Diyagama Grounds yesterday. The Cops, who collected their points through three goals and two penalties, led 20 points to 7 at lemons, whereas Army only managed three goals.