By Shannon Nicholas
CR & FC managed to book their place in the semi-finals of the Dialog Clifford Cup 2017 when they beat Air Force SC 36 points to 33 at the Racecourse Grounds on Friday.
A solitary penalty made the difference between the two sides as both teams scored four goals and a try. CR & FC were given a scare during the second-half, which saw them trail by 33 points to 22 at one stage, but rallied back to grab victory.
The scores read 17-12 in favour of CR when Referee Priyantha Gunarathne blew for half-time.
Outside-half Gayantha Iddamalgoda put the Airmen ahead with just four minutes into the game through a try, after getting the better of the CR backline, and after Fullback Nuwan Perera bisected the poles with the conversion.
Five minutes later CR responded by pushing themselves up field and were awarded a penalty, which was successfully converted off the trusted boots of Tarinda Ratwatte, to amend the scores to 07-03.
Wing Kavindu Perera put the ‘Reds’ in front 10-07 when he executed a perfect run before touching down. Outside-half Nalin Kumara added the extras.
CR continued to dominate possession with many attempts to inflict damage and were successful when Kavindu managed to touch down five minutes later. The wing himself converted and CR were up 17-07.
Air Force managed to cut the lead to five points soon afterwards, when Lock Supun Madusanka went over the line to plant the Airmen’s second try of the evening. The conversion was wasted and the scores were amended to 17-12.
The scoreboard wasn’t amended for the rest of the first-half and it stood at 17-12 in favour of CR when the half-time whistle was blown.
CR began their attack again as soon as play resumed when Fullback Sashan Mohamed scored CR’s third try of the evening after collecting the ball through an Ashan de Costa pass close to the throw line. Air Force responded minutes later however, when Wing Anjana Vinod touched down and with Iddamalgoda adding the extras, the scores were made 22-19.
CR’s Anuradha Herath was sin-binned for a high-tackle and Air Force, with the advantage of the extra man on field, deployed troops up field in search of points. They were able to stun their opponents when Iddamalgoda came up with two back-to-back tries within a span of five minutes. Iddamalgoda converted the first while Nuwan added the extras in the second, to give Air Force a comfortable 33-22 lead.
With time running out, the CR bench were feeling the mounting pressure. The Air Force defense proved to be below-par as they let Kokila Sammandapperuma fly past them to touchdown. Naleen Kumara added the extras and the scores were set to 33-29 with 13-minutes to go.
Air Force stole the ball back and were seen playing up field gaining possession as the CR players watched the clock tick. With just five minutes to go Naleen Kumara scored the winning try for the Reds when he slipped through the leaky Air Force defense to touch down. He himself added the extras and the scores were amended to 36-33.
It was too late for the Airmen to overturn the score, and all efforts of grabbing some points by them were cancel-ed out by the CR back-line.
With the win, CR qualified for the semi- finals where they would face defending champions Kandy SC on Wednesday.