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State funds vital for the growth of rugby – Asanga Seneviratne

May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Yohan Bhasura

President of Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) Asanga Seneviratne believes that state funds are an essential part if the sport is to reach its peak at international level in the near future.

SLR President Asanga Seneviratne addresses the gathering. (Pic by Waruna Wanniarachchi)

He made these observations to the Daily Mirror soon after Sri Lanka ended their campaign in the Asian Rugby Championship Division One Tournament worked off in Malaysia recently.

“We started this tournament as Asia’s fourth ranked team but we cannot think of moving further up in the rankings without the backing of the Sports Ministry.”

“The three top Asian teams, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea have allocated a sum of US $ 4 to 10 million towards their senior team alone,” explained Seneviratne.

“We should initiate a proper structure if we are to compete well against top ranked teams like Japan and other countries. First we should take care of the Under-16, 18, 19 and 20 teams. For this, we need funds”

“We have already handed over our long term plan to the Ministry of Sports. We need Rs. 100 to 150 million to develop the senior team,” added Seneviratne.

“Our juniors should also compete against the best in Asia if we are to make any further progress in the game. Playing against the best at the age of 25 is not going to help our cause at all.”

“If we take cricket, we had only the senior team playing in the beginning. But now we have teams competing at the highest level from the age group of Under-15,” emphasized Seneviratne.

“We should be able to get these funds and have a good 4 to 8 year long term plan and develop the junior teams if we are to beat the three top teams which are above us in the Asian rankings.”

“We had only a sponsorship of Rs. 6.5 million when we took over SLR in 2012. But now the sponsorship has increased to Rs. 100 million. We were able to bring professionalism into the game within these five years. Now we need to take this game into the next level,” commented Seneviratne.

“We have presented our eight year plan to the Ministry of Sports. The prime idea behind this plan is to collect the needed funds along with the Ministry of Sports to sustain the game and to develop the junior rugby teams in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association.”

Seneviratne also made his observations on the rest of the teams which participated in the Asian Rugby Championship Division One Tournament in Malaysia.

“Although these teams are ranked below us they are pretty strong and take for an instance the Philippines, all 15 players are competing in Australia.”

“There are five Fijians representing the Malaysia team. The Philippines, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates are all developed countries. We have a history of over 100 years in rugby. But we are still a developing nation,” observed Seneviratne.

The President of SLR also revealed the difficulties and the obstacles they are currently facing.

“We received quite a number of sponsorships when players in the calibre of Namal Rajapaksa and Yoshitha Rajapaksa were representing the country in 2009 and 2010.”

“But we are not lacking in sponsorships just because the government changed a couple of years ago. Minister Malik Samarawickrema and Harin Fernando have continuously supported us,” added Seneviratne.

“We do not have a proper location for our headquarters. Our office and the 24 perch land which we owned were taken over by the previous government.”

“The current location is not sufficient to conduct our activities. We have requested for a suitable office from the authorities,” said Seneviratne.

“We have requested from the government to hand over us the ownership and the management of the Old Race Course. We have also requested for a suitable place to put up our headquarters at this venue.”

“I think almost 90 percent of our requirements would be fulfilled if the government could provide us with residential facilities for the National Team and a playground for training.”

“We are currently spending millions to provide these facilities for the players. I think the government should take care of these facilities. I hope the Minister of Sports Dayasiri Jayasekera will support us,” concluded Seneviratne.

Review: Royal secures League and Bradby first-leg in style

May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Chris Dhambarage

Royal College are the new Singer Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament champions for the 2017 season.

Royal win league title

The team from Reid Avenue delivered the final blow on Saturday to regain the coveted title by overcoming the traditional rivals Trinity College 22-17 at Pallekele in Kandy.

Royal’s success had a great amount of significance as they also cleared their first hurdle in their attempt to win the prestigious Bradby Shield.

Royal will now carry a five point advantage over their rivals when they clash once again in the second-leg of the 73rd annual encounter on June 3 at the Royal College Sports Complex.

The manner in which Royal performed in this last Cup Segment fixture of the league tournament was really outstanding as they were under tremendous pressure even before the kick-off.

But they lived upto expectations as a true champion outfit while folding up twice from an early setback before recording a memorable and historic victory away from home.

Royal suffered an early setback and they were trailing 0-5 shortly after the kick-off and once again they were up against it when the home side snatched a 12-10 lead few minutes after the interval.

However, Royal seems to have made it a habit of turning things around in their favour in the second half as once again they showed their prowess by producing some exhilarating rugby during the latter stages of the game.

They scored two back-to-back tries midway in the second half through Hamza Reeza to build up a commanding lead and then held on determinedly and deprived the home side of scoring with some superb cover defence.

In fact the current season turned out to be a memorable one for Reeza who emerged as the most successful try scorer with 14 tries to his credit in the league tournament.

Isipathana vs Wesley

Isipathana College produced a splendid second half rally to beat Wesley College 28-0 in their Singer Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament final Cup Championship fixture played at Havelock Park.

This victory also ensured Isipathana the runners-up position in the league points table as they concluded the proceedings in the league tournament on a high note.

Even then, Isipathana probably expected a tough challenge from their opponents in this vital game but quite surprisingly they had things almost to their liking especially in the second half.

In fact, Wesley never looked the same team as they had performed in the earlier matches as they surrendered to their opponents quite meekly in their final outing.

The Wesleyites of course managed to apply some pressure to their opponents in the first half as Isipathana struggled initially and took a slender 8-0 lead at the break.

However, once they got their act together well and settled down, the home side really went on the rampage and added four more tries to their tally in the second half which helped them to complete a rousing victory in the end.

St. Peter’s vs S. Thomas’

S. Thomas’ College came from behind with a tremendous performance to force a thrilling 25-25 draw to their Singer Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament second-round fixture against St. Peter’s College worked off at Bambalapitiya.

This was no doubt a major setback for the Peterites considering the fact they started the match as favourites following some impressive performances in their earlier matches.

But the Thomians who were trailing 12-15 at half time came back strongly in the second half and went on to share the honours with their rivals while collecting their points from two goals, one try and two penalties.

The Peterites of course made a promising start as they took the initiative and set the pace for a convincing victory at one stage but had to settle for a draw in the end with their points coming through two goals, one try and two penalties.

Even then, S. Thomas’ had the satisfaction of retaining the Archibald Perera Memorial Trophy by virtue of their victory in last year’s encounter.

The Thomians could have even snatched the game from the jaws of defeat as their reliable place kicker Dion Dias fluffed an easy under the post penalty during the latter stages of the game.

St. Joseph’s vs Zahira

St. Joseph’s College had the satisfaction of concluding the league fixtures on a high note as they powered their way to a resounding 38-14 victory over Zahira College in their match played at Welisara.

The Josephians collected their points from one goal, five tries and two penalties while Zahira responded with two goals.

The Joes of course got off to a splendid start as they built up a commanding 18-0 lead at half time while scoring three superb tries and also fired across a penalty during a dominant performance.

However, Zahira hit back in the second half and surprised their opponents as they managed to touch down on two occasions and also converted both tries to keep their hopes alive.

But St. Joseph’s added the finishing touches in style as they went on to plant three more tries in the second half and also fired across a penalty to increase the lead to put the issue beyond doubt.

Navodya wins bronze in Thailand

May 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Sri Lanka’s Navodya Sankalpa won the Bronze Medal in the Boys’ 400 metres hurdles on the final day of the Second Asian Youth Athletic Championship which concluded at the National Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand on Tuesday.

The schoolboy from Mahinda College clocked 53:86 seconds to finish behind the winner Halomoan Edwin Bisar (51.96 seconds) of Indonesia and Ting Hsuan Huang of China who returned a time of 52:49 seconds.

This was Sri Lanka’s second medal at the meet after Harsha Karunaratne won the Silver Medal in the Boys’ 800 metres event on Sunday (21).

Sri Lanka finished 17th in the overall medals tally with China taking the top spot with 16 Gold Medals.

Meanwhile, Santhush Weerasinghe had to be satisfied with the fourth place in the Boys’ 200 metres event with a personal best time of 21:92 seconds.

In addition, Ashmika Herath was not allowed to compete in the Girls’ 2,000 metres steeplechase event after having violated championship rules.

Mourinho says Manchester attack victims in United’s ‘minds and hearts’

May 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Jose Mourinho said the victims of a deadly bomb attack in Manchester were in the “minds and hearts” of his squad as Man United prepared for Wednesday’s Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm.

Manchester United players and staff stand for a minute of silence during training honouring the people killed and wounded in an explosion at Manchester Arena

Britain’s deadliest attack for 12 years saw 22 people killed, including children, and 59 injured when a bomb went off at a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena on Monday.

“We’re all very sad about the tragic events last night; we can’t take out of our minds & hearts the victims & their families,” said Mourinho in comments posted on United’s Twitter feed on Tuesday.

“We have a job to do & will fly to Sweden to do that job. It’s a pity we cannot fly with the happiness we always have before a big game.”

Mourinho, who only joined United last year, added: “I know, even during my short time here, that the people of Manchester will pull together as one.”

The Portuguese boss’s Twitter comments were set to be his only public statement of the day after United had earlier announced they were cancelling Tuesday’s scheduled pre-match press conference in Stockholm.

“Due to the tragic events in Manchester last night and the effect that this has had on everyone here at our club and within our city, we have decided to cancel this evening’s pre-match press conference in Stockholm,” United said in a statement.

“We are sure that, in the circumstances, you will all understand our position on this matter.

“Our thoughts are with the victims at this terribly difficult time.”

Moyes resigns after Sunderland relegation

May 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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David Moyes has resigned as Sunderland manager following their relegation from the Premier League, the club announced on Monday.

Moyes

The 54-year-old Scot succeeded Sam Allardyce last July and oversaw a desperate season that saw Sunderland finish 16 points adrift of safety at the foot of the table.

“I would like to thank (chairman) Ellis Short and the board for giving me the opportunity to manage Sunderland and the fans for always being so passionately supportive of their club,” Moyes said in a statement.

“I wish the players and my successor well in their efforts towards promotion back to the Premier League.”

Sunderland’s relegation to the Championship after 10 years in the top flight was confirmed following a 1-0 home defeat by Bournemouth last month.

Moyes informed Sunderland officials of his decision to leave at a meeting in London on Monday.

His departure completes a sorry few weeks for the former Everton manager, who has been charged by the Football Association after jokily threatening to “slap” a female reporter.

It is his third successive short-lived stint at a club, following previous disappointments at Manchester United, where he lasted just 10 months, and Real Sociedad.

“I pursued the services of David Moyes for a considerable period prior to his appointment last summer, which makes the announcement of his departure difficult for everyone concerned,” said Sunderland chairman Ellis Short.

“Having worked tirelessly throughout the campaign to avoid relegation from the Premier League, David has chosen to leave the club without compensation, which is testament to his character.

“In the days ahead we will take some time for reflection and then focus on recruitment and pre-season as we prepare for our Championship campaign. We wish David well in the future.”

Moyes was dissatisfied with Sunderland’s close-season transfer dealings and set the tone for their campaign early in the season when he said he was preparing for a relegation battle.

Sunderland sank into the bottom three in September and did not move off the foot of the table from January onwards, finishing the campaign with only six wins to their name.

An incident involving Moyes and BBC radio reporter Vicki Sparks occurred after a 0-0 draw against Burnley on March 18, but only came to light last month.

After taking exception to a question, Moyes waited until the interview had ended before telling Sparks: “It was getting a wee bit naughty at the end there, so just watch yourself.

“You still might get a slap even though you’re a woman. Careful the next time you come in.”

He subsequently apologised, but was charged by the FA on April 26.

Live updates: Under 20 Schools rugby league tournament – St. Peter’s College vs S. Thomas’ College; Isipathana College vs Wesley College

May 20, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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18:13 – At full time. Isipathana College 28. Wesley College 0.

18:08 – At full time. St. Peter’s College 25. S. Thomas’ College 25.

17:53 – Dias puts over a penalty for S. Thomas’ College to level the scores again. 25-25.

17:52 – Isipathana College scores their fifth try to extend the lead. 28-0.

17:51 – Dassanayake puts over a penalty for St. Peter’s College to take the lead. 25-22.

17:47 – Isipathana College score their fourth try to extend the lead. 23-0.

17:42 – Dion Dias puts over a penalty for S. Thomas’ College to level the scores. 22-22.

17:40 – Fernando scores for Isipathana once again to extend the lead to 18-0.

17:33 – Chamod Fernando scores for Isipathana College to further extend the lead. 13-0.

17:31 – Shenuk Perera scores for S. Thomas’ College to reduce the lead. 19-22.

17:24 – Suhail Fernando scores for St. Peter’s College early in the second half to extend lead 22-12.

17:22 – At half time. Isipathana College 8. Wesley College 0.

17:20 – Rankothge scores the first try for Isipathana College to extend lead. 8-0.

17:14 – At half time. St. Peter’s College 15. S. Thomas’ College 12.

17:12 – Jayawardena scores for S. Thomas’ College to reduce the margin. 12-15.

17:09 – Fernando breaks the deadlock with a penalty for Isipathana College to lead 3-0.

17:06 – Raveen Fernando scores for St. Peter’s College to increase the lead. 15-7.

17:00 – Mark Assauw puts St. Peter’s College in front with a converted try. 10-7.

16:53 – Avishka Lee misses a penalty for Wesley College.

16:42 – After 10 minutes of play. Isipathana 0. Wesley 0.

16:37 – Diyath Fernando puts over a penalty for St. Peter’s College to reduce the deficit 3-7.

16:35 – Naveen Heenakankanamge open scoring for S. Thomas’ College to take an early lead. 7-0.

16:32 – Match between Isipathana vs Wesley kicks at Havelock Park kicks off

16:28 – Match between St. Peter’s and S. Thomas at Bambalapitiya kicks off

Matches kicks off shortly.

Pathana-Wesley clash for prestige

May 20, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Chris Dhambarage

Isipathana College and Wesley College will be hoping to conclude the Singer Inter-Schools League Tournament on a high note when they clash in their Under-20 rugby encounter at Havelock Park on Saturday (20).

Both teams of course will be looking to bounce back after they had a major setback last week where their league title hopes were shattered following two shock defeats.

The defending champions Isipathana surrendered to their arch rivals Trinity College 10-15 in an exciting contest played at Pallekele while Wesley went down to Royal 19-35 in their fixture played at the Royal Complex.

But the two teams believe that they still have something to achieve in this tournament as the winner of this game could probably have the chance of finishing as the runners-up of the league.

In fact, for the Wesleyites it will certainly be a near ‘dream cometrue’if they couldachieve their goal as never before they havehad so much of success in an Inter-Schools Under-20 League Tournament in the recent past.

No doubt the school of Campbell Park may be quite disappointed that they missed out a great opportunity of winning their maiden Under-20 League title.

However, they could still look back at their performances with great pride as they were able to topple some of the more fancied opponents in the first-round as well as in the important Cup Championship Segment.

Overall, this was a fantastic performance from the Wesleyites considering the fact that they had conceded the opening match of the tournament tamely to Trinity by a huge margin of 24-64 in Colombo.

This will also be the last chance for Isipathana to showcase their talent potential in the league tournament before they begin their preparations for the upcoming knock-out championship.

They will be really satisfied if they could pull off this game and finish in the second place of the points table considering the fact that they had put a lot hard work to maintain high standards on the field.

In addition, the cynosure of all eyes will be on the individual brilliance of Isipathana’s full back Chamodh Fernando and Wesley’s dynamic fly half Avishka Lee who have made a great amount of contribution for their respective teams.

In fact, Fernando is one of the leading try scorers in the league tournament with eight tries to his credit having also impressed as a reliable place kicker with a total of 15 conversions.

Meanwhile, Lee has been the main source of inspiration for Wesley having made his presence felt in every outing with five tries, nine penalties and 15 conversions under his belt for a fantastic overall contribution of 82 points.

SL face tough challenge from Malaysia

May 20, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Yohan Bhasura reporting from Malaysia

Sri Lanka will take on Malaysia in a vital Asian Rugby Championship Division One Tournament fixture in Malaysia on Saturday (20). The match will kick-off at 1.30 p.m (Sri Lanka time).

Marija
File photo of Fazil Marija

 Sri Lanka are faced with a must-win situation if they are to clinch the title but a draw would be sufficient for Malaysia to emerge Asian champions as they are on top of the points table with an extra bonus point.

Sri Lanka failed to collect a bonus point in their match against the Philippines which they won 24-13 but secured a bonus point in the game against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while winning 33-17.

In contrast, Malaysia had the satisfaction of obtaining a bonus point in both their outings against the UAE (36-22) and the Philippines (40-8) respectively.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Skipper Roshan Weeraratne said the players are quite confident and are in a good frame of mind ahead of the game against Malaysia.

“I think this will be a very tough game for us. In the past we have lost to Malaysia on several occasions. But this time we have a different game plan to counter-attack the opposition,” said Weeraratne.

However, Sri Lanka will be forced to take the field without their star player Danushka Ranjan who missed the second half of the game against the UAE following a shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, veteran player Fazil Marija will make his final appearance for his country in a 15-a-side international game against Malaysia today (20).

The 31-year-old dynamic scrum half who has represented the country in both formats of the game for over a decade has already announced his retirement from club rugby after the 2017/18 season.

However, Marija said that he will continue to play sevens rugby for his country and for his club Kandy Sports Club in Inter-Club Rugby Tournaments.

The former schoolboy of Kingswood College has represented Sri Lanka in more than 5015-a-side internationals in addition to over 100 seven-a-side matches.

Royal-Trinity should be a thriller with title on the line

May 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Chris Dhambarage

A rousing game of rugby is expected when the traditional rivals Royal College and Trinity College clash in the first-leg of the 73rd Annual Bradby Shield Inter-Schools encounter which will be played at Pallekele in Kandy on Saturday (20).

This match is of great significance for both teams as the winners are also assured of emerging Cup Champions in the 2017 Singer Inter-Schools Under-20 League Tournament.

Both teams have cleared some of the toughest hurdles on their way during their first-round matches as well as in the Cup Segment of the league and are really determined to showcase their talent and potential.

In fact, Royal and Trinity have figured in some of the most fascinating inter-school rugby games in the recent past and last year’s fixture was a classic example of their rivalry.

In a dramatic turn of events to the 2016 encounter the Bradby Shield was shared,only for the second time in the history of the series, after both teams ended with the same aggregate.

Royal clinched the first-leg 22-17 in Colombo but Trinity took the second-leg 18-13 at Pallekele and the two teams had collected 35 points each.

This year too, Royal and Trinity have maintained their reputation as two of the pioneers of the game with some dazzling rugby throughout the current inter-school season.

Even then, both teams suffered a minor setback midway in the season with Royal going down to Isipathana College (17-22) on their home grounds and Trinity losing to St. Peter’s College (13-15) at Bambalapitiya.

But apart from these two obstacles, both teams have looked quite formidable on the field and now they have set up a fascinating contest in this final week of the league tournament.

Both teams will also take the field with a great amount of confidence after having recorded morale boosting victories in their previous outings played last week.

In fact, Royal signalled a clear warning to their rivals as they warmed-up for the Bradby Shield in style while recording a comprehensive 35-19 victory over Wesley College in a vital encounter.

In contrast, Trinity had a tough outing as they were stretched to the maximum before pulling off a hard fought 15-10 victory over the reigning league champions Isipathana at Pallekele.

The key player for Royal will be their dynamic flanker Hamza Reeza who has already made a lasting impression in the current season while emerging as the most successful try scorer in the league tournament.

Reeza is in tremendous form having scored two match-winning tries in last week’s vital game against Wesley and in the previous outing he went on the rampage to score five tries against Zahira College.

In addition, Janidu Dilshan (7 tries) and Sabith Feroze (6 tries) have also been consistent try scores for Royal in the current season with Mohamed Shaqir living upto expectations as a reliable place kicker.

Trinity’s main weapon will be Diluksha Dange who has scored eight tries in the league tournament while Reshan Madena and Akitha Sakalasuriya have scored five tries each.

Trinity will be also hoping for an improved performance from their place kicker Lashane Wijesuriya who has experienced mixed fortunes in the current season.

LeBron ties record with 11th All-NBA pick, Harden unanimous

May 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James matched a record with his 11th All-NBA First Team selection while Houston guard James Harden was a unanimous choice, the NBA announced Thursday.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One

Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook, San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard and New Orleans center Anthony Davis were other selections to the select squad, chosen in a global media vote.

None of the Golden State Warriors roster were included in the first team.

James joined Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone as the only players in NBA history to make the First Team 11 times.

Harden was selected to the First Team on all 100 ballots while Westbrook, who joined Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average a triple double for a full season, and James, who set career highs in rebounds and assists and led the league in minutes played, were chosen on 99 ballots with Leonard on 96.

Davis had the narrowest call with 45 First Team votes to 43 for Utah’s Rudy Gobert, edging him 343-339 in total points with five for first team votes, three for second and one for third team selections.

Harden made the First team for the third time in four years while Davis, Westbrook and Leonard each made their second appearance on the list.

Harden averaged career highs of 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds a game, leading the NBA in assists and finishing second in scoring to propel the Rockets to the NBA’s third-best record at 55-27. Harden led the NBA by making 746 free throws and hit 262 3-pointers, third in the league.

James, in his 14th NBA campaign, ranked eighth in the NBA with 26.4 points a game and averaged career highs of 8.7 assists and 8.6 rebounds.

The All-NBA Second Team included Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, Gobert and two members of the Warriors, guard Stephen Curry and forward Kevin Durant.

The All-NBA Third Team consisted of Chicago forward Jimmy Butler and Golden State forward Draymond Green, center DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan and Washington guard John Wall.

Other NBA awards, including Most Valuable Player and Coach of the Year, will be revealed June 26 at the new NBA Awards Show in New York.

Cavaliers again flirt with historic playoff start

May 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are on the verge of making their second consecutive 10-0 start to the NBA playoffs when they face the Boston Celtics on Friday.

Lue

The defending NBA champions ripped the Celtics 117-104 in Wednesday’s start of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Final series with game two Friday in Boston.

“We did a good job of coming out, throwing the first punch,” said Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue.

Cleveland swept past Indiana and Toronto in the opening rounds and could match last year’s 10-0 playoff start, one shy of the best in NBA history, with another road triumph.

“I have to be in attack mode and just put the pressure on the defense and see what happens,” James said. “The energy and effort and mindset was where it needed to be starting on the road, especially in the Eastern Conference Finals.”

James scored 38 points, grabbed nine rebounds and made seven assists against the Celtics in game one, giving him 35 or more in five consecutive games and at least 30 in seven as he raises his game the nearer he gets to reaching a seventh consecutive NBA Finals.

“He’s playing at a high level right now and that’s the reason why we’re riding him so much,” Lue said. “He’s really setting the tone for us in these playoffs. We’re just kind of riding it.

“When LeBron is playing at this level, other guys just have to be solid and I think we’ve got a good chance of winning the game. Let’s see if we can just keep this up.”

Cleveland could become the first team to make 10-0 playoff starts in consecutive seasons. Golden State is off to a 10-0 start in the Western Conference, the Warriors two games from their third consecutive NBA Finals and a possible third consecutive meeting with the Cavaliers there.

The record NBA playoff start of 11-0 was accomplished twice by the Los Angeles Lakers, in 2001 when they dropped only one game on the way to the title and in 1989 when they reached the final only to be swept by Detroit.

One secret to Cleveland’s success has been to take advantage of the rest during breaks between rounds but practice as if every game is a must-win situation.

“We put in a lot of work,” James said. “We’ve been on the practice court or in the weight room training as if we were playing. There’s no way you can substitute a game. But the work that we put in this week, we just tried to be as up to speed as possible when the game did come.”

The Celtics rotated defenders on James to no avail, unable to wear him down, and barely able to slow him down.

“It’s not an individual matchup for me, no matter who’s in front of me. My mind is always racing on how I can make this the best possession at that particular time,” James said.

“I know how many guys I’m going to see throughout the course of a game. The only thing on my mind is how we can execute the best way and get a bucket, either if I can get myself a shot or if I can drive, get my shooters a shot, or if I can get a double-team in the paint or get to the free throw line.”

That group effort has allowed guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love to take their share of the load off James and play swarming support defense against top rival scorers, forcing shots from players unaccustomed to carrying the task of point production.

“We wanted to come in and set the tone and dictate the game and we felt like we did a good job of doing that,” Love said. “We felt like we could have played better and there are some things we’ll look at that will be better for Friday.”

Fitness is key to success for Tony Opatha

May 18, 2017 · 1 Comment 

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By Shehan Daniel

Whether it was opening the bowling against some of the greatest batsmen to play the game or constructively calling out the cricket board, Tony Opatha has never been one to shy away.

Opatha

A confident and cocky cricketer, Opatha’s international playing career was brought to an end prematurely in 1983 after he and a group of Sri Lanka players undertook a rebel tour to South Africa, banned from international cricket at the time because of the apartheid regime. Opatha was crucified for eternity for that decision, being singled out as the person who led that tour, and he spent almost three decades away from the country plying his trade as a coach in the Netherlands, Ireland, South Africa and Bangladesh.

Opatha speaking to the Daily Mirror in an exclusive interview elaborated on his involvement in that tour, also sharing his views about where the current national team stands.

Q: You played at a time when cricket was not as lucrative as it is now. Did you plan out your career and was life after playing something that was always on your mind?

I never planned my cricketing life. I took it the way it came and I worked hard at it, and as time went by I developed myself in how everything has to be done. I worked myself to the future but not by making plans. It came naturally over time, and if you want to develop yourself as a cricketer you have to sacrifice a lot — the way you train, the way you apply yourself, the amount of concentration, the amount of confidence, all those things come as a package, and I worked at that. As I used to say, there are a lot of cricketers behind you, to fight for your place, so if you want to be the best there is a lot of hard work to outbid all the bowlers who want to take my place. I was always full of confidence that I can achieve that because I knew that the first thing I needed to do was to be 100 per cent physically fit. Concentration, performance, success — everything is based on fitness. I gave my life to that, killed my body. We didn’t have gyms those days — my gym was chopping wood to strengthen my arms, running at the beach, on the road at 5.30 in the morning. I also never had a coach — today there are more coaches than players when they tour. It’s unnecessary. If you have a weakness you develop yourself, take two three extra hours to work on your skills.

I had to retire to be honest. Going on that tour of South Africa, forced me to retire. After that tour I was told that I couldn’t work here, so then I got a break in Holland, to coach one of the top clubs in their domestic league, and I did very well there, winning the championship several times. I ended up spending 21 years there and coached nine clubs, and then helped the national team, also serving as manager of the World Cup team. I was also involved with their ladies’ team, taking them to four European Cups and two World Cups. I then spent a year in Ireland, and then two years in South Africa before going to Bangladesh for a year. And then I came back to Sri Lanka and carried on, also focussing on my charity work.

Q: What was it like playing for Sri Lanka at that time? And do you see parallels between the game now and the game then?

I think the only thing we lacked was the Test status which we should have got about 10-15 years before. We had some excellent cricketers. I don’t think even Arjuna Ranatunga was good enough to get into the team when we were playing, although he was a good cricketer. That side was tremendous. We beat teams; we beat India in the World Cup, we lost to Australia by 18 runs, with Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee.

If I was to look at today’s cricket and the cricket we played I think we played top cricketers. The quality was such that teams had depth in quality. Everybody could bat or bowl. Today you have to find ‘a’ batsman or ‘a’ bowler. That was not the case when we played. I used to go in at seven or eight, and get fifties.

I also think T20 cricket is more circus cricket than actually cricket. It’s great to pull in crowds and to entertain them, but don’t take that as cricket. With T20 and 50 over cricket, Test cricket died, which I am sad about. (When I played) Test cricket was where the quality of cricket was but today it’s not as popular.
Whenever we played, we played hard, and we had a battle between bat and ball. But after the game we’re best of friends. That friendship through sportsmanship was there, which is not so evident today. That’s poor. You play the game in the middle, but away from the pitch we’re just friends.

Q: About that tour to South Africa in 1983, the rebel tour, you were painted as a key figure in planning that tour. What was your involvement with it?

I can only say that I am partly responsible, but it was not Tony Opatha alone. There was a committee, like Duleep Mendis was the main man selecting the team, Roy Dias, Lalith Kalluperuma and they selected the team, because I was not in the country, I was in Holland. Of course I arranged the team and the tour and they gave me the backing — they told me to — and we went to South Africa.

Everything came on me, while all these other people were also involved, and they thought I did all the damage which is not true. I got contracts of these guys who signed to go to South Africa and they signed the contracts before they went on the tour to India, where Duleep got two hundreds after getting zeroes, and when they came back he was offered the captaincy over Bandula Warnapura and they (Mendis and Dias) crossed over. Even before the tour of India they had signed contracts. But they got the whole team signed and confirmed and later put the blame on me. That was my reason to retire.

There was an incident before the first test, they had a trial, and in this trial I got the first four wickets and I was 47* and they stopped me from batting. After that when they selected the team I was not in the 25. So I was a bit sad, and when this South Africa tour came up, with the backing of my other friends, I thought (I would take it). There was no cricket at that time, because of the war, and hardly any teams came to Sri Lanka, so we were getting just old and there was no money with us, so when this opportunity came we went to South Africa. I feel sorry, because it was the wrong decision I made. (Actually) With two days to go, I refused to go, but the team mates said since I was partly responsible not to back out. I was 29 at the time, so I wasn’t young, and I took that decision because there was no cricket. That was the reason for me to do that.

Q: Did you regret undertaking that tour?

When I saw the apartheid there and how the poor people were treated, I understood the gravity of it and I wondered why I went on that tour. But we all make mistakes, and I apologized for that. They made me look like the biggest mafia murderer, and I didn’t do anything like that. I just went and sold my talent and earned some money. And at that time the country was doing business with South Africa, so South Africa was good trade but not for cricket. The punishment — a 25 year ban — was too harsh. When I returned there were numerous death threats made to me and I was fortunate to have had police protection. It was sort of a political punishment rather than a cricket punishment, but I didn’t want to go into any type of argument. Even today the cricket board thinks I should be punished.

Q: You have always been outspoken about the national team. Where do you assess the team being at the moment?

If I take the Sri Lankan cricket team now, I think we’ve got a good cricket team. They lack experience and confidence, they lack physical fitness but in another couple of years our national team will be ready to face world cricket. We’ll still be at a handicap, where we are lacking good pace bowlers, a good spinner — we’ve got only Rangana Herath and now he’s on his way out. Then we have Angelo Mathews who has had loads of injuries who is not fit. We’ve also got aging cricketers, like Upul Tharanga. Have we got replacements for these players? No. What is the fault? It’s because the Sri Lankan cricket board is not looking into the youth enough. We should have an Under 21 tournament, to compliment the Under 23 tournament. This is our nursery. This is where we have to jump and get proper coaches, who will look for talent, take their names, put them into a squad, and from there we can build them — our future Test cricketers, future match-winners. We are lacking in that area. I urge the cricket board to open their eyes and not make this mistake, this very big mistake (of neglecting the youth) for Sri Lanka cricket.

Bringing Wasim Akram for a week is a joke. Bringing Allan Donald in for two months, is a joke. We have cricketers like Champaka Ramanayake, Chaminda Vaas, Pramodya (Wickremasinghe), and other good local coaches. If you’re bringing in these types of coaches from abroad, then (you’re saying that) these coaches are not good enough. I also believe that our selectors have been too quick in dropping players. How do you make a team when you do that? How are you going to build a team? If they are good, and are selected on merit, give them five or six chances. Fitness is also an area where we are lacking. Consistency, concentration, dedication, results — all that comes in through fitness. Players these days train in comfort, in Air Conditioned gyms and when you put them out in the sun, they can’t bowl more than five overs without getting tired.

Something else we do wrong – and this is a sad story – is that every new president who comes in, brings in all the people who supported him, who are not qualified enough, into important posts. There is a lack of professionalism. And it’s a fault of all the cricket boards than have come into power.

Q: Administration was one area where you were never involved. Was it something you actively avoided?

They took that South African tour so bitterly, and they still are. Honestly, they will never get people who are pushy and know the game. They know I am capable and that I can contribute to this cricket board, but they know that I will only get people who are capable. Our cricket administration style is wrong. There are wrong people at the positions that are important for development. They don’t have the experience or the knowledge and background to produce what is required.

Q: You played at a time when cricket was blessed with big characters and personalities. Any particular players you liked bowling to?

I always liked to bowl to good cricketers. It was a battle bowling to batsmen like Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharran, Roy Fredericks or Sunil Gavashkar. (I always said) Getting a good batsman is easy, getting a bad one is difficult. So I enjoyed every game I played because I liked to perform and give my team and country the best. I always said you play for your team and your country, and (so you need to) perform. I enjoyed my cricket, and I was a cocky man.

Q: You have been outspoken about coaching as well. Do you think teams have too many coaches involved in their set-up?

Today you have about 12 coaches, more than the players. You don’t need to be teaching players the basics at this level but that is what modern cricket has become. I’m not against this. (But in Sri Lanka) There is no place for our own players. Look at Mahela (Jayawardene) — he wasn’t given a place so he went to England. They didn’t utilise Kumar Sangakkara, so he also went to England. (Chandika) Hathurusinghe, they didn’t give him a place, he went to Bangladesh. Sri Lanka have had a complex problem (they don’t see local coaches as being good enough). They take the foreign coach’s word as gospel. That is a country, it’s in our culture. This is evident even recently, when they brought Wasim Akram and Allan Donald (demoralising local coaches).

Q: What defines a good coach, in your opinion?

A good coach produces results. Produces match-winning players. You’ve got to be in front of the players, not in between. As a coach you have to have to distance yourself from the players and have that respect. That is why the board made a mistake in making Marvan Atapattu the national coach. It was too early for him. Half of the team played with him. He’s a good coach but he was appointed at the wrong time.

Q: What was the experience of coaching in a country like the Netherlands where cricket was not as popular as Sri Lanka, like?

If you see, Holland played in three world cups and in my time there I produced about 18 national players, who I coached from a young age. It’s the way those guys work at it, and come for training. They are not fanatic cricketers, but when they play they are fanatic. Our cricketers are not fanatic enough, they’ve become easy going and lazy. The character of our players is a big problem. When we played, if you are lazy you’re starving (because you’re not getting paid). Today cricketers have everything, even if you don’t win matches you get your money.

SL record easy win over the UAE

May 17, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Yohan Bhasura reporting from Malaysia

Sri Lanka made it two wins out of two games in the Asian Rugby Championship Division One Tournament after beating the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 33-17 in Malaysia on Wednesday.

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Sri Lanka’s 33 points came through four tries and three penalties put over by fullback Thilina Wijesinghe, who was also successful with the two conversions.

The UAE fielding a team full of expatriate players managed to collect their points from two goals and a penalty in a game played in searing heat with temperatures rising to 35 degrees celsius.

However, it took Sri Lanka less than a minute to open the scoring with flyhalf Fazil Marija scoring an unconverted try but his opposite number Andrew Stevenson reduced the lead with a fifth-minute penalty.

But Wijesinghe restored the early lead two minutes later when he put over the first of his three penalties.

Five minutes later lock forward Sharo Fernando ran in Sri Lanka’s second try before number eight Glen Moore’s converted try seven minutes later reduced UAE’s deficit to one point.

Outside Centre Danushka Ranjan changed that however, two minutes later when he scored a try which was converted by Wijesinghe.

But the centre was soon off the field after hurting his shoulder. While the extent of the injury was unknown a team official later confirmed that it was not serious.

Wijesinghe put over another penalty in this half to give Sri Lanka an 18-10 lead but Andrew Powell’s injury time converted try made it a one-point game at the break.

However, that was as close as the game got as inside centre Lee Keegal and flanker Jason Dissanayake ran in converted tries which proved to be the only scoring in the second half.

Could have done better – Weeraratne

May 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Yohan Bhasura reporting from Malaysia

Skipper Roshan Weeraratne believes that Sri Lanka could have put up a better performance in their Asian Rugby Championship Division I match against Philippines that was played on Sunday, which they won 24-13.

“We’re really happy but we could have done better. This was not our best performance but I think everybody played well. The weather was not in our favour, but we’re satisfied that we won this match,” said Weeraratne.

Weeraratne also expressed his disappointment for conceding two late tries to their opponents.

“I think Philippines scored those two tries because of our mistakes. We cannot blame any individual for that. The wet conditions did not help our cause and that was a major concern for us,” added Weeraratne.

The Sri Lanka captain also believed that Thilina Wijesinghe’s place kicking was key for Sri Lanka’s success against the Philippines.

“His performances helped us to stay ahead throughout the game. I think the try scored by Richard Dharmapala was also a vital factor for our success. But I think everybody played well in this match.”

Weeraratne also praised the efforts of senior player Fazil Marija.

“I think he’s still playing well like in the past. He’s still the same player he was 10 years back. I hope he will continue the same form in the remaining matches ,” the captain said.

Live Updates: Under 20 inter-schools rugby league tournament – Royal College vs Wesley College; St. Peter’s College vs Zahira College

May 13, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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18:19 – At full time. Royal College 35. Wesley College 19.

At full time. St. Peter’s College 43. Zahira College 16.

18:17 – Royal College score another try to extend the lead 35-19.

18:15 – St. Peter’s College score another try to extend the lead 43-16.

18:07 – Wesley College score another try to reduce the deficit to 19-28.

18:05 – Eranda Harshana scores for Wesley College to reduce the margin 14-28.

18:03 – Ashan Mendis scores for St. Peter’s College to extend the lead 36-16.

18:00 – Kalyanaratne scores for Royal College to further extend the lead 28-9.

17:53 – J. Dilshan scores for Royal College to extend the lead 21-9.

17:48 – Royal College still hold on to their 14-9 lead.

17:46 – Raveen Fernando scores for St. Peter’s College to extend the lead 31-9.

17:40 – T. Dassanayake scores for St. Peter’s College to extend the lead 24-9.

17:32 – St. Peter’s College extend the lead with another try. 17-9.

17:31 – Royal College take the lead with a try from Nikhil de Silva. 14-9.

17:03 – Singhwansa converts his third penalty to give Zahira a 9-5 lead.

17:01 – Hamza Reeza scores for Royal College to take the lead 7-6.

16:52 – St. Peter’s College reduce the margin with a try from F. Abdullah. 5-6.

16:46 – Singhwansa puts over another penalty to give Zahira a 6-0 lead.

16:37 – Avishka Lee puts Wesley in front with a penalty. 3-0.

16:37 – Zahira College open scoring with a penalty. 3-0.

Live updates: Under 20 inter-schools rugby league tournament – Isipathana College vs Wesley College; St. Joseph’s College vs S. Thomas’ College

May 13, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Full time – Trinity 15 Isipathana 10

At full time. St. Joseph’s College 26, S. Thomas’ College 12.

17:26 – S. Thomas’ College reduce the margin with their second try. 12-26.

17:04 – S. Thomas’ College score another try to extend the lead 26-7.

16:51 – Isipathana pull back with a unconverted try. 12-05

16:50 – Sachith Silva scores again for St. Joseph’s College to lead 19-0.

16:44 – Trinity add to the scoring. 12-00

16:44 – Avishka Lee puts over another penalty to give Wesley a 6-0 lead.

16:43 – St. Joseph’s College score their second try to lead 14-0.

16:37 – Trinity College open the scoring with a try. 7-0

St. Joseph’s College open scoring with a Sachin Silva try. 7-0.

16:35 – Match kicks off at Royal Complex between Wesley and Royal

Match between St. Joseph’s vs S. Thomas’ kicks off

We have picked the best available talent – Michael Jayasekera

May 9, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Shehan Daniel 

Having picked from the best available talent, Michael Jayasekera, Chairman of Selectors of the Sri Lanka rugby team, on Monday said that he was confident the team could perform well at the Asian Championship Division I rugby tournament, which begins in Malaysia this weekend.

Sri Lanka, who were runners up in last year’s tournament, will open their campaign against Malaysia this Sunday, before taking on Philippines and the United Arab Emirates next week in a bid to qualify for the Asian Top Three tournament.

“The squad was selected from the best that we had. The players who were omitted were players who chose not to turn up for practice. There were about six players who wanted to focus on sevens and therefore opted out of this tournament,” Jayasekera said.

“I think this squad can still perform and we are hoping and expecting to win this tournament.”

Jayasekera however added that the inter-club rugby season had limited the time available to pick a squad and train for this tournament.

“We would have liked a longer preparation period, and the time we had was far too short for a tournament of this nature. Ideally the club tournament should have been held a lot earlier to give us time to prepare.”

The team will be led by Kandy SC scrum-half Roshan Weeraratne and coached by Fereti Verebula.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Rugby released the names of 25 players who would make the tour and also six standbys.

The 25 member squad: Ashan Darling, Ashoka Jayalal, Chanaka Chandimal, Dhanushka Ranjan, Dushmantha Priyadarshana, Fazil Marija, Ganuka Dissanayake, Jason Dissanayake, Joel Perera, Lavanga Perera, Lee Keegal, Niroshan Fernando, Nishon Perera, Omalka Gunaratne, Prasad Madushanka, Richard Dharmapala, Richie Dharmapala, Roshan Weeraratne (Captain), Sajith Saranga, Sathya Ranatunga, Sharo Fernando, Soyuru Anthony, Taariq Salih, Thilina Wijesinghe and Umesha Madushan

Standbys: Damith Dissanayake, Gayan Jayamanne, Sashan Mohammed, Radeesha Seneviratne, Stephen Gregory, Sudam Sooriyarachchi

Avindu, Sandun lead Richmond’s fight back

May 9, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By M. Shamil Amit 

Avindu Theekshana whose bowling was instrumental in Southern Province lifting the Super U19 inter- provincial title on Sunday put in another dazzling performance but this time with the bat, as he along with Sandun Mendis led Richmond College’s fight back to end day one on a formidable score of 306 for 8 against Ananda College in the Singer U19 two-day league tournament final played at the Thurstan ground.

Avindu Theekshana

The Ananda bowlers had Richmond in a spot of bother after skipper Kamindu Mendis won the toss and elected to take first lease of the wicket as they lost their openers skipper Kamindu and Dhananjaya Lakshan with the scoreboard reading 19.

Richmond fell into deeper trouble as they lost two more quick wickets for the addition of three runs and were struggling on 22 for 4 in the 13th over. It seemed that the Ananda bowlers were going to have a field day with their bowlers being on top.

But it was not to be as Avindu came to their rescue as he was involved in three crucial and valuable partnerships. The first was with another player from the champion Southern Province team Thaveesha Abhishek, with whom he put on 76 runs for the fifth-wicket before Thaveesha was dismissed having made a dogged innings of 46 in 81 balls inclusive of five boundaries and two sixes.

The second partnership was for the sixth wicket, a brief 36 runs with Ravishka Wijesiri, which followed by a 68 runs for the seventh wicket with Kasun Tharaka.

Avindu’s heroic innings of 81 in 160 balls that included ten boundaries came to an end along with Tharaka’s dismissal as Richmond lost two quick wickets at the same score of 202.

But that was all that the Ananda bowlers could achieve as Sandun Mendis who made an unbeaten 64 with nine boundaries and a six along with Duveen Kalansuriya who remained unbeaten on 36 frustrated them associating in an unbroken 105-run stand for the ninth-wicket helping Richmond end the day with a healthy and challenging score.

Richmond 306 for 8 (Avindu Theekshana 80, Thaveesha Abhishek 46, Kasun Tharaka 25, Ravishka Wijesiri 21, Sandun Mendis 64 n.o., Duveen Kalansuriya 36 n.o.: Supun Waragoda 4 for 91, Dileepa Jayalath 2 for 80) vs Ananda

Colombo FC and Java Lane SC in FA Cup semis

May 8, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Colombo FC and Java Lane SC qualified for the semi-finals of Cargills FA Cup football tournament winning their respective quarter- final matches played at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Sunday.

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In the third quarter-final Colombo FC beat Sri Lanka Air Force 1-0 and in the last quarter final Java Lane SC beat Renown SC 3-1.

Sri Lanka Army will play against Colombo FC in the first semi-final with Java Lane SC confronting Saunders SC in the second semi-final. Both semi-final matches will be played on May 12 at the Sugathadasa Stadium.

A.R.A Shazny scored the solitary goal of the Colombo FC – Sri Lanka Air Force match in the 31st minute of play.

The Java Lane – Renown clash saw Java Lane leading 2-0 at half time. Java lane SC goals were scored by Janaka Chaminda (25th minute) and Jude Nicholas 2 (37th minute and 64th minute respectively).

M.F.M Asath booted in the only goal for Renown in the 75th minute. The final is scheduled for

Avindu, Hansika steer Southern Province to title

May 8, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By M. Shamil Amit

A five wicket haul by left spinner Avindu Theekshana laid the foundation for Southern Province to record a win by 26 runs on the Duckworth /Lewis method over Western Province in the final of the Super U19 limited tournament played at R. Premadasa Stadium on Sunday to emerge champions.

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Western Province South skipper Nipuna Deshan winning the toss and electing to take first lease of the wicket helped by a knock of 68 by Kamal Mishara who put on a valuable 90 runs for the sixth wicket with Kavindu Umayage made a modest score of 189.

Southern Province in their run chase making steady progress saw opener Hansika Welihinda who made an unbeaten 58 runs inclusive of ten boundaries and Thaveesha Abishek who chipped in with a 28 associating in a 62 runs stand for the fourth wicket before bad light stopped play which saw them coasting to a victory.

Welihinda was adjudged the man of the final while Kamal Mishara was adjudged the the best batsman and Avindu Theekshana the best bowler of the final.

Western Province South 189 in 49.1 overs (Kamil Mishara 68, Kavindu Umayanga 38, Avindu Fernando 28, Avindu Theekshana 5 for 41, Dhananjaya Lakshan 2 for 20, Thisara Dilshan 2 for 23)

Southern Province 139 for 4 in 34 overs (Thaveesha Abishek 28, Hansika Welihinda 58 n.o.: Inshaka Maduvinda 2 for31)

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