A scoreless second half for the Soldiers was sufficient to hold on for a win over the Airmen. Army lead 24 – 08 at the lemons as the visitors scored the only try in the second half. Full time – Army 24 (T4, C2) – Air Force 13 (T2, P1)
Earlier in the week the news broke out that higher authorities of the Sri Lanka Army had forced Army skipper Rohitha Rajapaksa to vacate from his captaincy and although he had requested to stay on as a player, it is reported that this request was denied as well. Though the Army went on to win the game a lack of communication and leadership in controlling the game was a miss. Army’s ace Pio Tuwai and two other foreigners have left the island as todays match witnessed with only Saniwalati Ramuwai and Epi Cokanasia playing the entire 80 minutes as center pair. The day’s ThePapare player of the match Ramuwai is also expected to leave the island soon.
In form Gayan Salinda kicked off the evening at the Race Course grounds. Ramuwai played a superb game for the hosts where he scored one try and assisted two with a lovely runs and off loads. In the 4th minute, the first of his off loads found his countryman Epi who only had to run 5m for the try. This center combination worked really well for the Soldiers. Salinda converted. (Army 07 – 00 Air Force)
After 8 minutes of the first try, came the second. Once again it was Ramuwai’s decision making a quick run over the ruck where the Airmen’s defense was foxed. His off load found Salinda in the right flank to score. The try scorer however missed the extras.
Air force had the first chance with a 40 penalty straight on but Nuwan Perera’s kick just went wide of the post. Army after 6 phases opted a scrum in the opposite 22m. Mohamed Absal who was cleared from his Navy departure and who in fact made a great start this season against the Police had a decent game today. From the opted scrum this time around Absal goes blind side and passed to Ramuwai who scored the well-deserved try. (Army 17 – 00 Air Force)
Nuwan Perera had his second chance after the hosts falling- of-feet in the ruck, this time he was spot on with his boot. Soon after the restart Army capitalized the possession with a turnover ball. After 7 phases Randhika Alwis made a brilliant run to the bonus point try. Perera had one more chance similar to the first penalty distance, but he missed it.
Then came the try of the match which was scored with a sheer team work by the Airmen. From the own 10m line they pressurized the Army scrum where the no8 Mohamed Akram could not control the ball. Lahiru Weerasinghe the Air Force scrum half kicked the loose ball which went to opposite red zone. Army indiscipline was penalized and as a result Air Force took a quick tap and worked off in a flash where Amila Bandara scored in the left corner just before the half time. (Army 24 – 08 Air Force)
Half Time : Army 24 (T4, C2) – Air Force 08 (T1, P1)
Air Force had their best game of the season last week against Sharks, unfortunately the Sharks withdrawal of the league means all those points were in vain. However, the last try before the half time gave so much momentum and confident for the visitors but they continued to lose the ball a few times in the opposite in the second half.
The first 20 minutes after the break was scoreless but was a great physical battle. Blues prop Pushpakumara Samarahewa knocked on the ball on a 5 v 2 situation. Nevertheless. the Air force played a penalty advantage and as a result took the immediate decision with a quick tap and sent it wide to Charith Senavirathne in the corner to score the one and only points in the second half. Kumara missed the conversion.
Although Air force foreigners Patemeo Kocoturaga and Opeti Delina gained good yards they could not contribute with a score.
Full Time : Army 24 (T4, C2) – Air Force 13 (T2, P1)
ThePapare Player of the Match – Sanivalati Ramuwai (Army)
Quotes : Mothilal Jayathilaka the winning coach expressed his views “yes it was a good Win but we had to make so many changes in the second half”. When ThePapare.com asked about Rohitha Rajapaksa”s exit, he said “he was a great a leader on and off the field and boys were very supportive, and he was improving day by day with his playing ability, but I can’t do anything about the decision”.