Spirited Soldiers recharged wonderfully in the 2nd half to record a surprise 21-13 win over one of the league favourites, Kandy SC in their Dialog Rugby League week 2 match at Race Course rugby stadium on Sunday evening.
Army SC took the field after a disappointing 21-15 loss at the hands of CR & FC last week while the men from Kandy had a terrific opening game where they thrashed the Airmen 78-09. Kandy SC outside-half Quinton Crocker kicked off the game on a hot, sunny and blue skied evening in Colombo. Army and Kandy forwards took time early on to settle down while the backs used their boot to play the territorial game.
Army got the opportunity to put points on the board as early as the 5th minute with a 45-meter penalty kick but unfortunately Prince Chamara dragged it wide. After 12 minutes of ding-dong battle, the visiting Kandy SC received a straight-forward 20-meter penalty kick after the Soldiers were penalized for offside play but the stand-off Quinton Crocker made a mess of a relatively straight forward chance to bisect the posts as scores remained null for the first quarter of the match.
Sri Lanka’s best winger at present, Anurudda ‘Iron Man’ Wilwara showcased his brilliant try-scoring ability in the 22nd minute of the match when he out-ran couple of defenders to dash through 40 meters to score the first try of the match for Kandy. Quinton missed the conversion.
(Kandy 05 – Army 00)
Army fielded two of their Fijian players on the center berths in the start of the match with the intention of attacking the local center-pairing of Fazil Marija and Gayan Weeraratne for Kandy. One of the Army foreign recruits, Epi Cokanasiga made a high tackle on Nigel Ratwatte in the 30th minute and was sent to the ‘Naughty Chair’ for 10
minutes and with the penalty, Kandy extended their lead through Quinton Crocker who slotted in a 35-meter penalty kick. (Kandy 08 – Army 00)
Kandy used the ploy of kicking for territory many times in the first half which backfired but with the one-man advantage they scored a superb try through Nigel Ratwatte in the 34th minute when he collected a second phase ball to score near the left corner flag. Quinton missed the conversion by a long distance. (Kandy 13 – Army 00)
Army SC’ inability to convert good possession and territory into points was evident with no points in the 1st half and their last attempt of putting some points on the board was also not successful as they received a penalty when the visitors were infringed for not rolling away in a ruck but Thisila Karunathilake’s 45-meter long penalty kick had the distance but not the direction as referee blew the half-time whistle.
Half Time: Kandy SC 13(2T,1P) – Army SC 00
After the 10 minutes of Oranges’ break, Army’s Thisila Karunathilake got the game underway. Army made a tactical change of bringing in the big Fijian number 8 Pio Tuwai in place of Epi Cokanasiga early in the 2nd half. It was a brilliant move by the think-tank of Army as he made an early impact to turn around the momentum with his marauding runs and his fellow country-mate Ramuwai Sanivalahi broke the strong Kandy defense in the 45th minute. Former Science full back Prince Chamara added the extra points. (Kandy 13 – Army 07)
Army enjoyed much possession in the 2nd half as Pio Tuwai created many opportunities for his backs to run on attacking angles. Kandy’s superb backs were starved off the ball as their forwards made unforced errors in the line-outs and in breakdowns.
After 63 minutes of grueling rugby, Army took the lead for the first time when seasoned campaigner, Chula Susantha dived over for a brilliant try which started with a strong number 8 break from Pio Tuwai. Young Prince Chamara converted excellently from the corner to give a slight 1-point lead for the hosts. (Kandy 13 – Army 14)
Kandy made clinical errors in search of the lead again when they were held up by the Soldiers many times and the ball possession was awarded back to the hosts. Army got another difficult 50-meter penalty kick in the 77th minute but Prince Chamara’s kick ricocheted from the posts.
Kandy tried to run hard from their own territory to win the game back in the final move of the match but a knock-on prevented the 17-time league winners of securing the game and add to the woes, Army hit back from the loose ball and replacement winger Kavindu Perera put the final nail in the Kandy coffin by scoring the 3rd Army try which was converted splendidly by Prince Chamara. (Kandy 13 – Army 21)
Army SC lost their last week game in the 2nd half and they turned around things perfectly this time around by playing an expansive game in 2nd half to record a shock win. Kandy SC will have to go back to the drawing board to get their ‘A’ game on track. According to the Army SC manager Nishal Meepage, they last beat Kandy in 2003 at their home ground in Colombo.
Full Time: Kandy SC 13 (2T,1P) – Army SC 21 (3T,3C)
Referee – Irshad Cader
ThePapare.com Man of the Match – Pio Tuwai (Army)
After the game, jubilant Army skipper Rohitha Rajapakse made his comments on the game,
“ Our team played as one unit. First half was dodgy but our plan was to be defensive in the first 40 minutes and irk out Kandy in the heat and bring down their fitness levels. Second half we hit them hard with Pio Tuwai and our plan worked to end as winners.”