Navy weathered a late onslaught to pip Air Force 15 (2T 1C 1P) – 17 (2T 2C 1P) in the 2nd round match of the Dialog Rugby League 2015/16 at the Rathmalana Air Force Ground.
An off-colour Thilina Weerasinghe missed a couple of penalties after putting one over but Soorya Krishan try gave the Sri Lanka Air Force who were guilty of wayward penalties themselves, the lead into half time; who were guilty of wayward penalties themselves. Navy roared back with two tries, though a yellow card to Omalka Gunarathane paved way for an Air Force comeback which ultimately fell agonizingly short.
Though Navy had to play against the wind it was they who were camped inside the opposition half for most of the first half but were denied by the resilient Air Force defense and compounded by poor ball handling which plagued both side for the 80 minutes.
Hashan Maduranga twice knocked the ball on within the whitewash but Thilina Weerasinghe eased through a penalty to show points for their dominance. (00-03)
After Air Force thwarted attack after attack of the Navy, Weerasinghe missed a sitter of a penalty for a player of his form which left the hosts shaking their heads.
Breaking into the Navy half was a luxury for the hosts which they did midway through the first half and came up trumps. Air Force spread the ball wide and after a few quick phases centre Soorya Krishan went over for the try near the left corner. Charith Senevirathne who was in good kicking form from the past two weeks missed the conversion. (05-03)
Once again there was no way through the resolute defense of Air Force lads who were led by No.08 Saraka Werella. Yet again Weerasinghe was given the opportunity to regain the lead but he sliced a kickable penalty.
Senevirathne missed a 40 meter penalty near the end and Nuwan Perera who took over the kicking duties did the same with the last kick of the first half from a difficult angle.
Hosts’ Ishara Madushan and Saraka Werella broke through the Navy defense to go on lung bursting runs, though poor decision making and lack of support vanquished those chances.
Navy came to life on the hour mark as substitute prop Stephan Gregory fended off a couple of tackles to go over from a clinical rolling maul on the left. Weerasinghe added the extras from an acute angle. (08-10)
Minutes later an error of judgment from Gayantha Iddamalgoda presented itself the opportunity which Buddima Piyarathna took gleefully as he scored under the post.
Navy were attacking but Air Force forced a turnover and Iddamalgoda’s kick over the defense did not travel far as Navy spread the ball wide for Piyarathne to sprint inside the try zone and make a dash for the posts. Weerasinghe extended the lead by two points. (08-17)
Not to be disheartened the hosts attacked having consistent possession for the first time in the match and inside the last ten minutes Omalka Gunarathane had a brain freeze when he deliberately knocked on the ball inside their own 22m and was rightly sin-binned for the rest of the match.
Spurred on by having an extra man, the Air-Men pounded on the defense as Kaushal Manuppriya cutback in to wriggle his way over the try line. Senevirathne added the extras setting up a tense final few minutes. (15-17)
Air Force had one last chance but it went begging and with it the match as a knock-on; which was the story of the match, ended in heartbreak for the hosts.
ThePapare.com Man of the Match: Saraka Werella
“In the first half ball retention was poor and if we had that we could have mounted some pressure on Navy. We turned up for the second half a bit too late, but it was a good performance form last week to this week. We matched against the League runners-up in terms of physicality,” Air Force coach Lenard De Zylva added after the match.
“We had a few crucial changes but we made the same mistakes as we did against Havies in the last match. We were inconsistent but did well to score two good tries. Knocking the ball on is a major concern. We start with ball handling in training almost childlike training but we make the same mistakes,” a concerned Navy coach Nilufer Ibrahim mentioned.