Police SC ended a long 13-year wait to book a place in the Clifford Cup finals when they defeated Air Force SC by 27-16 points at Race Course Stadium in their semi-final encounter on Wednesday evening.
Both forces were fresh and pumped up after their shock wins over Navy SC and Havelock SC during the weekend and they were ready to go head to head in a low-intensity clash on a mid-week evening.
Former Royal skipper, Rimzie Jamaldeen of Police SC commenced the game from right to left of the pitch. Police conceded many penalties early on which deprived them from possession though they had plenty of territory in the first 10 minutes of the match. Police winger Heshan Gunaratne used the width of the field to penetrate the defense but his well-timed chip kick found scrum-half Sudam Sooriyarachchi’s safe hands as he touched down with ease. Eranda Weerakkody missed the conversion. (Police 05 – Air Force 00)
The Airmen made few basic handling errors which slowed down the game but the Police flanker Gayan Dilshan was sent to the sin-bin in the 22nd minute for a late tackle on an Air Force player. The Cops were very impressive in scrums and around the fringes. The Police forwards struck gold in the 29th minute after several phases of ‘pick & go’ moves when Sudam’s inside pass found Filimoni Seru and the big Fijian dived over for the 2nd try of the match. Eranda Weerakkody failed to add the extra points. (Police 10 – Air Force 00)
Air Force reduced the deficit within the last 10 minutes of the first half as their left-footed fly-half Nuwan Perera slotted over two conventional penalty kicks as the Airmen finally found their feet on the ground. (Police 10 – Air Force 06)
The last move of the first half entertained the crowd superbly as Police fly-half Rimzie Jamaldeen attempted a 30-meter penalty kick but it ricocheted from the posts but the charging replacement second-row Charles Praveen collected the ball and barged over the try line to amaze everyone present with his speed, power and game sense. Rimzie this time around bisected the posts to add extra points.
Half-Time: Police SC 17 – Air Force 06
After the 10-minute break, Nuwan Perera restarted the game. Air Force backs showed glimpses of brilliance just after the breather and their stunning winger, Jero Dhananjaya side-stepped and moved past few defenders swiftly to break the Police defense in the 45th minute of the match. Nuwan Perera missed the conversion. (Police 17 – Air Force 11)
Police took no time to extend their lead to a comfortable range as Eranda Weerakkody chased down a grubber kick and found Air Force full back defending casually but Eranda scored a convincing try in the far corner from a broken play. Apisai Naqaliva’s attempt of converting was not successful. (Police 22 – Air Force 11)
In the 55th minute of the match, Police defense was caught napping as Air Force scrum-half Ishara Madushan sensed an opening and broke straight into the red zone and gave an accurate pass to Patemeo Kocoturaga as the Fijian speedster made sure he touches down without much hassle. Nuwan Perera was unsuccessful with the kick. (Police 22 – Air Force 16)
As the final quarter commenced, Police got an opportunity to put more points in the board through Rimzie’s boot but his long-range penalty kick went astray. During the 68th minute, Air Force flanker, Sanjeewa Patabeddige was sent to the ‘Naughty Chair’ for 10 minutes due to continuous foul play.
Police ably supported by the one-man advantage closed down the game in the 75th minute when stand-in skipper and second row, Romesh Acharige scored a memorable match-winning try in the Police rugby history to book their trip to Kandy on Saturday to play the home team in the grand final of the Dialog Clifford Cup 2014/15. Rimzie Jamaldeen missed the conversion.
Airmen were unfortunate at times but they should know that they were knocked out by a superior team on the given day and they will be proud of what they achieved. According to the Police SC officials, they were last part of the Clifford Cup finals way back in 2002.
Full-Time: Police SC 27 – Air Force 15
Referee – Dinka Peiris
ThePapare Man of the Match – Romesh Arachchige