A dazzling eighty minutes of rugby the under-rated Airmen left the Naval force shell-shocked as they beat Navy SC in a thrilling performance at the Race Course stadium. Air force 37 (T4, C4, P3) to Navy 23 (T2, C2, P3).
Couple of changes in the Navy team could be seen due to major injuries of the key players. Yet the defending Clifford cup holders had a solid team which could have beaten their opponent. Centers of Airforce Vilikesa Koilage and Opathe Delena managed to carry the weight of the team as they created many open spaces which was useful for their team’s success.
Opening score of the game started with Fly half Nuwan Perera adding the 3 points to the score board by a penalty although he missed two later. Flanker Rumesh Wasantha scored the first try when he jumped over the ball which was kicked by Koilage. Airmen had a clear game plan of attack which they managed to execute well.
Rizah Mubarak started after staying out due to injury, Winger Nuwan Hettiarachchi booted over two penalties continuously to change the score. Air force led the game 10-06. Air force No8 Dinesh Weeraratne luckily escaped with a warning by the referee Dinka Peiris for pulling the collar of Navy scrum half Richi Dharmapala.
Navy No.08 Navari Eramasi placed the ball on the try line after knocking down couple of defenders who failed to stop him. Navari did not see the defenders as much of a trouble as he ran smoothly passing by them. Navy took the lead for the first time along with Hettiarachchi’s conversion. Navy 13- 10 Air force
Few minutes later full-back Rizah Mubarak clears the way for his colleague Saliya Hadapangonda by taking over 3 defenders in the 22 meter line. Saliya made his way easily to the try line. Nuwan added the extra points.
At the final stages of the 1st half Air force managed to make an impact when Delena made a sensational run through the available open space finishing up directly under the post. Nuwan who was the second highest points scorer in the concluded Dialog league successfully converted.
Half Time- Navy 20- Air force 17
The intensity of the game was at top as the Sailors managed to stick around in the opposite territory for a while. Been defending for a long time was a bit hassle for Airmen as they had to give a penalty to the opponents for off side play. Nuwan added 3 points easily.
Air force counter attack was outstanding, Navy players body language also showed as they might not win the game, however, Nuwan booted over another penalty by a Navy infringement to add 3 points. The joy in the Airmen bench was simply wild as they took on the lead. Nuwan Perera managed and controlled the game sweetly, Air force winger Soorya Krishan then sprinted his way for a scintillating try.
Under pressure Navy could not play without being off-side nevertheless, Nuwan did not fail to kick it over for another penalty as a result the score moved on. During the last few minutes of the game got pumped up as Jero Dananjaya picked up the loose ball from a ruck and displaced some of the defenders who tried to bring him down. Managing to overcome them as Jero touched down under the post with the final try which was converted by Nuwan.
Celebrating this victory in style by the Air force players carried their coach Dishantha Priyadharshana, the man behind this successful match.
ThePapare Player of the match : Nuwan Perera (Air force)
Air force will be facing Police in the second semifinal of the Clifford Cup. Also the airmen outplayed the cops in the second round of Dialog Rugby league at Ratmalana.