Rugby - more brickbats than bouquets
The long, exhilarating and enthralling rugby season in Sri Lanka
ended on an all time low and has raised a few questions for the
authorities,the players and the domestic clubs. The Sri Lankan team had
a fairly long season with plenty of tournaments at a stretch but failed
to live up to expectations.
Poor selection and axing of Kandy Players
The depleted Lankan rugby team without the Kandy stars Fazil Marija,
Pradeep Liyanage, Saliya Kumara and the Weerarathne Brothers displayed a
poor performance in the Carlton 7s as well as in the Asian games which
were the last tournaments of the season.
Sri Lanka skipper Radhika Hettiarachchi charging away at the
Carlton 7s tournament where they managed to win a Shield
trophy. Picture by Samantha Weerasiri
The selectors would have to answer the public as to why the cream of
Sri Lankan players were axed without giving a specific reason for it.
A Sri Lankan cricket team without the likes of Sangakkara, Mahela,
Murali, Malinga, Mathews and Dilshan sent in to a World Cup would be
quite unimaginable. If these cricketing greats are fit and in form and
still not picked in the team due to baseless reasons and a second string
team is sent to the tournament it would be virtually minimizing your
chances of winning matches.
Unfortunately in rugby, the selectors have exactly done this and we
cannot blame the replacement young players for getting thrashed by the
opposition. It is ironic that the selectors still turn a blind eye on
these issues due to reasons best known to them.
Fazil Marija earlier mentioned that he was declared unfit for the
Carton 7s even without conducting a fitness test which was absolutely
Asian Five Nations triumph
Sri Lanka rugby began its year by winning the division two of the
Asian 5 nation's fifteen-a-side rugby held in Singapore beating Chinese
Taipei by 37 points to 7 and then the hosts Singapore with a score line
of 23 points to 16. It's now accepted within the Sri Lankan rugby
fraternity that when Sri Lanka is disciplined enough to field its best
side, the results can be astonishing. The most encouraging feature about
that team which did wonders in Singapore was that it was muscled with
the cream of players from Kandy SC. Fazil Marija, Saliya Kumara,
Liyanage, Sean Wijesinghe, Kishore Jehan, Sajith Saranga and Weeraratne
brothers Gayan and Roshan of Kandy SC were in the team. This win
promotes Sri Lanka to the top league of the Asian Five Nations. Sri
Lanka's win at the Asian Five Nations can be rated as the highlight of
national rugby this year.
Disastrous Sevens Tournaments
Thereafter the focus was on the sevens circuit with the opening of
the Asian sevens season in Shanghai. The team skippered by Pradeep
Liyanage lost to Hong Kong and China in the group stages but toppled the
weaker Philippines team to get into the quarter-finals of the cup and
then lost to Korea in the cup quarter-finals. The team that went to
Shanghai was not at all a full strength side but was most definitely a
The next was the Commonwealth Games Delhi, in October. Sri Lanka were
further depleted carrying even less experienced and were beaten
convincingly by the much stronger opponents. Radhika Hettiarachchi who
was the only senior player in the squad led the team of youngsters. The
gang subsequently headed to Malaysia for the Borneo7s which is an Asian
Rugby Football Union (ARFU) ranking tournament. The young lions did very
well qualifying for the ever popular Hong Kong7s that is known to be the
biggest and best sevens tournament in the world. The same sevens squad
travelled to Singapore directly from Malaysia where they took part in
the Singapore7s and finally won some silverware when they clinched the
bowl championships. After just one week break the team took wing to
Guangzhou China for the Asian Games where they had an up and down
tournament coming out in 6th place. Back home the lions then ended their
season by winning the Shield in the Carlton7s tournament.
Questions have to be asked why the Sri Lanka team suddenly lost all
the first choice sevens' players. Careers (some players working for the
Mercantile sector were not released because of the Mercantile sevens
tournament), prior commitments and injury were some of the cited reasons
for this. The belief is that players pick and chose the tournaments they
want to play and many outside influences and prejudices from parties
with personal agendas and vested interest control these players.
Humiliated at Carlton 7s
Sri Lanka managed to win a Shield trophy at the prestigious Carlton
7s tournament which is the lowest ranked cup of the tournament. Purists
fear the day Sri Lanka will be fighting for a fork or spoon is not far
off. In home conditions,in front of your home crowd and having a rugby
tradition of over 100 years our rugby standards are just good enough for
us to win only against teams like UAE and Malaysia. Sri Lanka who have
played the game for more than a century started off with big guns like
New Zealand, Australia, Samoa, Fiji and England but we cannot even
compare the standards. We have to agree that these rugby giants had
ample resources,proper administration,size advantage and the necessary
guidance but if a country like China who started playing rugby in 1990
are beating us in our own backyard quite easily why cannot we do it?
Domestic rugby - It's Kandy again
The 15-a-side domestic competition turned out to be very interesting
with Kandy SC coming under severe pressure from Ceylonese Rugby &
Football Club (CR&FC) and Navy Sports Club like never before. Both CR&FC
and Navy showed bright signs for the future in how they played the
second round of the tournament. CR&FC were the first to break the iron
grip that Kandy SC had on other teams. The decider in the league second
round proved a thriller and CR&FC piped Kandy SC at the posts with a
last gasp try by Vishwamithra Jayasinghe.
Despite losing, Kandy SC retained the league 'crown' for another
year. Navy too did domestic rugby a world of good by emerging as the
third force and knocked out CR&FC in the semi-finals of the Clifford Cup
before going down to Kandy in the final. Yet Kandy once again proved
that they are the kings of Sri Lankan rugby by clinching the triple
Excellent school season
When the national team failed in the year 2010 the school team
flourished with a wonderful display of rugby showing excellent standards
and ruthlessness and the hunger to win. Last year's champions Royal had
to face a tough battle against St Peter's who eventually turned out to
be the invincible side in the school season. The Peter's line comprising
the likes of Dhanushka Ranjan and Sandun Herath displayed some marvelous
skills while the stand out player Shenal Dias was hand picked as a
national second row forward.
The schools season was however marred when an injunction order
prevented the schools knockout final between Royal and St Peter's.
Sportsmanship, however, prevailed when the two schools agreed to play a
friendly, which was well received by the large crowds which had flocked
to the venue. Kingswood proved to be a big surprise, 'knocking the life'
out of some big teams like S Thomas', Royal and Isipatana. Isipatana too
had a good season finishing fourth.
It's Blue and Gold in Bradby
Royal under Duminda Attygalle retained the Bradby Shield with some
excellent rugby on display. Royalists who came in to the Bradby 1st leg
with three defeats in a row came out with their best as they won an
absolute thriller in Colombo. Royal dominated the lions in their own den
as they retained the Bradby shield by thrashing the Trinitians in
The Sri Lanka Schools team led by Peterite Shenal Dias finished the
Asian Youth Championships as the third best team. Sri Lanka continued
their success run over South Korea winning 24-10. But meeting Japan in
the second game proved to be too much of a challenge as Sri Lanka
slumped to a 92-3 defeat. Sri Lanka got their chance in the third place
play-off during which they beat Thailand 29-23. The team was coached by
Sanath Martis and assisted by Nihal 'Viper' Guneratne.
It was a total mix bag for Sri Lanka as they fared well in the junior
level but fell way short in the national level.