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Aussie teams improving in Round four of Trans-Tasman, or are they?



by Rajitha Ratwatte

A second-string Crusaders team (mainly due to All Black resting of players requirements) took on the Western Force in Christchurch. The preceding week had torrential rain that caused havoc on the roads and in the farms of the South Island, but the ground was dry and conditions underfoot as good as could be expected. The Crusaders without Mo’uanga, Seevu Reece, Blackadder, Whitelock, and a host of their regular starting line-up. The Force with Kurandrani in the center looking like a real threat. Referee Ben O’Keefe.

The Western Force started with a bang, with star winger Tony Pulu stepping beautifully off his right foot and leaving the famed Crusader defence standing to score extreme right in the second minute of the game. Tony Pulu who was injured later in the game, made that try look easy and would have made a bigger impact on the final result had he been around for longer. Converted from a difficult angle and a 0–7 lead to the visitors. The Crusaders struck back in the tenth minute from a judicious chip kick by Braydon Ennor playing at center that was picked up by Manasa Matele showing a great turn of speed from the wing and scoring mid-right. Fergus Burke who took the kick in the absence of Mo’uanga added the extra points and the scores were locked up at seven each. Nine minutes later some great hands in the three-quarter line saw Will Jordan in a gap with 22 meters ahead of him and crossing the line was a mere formality for the full-back. The conversion was difficult from the extreme left of the field and Fergus Burke was not up to the task. 12–7 Crusaders in the lead. Twenty five minutes into the game two successive penalties were awarded to the Crusaders and the resulting touch kicks saw the now famous rolling maul activated and Whetukamokamo Douglas (..and they say Sri Lankan names are difficult!) scored a try which remained unconverted 17–7 to the Crusaders.

The Force was spending a lot of time in Crusaders’ territory and strung together 10 phases before the defence finally crumbled and their no eight Olli Callan scored far left. It was converted nicely, and the score read 17-14 after 30 minutes of very “uncrusaderlike” rugby. All the marginal decisions and line calls seemed to be going the way of the visitors but that may have been this reporter’s bias towards NZ teams! However, it left the room to wonder if a directive had been made in an attempt to “level the playing field” in favour of the “weaker” Australian teams. This thought started with the last game played in round three during which the Waikato Chiefs lost and was exacerbated by certain occurrences in the next game played on this day. One hopes sincerely, that this is not the case because should it be and should it have come from the television Moghuls, in a ham-handed attempt to attract bigger audiences from Australia, it is totally unacceptable! Two crusader tries were disallowed by the TMO over the next five minutes and finally, another rolling maul from the crusaders got them a seven pointer on the halftime whistle. 24–14 but the home side not looking very convincing.

The second half started badly for the Crusaders with Will Jordan misjudging the kick-off and allowing it to bounce. That gain of territory made by Force combined with 16 phases put together by them had the Crusaders defending grimly. There was no change in the scoreline, but the Force dominated this phase of the game playing with numerous penalty advantages given by the referee. Two more Crusader tries scored by Will Jordan and Tamati Williams (a huge man 6’5″ and 140+ kgs- Playing his first game at prop) were disallowed by the TMO until a forward’s scramble and a great pass from the Crusaders halfback saw an unconverted try take the score to 29–14 with an all-important bonus point for the home side. This is when the Crusaders skipper with maybe some input from the coach should have decided to close the game down and settle for a win, with this margin, but they are not used to playing like that and suffered the consequences of having dominated rugby in this part of the world for so long. Even the regular starters and star players who made it to this game like David Havili and Will Jordan were looking nonplussed and Crusaders fans who associated jersey numbers of the regulars with their usual impeccable performances were disappointed when those numbers didn’t deliver. An injury caused to a Force player after the full use of the bench saw them a player short for the last ten minutes of the game. This may have been the reason for the Crusaders’ brains trust to decide on an all-out attack even neglecting to kick from well inside their territory and try to run the ball out and losing it to the opposition. Finally, a kick ahead from the Force saw no one manning the last line of defence for the Crusaders and a straight sprint for the line won by the Force, getting themselves a converted try and removing the bonus point from the Crusader’s final tally of 29–21. There are three possible contenders for the final, all NZ teams, and the bonus points may decide the outcome. The Crusaders now have to wait and see how the Auckland Blues and the Wellington Hurricanes go later in the weekend.

The next game on Friday was at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. The Queensland Reds hosting the Auckland Blues who have missed out on finals contention in the Aotearoa Super Rugby tournament are now looking for an opportunity to make up. The Blues remained in the Red’s territory from the kick-off when they charged down the attempted clearing kick but couldn’t capitalise until the 11th minute when Oteri Black converted a penalty from mid-left, awarded by referee Mike Frazer for a “no hands in the tackle” by a Red’s player. Red cards have been issued for such offences in the past. 3–0 Blues ahead. 20 minutes into the game the Red’s number eight Harry Wilson collected an offload from Hunter Paisamy, who had an exceptional game, an offload that could only have gone forwards in the view of Andrew Mhertens and everyone else except the referee ran 30 meters to score under the posts. 3–7 the Australian Champions in the lead. A series of baffling decisions by the on-field referee including disregarding a tackle on a player in the air (fortunately rectified by the TMO) and issuing only a yellow card for collapsing two mauls inside the Red’s 10-meter line, instead of at least one penalty try, saw the scoreline remain unchanged. Dalton Papelili was finally able to score the first of two tries in the 10 minutes that the Reds were a player down due to the yellow card issued to their Hooker Amosa for collapsing a maul in a possible scoring area. The first try took the score to 10-7 and the second unconverted try in the 33rd minute scored by Mark Telea took the Blues ahead by 17–7 at halftime.

The Blues forwards started to dominate the second half with a few line out steals complemented by stringing together 19 phases of play that saw the number nine Christie who failed to see a scoring opportunity for himself, pass to his skipper Patrick Tuapoletu who barged his way over the line for a seven pointer; 24–7. The Blues had to defend furiously against a sustained attack by the Red’s who were finally awarded another try off a ball that squirted out of a ruck off a Reds player and in the view of the officials was deemed to have bounced sideways first before it bounced forward and was pounced upon over the line by Paenga Amosa trying to make up for his yellow card. 24–14 Blues still ahead. 53 minutes into the game The Blues Halfback was in a similar situation to their last scoring opportunity inches away from the Reds line, when he saw the gap, he had missed last time and dived over to score his first try of the game and to cap off a fine run of form. No problems for Oteri Black with the conversion 31–14 and the Blues looking comfortable. 50 minutes or so into the game All Black prop and impact player Nepo Laulala suffered a brain freeze and was caught blatantly offside, picking a ball up off a ruck and exacerbating the “dumb” reputation that the big men in the engine room seem to attract every once in a while! The Blues line-out jumpers continued to dominate and kept either stealing the ball or spoiling the Reds lineouts. Zaan Sullivan who has played brilliantly in the number 15 jersey for the Blues continued finding great touch with his left boot. Special mention must be made of the Pacifica players in the reds lineup Sulasi Vunivelu, Taniela Tupou, Hunter Paisami, and Krisi Kurindrani in particular who continue to impress and are undoubtedly among the prime reasons for the Reds dominating Australian rugby. The Reds kept attacking with penalty advantage after penalty advantage being given to them, it took a cross-kick to Daugunu on the wing who split the Blues defence and left two Blues defenders gaping to score under the posts. The score read 31–21 at this stage and the commentators were getting excited with their perceived view that the reds had a chance of winning with 10 minutes left in the game. The benefit of the doubt and all marginal calls kept going to the Reds until a penalty was awarded from around 40 meters out but right in front of the posts. Who steps forward but the one and only Filipo Daugunu a truly outstanding exponent of the game and boots it over easy as you like! 31–24 remained the final score, taking the Auckland Blues to the top of the leader board until the next games in 24 hours.


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Dates announced for India’s tour of Sri Lanka



by Rex Clementine

India will send a second string team to Sri Lanka later this month for a six-match bilateral series. The teams will be involved in three ODIs and three T-20 Internationals with all games taking place in a bio-secure bubble at RPS. It is unlikely that spectators will be accommodated for the series due to current rising numbers of COVID cases. RPS underwent extensive renovation recently and hasn’t hosted a game in two years.

India have made tremendous progress in the game in the last ten years that they are able to send their main team to England, that too an extended squad and then send a second string team that looks not too bad on paper to Sri Lanka. IPL has opened up a whole lot of new opportunities for India.

India must be confident of winning in Sri Lanka even with a second string side. For example, their main team whitewashed Sri Lanka 5-0 in ODIs when they toured here in 2017 and the following year at the Nidahas Trophy, they sent a second string team and won the competition where Sri Lanka even failed to make it to the finals.

Sri Lanka’s players or SLC will not be complaining. Tours by India will result in huge profits for SLC. Board of Control for Cricket in India has been extremely generous in helping out Sri Lanka coming in for hastily arranged series previously to bail out SLC that was feeling the pinch. This tour, however, was part of the Future Tour Programme.

In the three match ODI series, 30 points will be up for grabs in the ICC World Cup qualifiers and pitted against a weaker Indian team, Sri Lanka will be fancying their chances to win and boost their opportunities of automatic qualification for the sport’s showpiece event. At the moment Sri Lanka are languishing last at 13th position.

India will arrive on the 28th of June and after mandatory quarantine they will be allowed to train. The ODIs will be played on the 13th, 16th and 18th of July followed by the T-20s on the 21st, 23rd and 25th of July.


1st ODI

– 13th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

2nd ODI

– 16th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

3rd ODI

– 18th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

1st T20I

– 21st July – RPS – 7.00pm 

2nd T20I

– 23rd July – RPS – 7.00pm 

3rd T20I

– 25th July – RPS – 7.00pm


India’s squad:

 Shikhar Dhawan (Captain), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Nitish Rana, Ishan Kishan (Wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson (Wicket-keeper), Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Vice-captain), Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Chetan Sakariya 

Net Bowlers:

 Ishan Porel, Sandeep Warrier, Arshdeep Singh, Sai Kishore, Simarjeet Singh. 



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Ranindu draws with grandmaster, settles for third place



Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021

National Champion Ranindu Dilshan Liyanage fought hard to secure a draw against grandmaster Enamul Hussain on the final day as he settled for the third position of the Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021.

Starting with the Sicilian Defense the grandmaster sacrificed a pawn and got a strong knight against Ranindu’s bad bishop early in the game. He used all tricks available to earn points as a win would have earned him the gold medal and the possibility to play in the Chess World Cup 2021. But Ranindu had other ideas as the Anandian achieved the third spot winning six points from nine games.

Bangladesh grandmaster Ziaur Rahman (2434) also secured a draw in a hard fought game against 11-year-old, Manon Reja Neer who is also from Bangladesh and settled for eight points. Bangladeshi grandmaster Enamul Hussain needed a full point to tie with the leader but finally settled for the second position as he drew with Ranindu. He had 7 ½ points.

Grandmaster Ziaur won the gold medal and the ticket to the FIDE Chess World Cup. A total of US$ 3,000.00 is distributed among the winners. While the champion receives US$ 1,000.00, the runners up wins US$ 700.00. Ranindu is entitled for US$ 500.00 as he was placed third.

FIDE master Susal de Silva of Nalanda College met his colleague A.A.C.B. Amarasinghe of SJP Chess Club and the game ended in favour of Amarasinghe. Amarasinghe scored six points out of nine games. There were five other players who had scored six points each but he was placed eighth according to the tie breakers. Susal had a total of five points after nine games. Amarasinghe too is entitled for US$ 100.00.

The Asian Zonal Chess Championship 2021, the preliminary event for the FIDE World Chess Cup 2021 for the South Asian region started on June 1 and was held on the Tornelo platform. A total of 39 players from South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka participated in the event. India is considered a single zone by FIDE and has a direct entry to the FIDE World Cup.

The Bangladesh Chess Federation conducted the event from Dhaka and the Sri Lankan players competed from the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka headquarters, Gangodawila, Nugegoda. The event which concluded on Wednesday was conducted according to the Swiss System of nine rounds.

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Yupun set to climb up Road to Olympic rankings



Yupun Abeykoon would be delighted to have placed fourth against a solid field that included American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.


by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka’s top ranked sprinter Yupun Abeykoon did well to finish fourth at the Rome Diamond League meeting on Thursday. Brushing shoulders against some of the world’s fastest sprinters, the national record holder clocked 10.16 seconds.

The fourth place finish will augur well for the sprinter as he aspires to earn a Tokyo Olympic berth. The 26-year-old is currently placed 65th in the Road to Olympics rankings and needs to secure a spot within the first 56 positions as only 56 athletes are selected for Tokyo Olympic 100 metres. To earn a direct qualification Abeykoon has to clock 10.05 seconds.

With Diamond League competitions guarantying more points, analysts believe that Abeykoon would secure a better position in the Road to Olympic rankings when the World Athletics update the rankings.

To secure the fourth place Abeykoon edged out some leading athletes who are placed higher in the Road to Olympic rankings.

He would be delighted to have placed fourth against a solid field that included American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.

US World Relay champion Michael Rodgers who is ranked 15th in the Road to Olympic rankings was placed fifth in a time of 10.25 seconds.

South African Akani Simbine clocked 10.08 seconds to win while Great Britain’s Chijindu Ujah finished second in a time of 10.10 seconds. Emmanuel Matadi was placed third in 10.16 seconds.

None of Sri Lanka’s male athletes have reached qualifying standards for the Tokyo Olympics so far while Nilani Ratnayake is the only Sri Lankan athlete who is within the required ranking positions to book a berth. The steeplechase athlete is currently ranked 37th in the Road to Olympics rankings.

Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe is also closer to an Olympic berth in the men’s category. The javelin thrower is currently ranked 43rd in the list. High jumper Ushan Thivanka who has produced a superb 2.30 metres is ranked 51st in the list.

At the Rome Diamond League on Thursday one of the highlights of the night was Dutch long-distance star Sifan Hassan’s performance in the women’s 1 500m. The 10,000 metres specialist showed her prowess in the 1,500 metres, beating Olympic 1 500m champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya in a new meeting record of 3:53.63. It was also a world lead. Kipyegon was placed second in a personal best of 3:53.91.

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