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

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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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Savinka, Rashmi win U-19 singles titles

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Under 19 boys’ runner up Jason Homer(left) and champion Savinaka Weerasekara.

38th National Junior Badminton Championships

Savinaka Weerasekera of D.S. Senanayake College and Rashmi Mudalige of Gateway International School emerged Under-19 boys’ and girls’ champions respectively while Pulina Wellalage of St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa clinched a triple crown at the 38th National Junior Badminton Championships held in Colombo.

At the annual event conducted by Sri Lanka Badminton in association with Sri Lanka Schools Badminton Association, Weerasekera defeated Jason Homer of the Royal Institute International School 21-11, 21-11 in the Under-19 boys’ singles final at the Sugathadasa Indoor Sports Complex.

Weerasekera then teamed up with Homer to beat Ashinsa Herath and Vidusha Sumanadasa of Royal College 21-18, 21-16 to win the doubles title in the same age group.

In the Under-19 girls’ singles final, Rashmi Mudalige beat Ondi Sethuki (Southland’s College, Galle) 16-21, 21-14, 21-14.

Mudalige also secured her second title when she teamed up with young badminton sensation Wellalage to defeat Shenuk Samararatne and Sithuki Onadee 17-21, 21-19, 21-19 and win the U-19 mixed doubles final.

In the U-19 girls’ doubles final, Thisuni Liyanarachchi and Lawandi Umagiliyage of Sangamitta College, Galle, denied Mudalige a third title when they defeated the latter and her Gateway College partner Natasha Gunasekara 21-15, 21-18 in the final.

Meanwhile, Wellalage, the younger brother of national cricketer Dunith, beat Thilina Rajakaruna in straight sets (21-10, 21-16) to win the U-17 boys’ singles title, his second in the Championships.

Wellalage’s Triple Crown was completed when he and partner Shenuk Samararatne defeated Sanjula Handapangoda and Thilina Rajakaruna 21-13, 18-21, 25-23 in an all-Sebastianites Boys’ U-17 doubles final.

Meanwhile, the young national shuttle sensation Ranithma Liyanage of the Christ Church College, Baddegama, who later went on to be crowned national Champion, defeated her Girls’ U-17 singles opponent Ranumi Manage (Musaeus College) in the final with ease (21-2, 21-13).

The presentation ceremony was held with Director General of Sports Development, Amal Edirisuriya as the chief guest in the presence of Sri Lanka Badminton President Rohan de Silva, SLB officials and former players.

Winners and Runners-up

Under 11 Boys Singles

Champion –

Prithish Abeygunawardena (Richmond), Runner-up – Nesandu Hapukotuwa (Dharmaraja)

Under 11 Girls Singles

Champion –

Gajali Padmabandara (St. Anthony’s Girls, Katugastota), Second Runner-up – Sanumi Metsara (Musaeus)

Under 13 Boys Singles

Champion

– Hasandu Fernando (St Sebastian’s, Moratuwa), Runner-up – Amawan Amarasinghe (Panadura Lyceum)

Under 13 Girls Singles

Champion –

Fatima Amani (Hill Country Girls, Kandy), Runner-up – Thenuki De Silva (Siridhamma College)

Under 13 Boys Doubles

Champions –

Duvindu Edirisinghe/ Satsara Pubudu (St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa), Runners-up – Tenuja Galahitiawa/ Satish Avishka (St. Anthony’s, Katugastota)

Under 13 Girls Doubles

Champions –

Fatima Amani/ Netsara Yenuri (Hill Country Girls/ Sujatha Girls, Nugegoda), Runners-up – Inuki Bandara/ Divyadharani Dayaratne (Musaeus/ Lyceum, Wattala)

Under 15 Boys Singles

Champion –

Tejana Herath (St. Anthony’s Katugastota), Runner-up – Senut Sethmina (Ananda College)

Under 15 Girls Singles

Champion

– Viswani Vanniarachchi (Gateway International), Runner-up – Lakshya Sajeevakumar (Lyceum Wattala)

Under 15 Boys Doubles

Champions –

Janeesha De Silva/ Mihila Jayaweera (St. Joseph’s/ Wattala Lyceum), Runners-up – Akash Shamal/ Tejana Herath (St. Anthony’s Katugastota)

Under 15 Girls Doubles

Champions –

Sanuti Gurusinghe/ Pavani Ileperuma (Sanghamitta Galle), Runners-up – Dihini Mendis/ Lakshya Sajeevakumar (Southland Galle/ Wattala Lyceum)

Under 17 Boys Singles

Under 19 girls’ champion Rashmi Mudalige (left) and runner up Sithuki Onadee.

Champion –

Pulina Wellalage (St. Sebastian’s Moratuwa), Runner-up – Thilina Rajakaruna (St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa)

Under 17 Girls Singles

Champion –

Ranithma Liyanage (Christ Church Girls, Baddegama), Runner-up – Ranumi Manage (Musaeus)

Under 17 Boys Doubles

Champions –

Pulina Wellalage/ Shenuk Samararatne (St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa), Runners-up – Sanjula Handapangoda/ Thilina Rajakaruna (St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa)

Under 17 Girls Doubles

Champions –

L.A. Dinethya/ Devmi Ubesirivardhana (Sujatha Balika, Matara), Runners-up – Dilini Ambalangodage/ H.G. Sandani (Anula College/ Sujatha College Matara)

Under 19 Boys Singles

Champion –

Savinaka Veerasekera (D.S. Senanayake), Runner-up – Jason Homer (Royal Institute)

Under 19 Girls Singles

Champion –

Rashmi Mudalige (Gateway), Runner-up – Ondi Sethuki (Southlands, Galle)

Under 19 Boys Doubles

Champions –

Jason Homer/Savinaka Weerasekera (Royal Institute/ DS. Senanayake), Runners-up -Ashinsa Herath/ Vidusha Sumanadasa (Royal)

Under 19 Girls Doubles

Champions –

Tisuni Liyanarachchi/ Lavandi Umagaliyage (Sanghamitta, Galle), Runners-up – Natasha Gunasekara/ Rashmi Mudalige (Gateway)

Under 19 Mixed Doubles

Champions –

Pulina Vellalage/Rashmi Mudalige (St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa/Gateway), Runner-up – Shenuk Samararatne/ Situki Onadi (St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa/ Sujata Vidyalaya Matara)

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Wanindu only SL player in ICC’s teams of the year

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Wanindu Hasaranga

Wanindu Hasaranga, who took more wickets than anybody at the Men’s T20 World Cup, is the only Sri Lanka male player selected in any of the ICC’s teams of the year announced on Tuesday.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) completed announcements of the ICC Teams of the Year, a feature of the ICC Awards 2022 which captures the best-combined XIs across the different formats of men’s and women’s international cricket after an action-packed year of competition.

Two days of staggered announcements have seen five lineups revealed; the ICC Men’s and Women’s T20I Teams of the Year, the ICC Men’s and Women’s ODI Teams of the Year and the ICC Men’s Test Team of the Year. In total, 11 countries are represented across the various lineups, which feature a number of World Cup winners, ICC Players of the Month and some of the most exciting emerging talents from the past calendar year.

Teams were identified from selections submitted by the specialist panel of media representatives that make up the ICC Voting Academy. The esteemed panel made their selections based on player performances throughout the calendar year, nominating their one to 11 and choosing a captain and a wicketkeeper for each.

Wanindu is selected in the ICC Men’s T20I Team of the Year which includes three Indian players. The others in the team are Jos Buttler (captain -Eng), Mohammad Rizwan (Pak), Virat Kohli (Ind), Suryakumar Yadav (Ind), Glenn Phillips (NZ), Sikandar Raza (Zim), Hardik Pandya (Ind), Sam Curran (Eng), Wanindu Hasaranga (SL), Haris Rauf (Pak) and Josh Little (Ire).

In the women’s category, Inoka Ranaweera has been selected in the ICC Women’s T20I Team of the Year.

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Rusanda propels Petes to big score

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Under 19 Traditional Cricket

Rusanda Gamage top scored with 170 runs, his highest knock in the Under 19 age category, to propel St. Peter’s to a total of 350 for seven wickets before bad light forced an early end to the first day’s play in the traditional cricket encounter against Ananda at Ananda Mawatha on Monday.

Gamage scored 21 fours and one six in his knock which came in 184 balls. It was his second century of the season as he went past 400 runs in what turned out to be his fifth match.

In the other traditional match started in Colombo, Lumbini fought back after being bowled out for 131 runs to restrict Isipatana to 94 for six wickets at stumps.

Match Details

Rusanda propels Petes to 350 for seven at Ananda Mawatha

Scores:

St. Peter’s

350 for 7 in 81 overs (Chamindu Perera 31, Rusanda Gamage 170, Nimutu Gunawardana 25, Kavika Jayasundara 58, Shennan Rodrigo 20; Isuru Ayesh 4/64)

Lumbini 131, Isipatana 94/6 at BRC

Scores:

Lumbini

131 all out in 51.5 overs (Pasindu Mahisha 34; Kevin Samuel 3/33, Yeshith Kalupahana 3/16, Sithuka Gunawardene 2/19)

Isipatana

94 for 6 in 27 overs (Tharushika Ashel 32, Dushan Malinga19, Mohomed Asjad 27; Dumindu Sewmina 3/28, Malith Bimsara 2/35) (RF)

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