by Rajitha Ratwatte
The second game in the final round of the rugby championship takes precedence as far as reporting goes for the simple reason that it was one of the best games of Rugby union seen in a long time. The Springbok – All Black rivalry is legendary, and this game was second to none. The referee Mathew Carley of England was up to the task and kept a firm hold on the game, made good decisions on the field and got sucked in by insidious professional fouls only as often as the situation warranted when making decisions at speed.
The Africans opened scoring with some slick handling of the ball by Lukhanyo Am (no13) sending their no 12 Damian de Allende over mid-right. Handre Pollard couldn’t convert and 0–5. Jordie Barret pulled a penalty back for the ABs’ from far left of the field 3–5. The ABs’ conceded another kickable penalty soon enough (as was the situation through the game) taking the score to 3–8. Willie Le Roux had a forgettable game for the ‘Boks dropping the ball off the next kick off and giving the Abs’ a good attacking position which they capitalised on when Seevu Reece went over the line in spite of brilliant cover defence from no 8 Vermeulen. Only five points and the scores tied up eight all. The first scrum of the game took place in the 18th minute and the ‘Bok tight five began to dominate and complement the great work of their third row with skipper Salesi playing his usual inspirational game. Akira Ioane was pinged for offside right in front of the posts and gifted another three points to Pollard and the lead to the Africans 8–11. The ABs’ picked up the pace of the game and this was the only period in which they seemed to have the Springboks on the back foot. Ardie Savea went over the line with a rather dramatic dive off a break made by Rikko Ioane with Seevu Reece joining the line and covering good ground. Jordie Barret converted, and the All Blacks were back in the lead 15–11. At this stage we were into 30 minutes of the first half and Jordie Barret broke the Springbok line covered good ground and the Blacks won a line out on the ‘Bok throw (a very rare occasion in this game) and Brad Webber wormed his way over the line and scored extreme left. The kick was too much for the youngest Barret and the score read 20–11.
The Africans regained their dominance of the line out and Handre Pollard’s boot brought them back into the game 20–14. We were just five minutes from halftime and the ‘Boks replaced their entire front row! A tactic not seen before and the commencement of what was prove to be total dominance by the ‘Bok tight five in all aspects of the game. A notable happening just before halftime was the referee giving the South African “water boy” a severe dressing down for attempting to intimidate the touch judge by chasing after him and yelling at him and trying to influence a decision.
The second half started with another penalty conceded to the Africans taking the score to 20–17. The renewed energy and commitment shown by the Africans in the second half was not matched by the ABs’ and even Beauden Barret seemed to be suffering from what can only be described as a “brain freeze” when he forgot the 50–22 rule which is being trialled and conceded a line out throw to the ‘Boks.! (When a kick made by the team in their own half lands in the field of play and goes out inside the opposition 22, the team who kicked the ball is rewarded with a line out.)
The All Black defence was caught out of position by probing kicks and even guilty of simply watching and conceding territory. The ‘Boks went back into the lead after a scrum penalty won by them was turned into three points by Pollard 20–22. There was some rather “sophisticated” lying on players by the ‘Boks in loose play that fooled the referee for a while but either with or without off-field help he got onto it, but only after a couple of penalties were awarded. One such penalty resulted in a further extension of the lead to 20–25. A late tackle to Jordie Barret resulted in three points off his boot and the All Blacks got within two points 23–25. Another penalty taken by the youngest Barret in the 73rd minute took the ABs’ back into the lead 26–25 but there wasn’t time for spectators to even think before Elton Jantjies on as a sub for Pollard slotted a drop goal and took the ‘Boks’ back in front 26–28. The ‘Boks were playing under a penalty advantage and the commentators wondered if this was actually a mistake as they could have run the clock down further if the place kick was taken. With around two minutes remaining in the game, Jordie Barret got a chance to try and repeat history with a penalty and he duly obliged 29–28 to the New Zealanders. Elton almost ruined his brilliant drop goal by fluffing the kick-off and conceding a 50-meter scrum to the ABs’ with less than a minute to go. However, the dominance of the African tight five prevailed, they won a penalty gained territory and the New Zealanders who seem to concede a penalty every time for their defenders coming up too soon and being caught offside did so again giving the substitute no 10 a golden opportunity to win the game for his side with an unmissable penalty right in front of the sticks. He did what was expected and the side with the better forwards won a real “humdinger” of a game of Rugby Football 29–31.
The old adage in golf when one “drives for show but putts for dough” when translated into Rugby parlance should read something like “backs are for show but the tight five make things glow”! The presence of Sam Whitelock, Dan Coles (unknown reasons) and the early exit due to injury of Scott Barret were sadly missed and the team with superior commitment and on-field nouse (ability to think on their feet) won a game that removed many doubts about the South Africans’ right to be ranked among the top teams in the world.
Danushka Gunathilaka found not guilty in sexual assault trial
Sri Lanka batter Danushka Gunathilaka has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a Tinder date through the act of “stealthing”.Judge Sarah Huggett acquitted the 32-year-old as he sat at Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court on Thursday listening to the decision. He said he was looking forward to returning to playing after his acquittal.
“The evidence establishes that there was no opportunity for the accused to remove the condom during intercourse because that intercourse was continuous,” the judge said in handing down the verdict.
Judge Huggett found the complainant, who cannot be legally named, appeared to be an intelligent, calm and responsive witness who did not deliberately give false evidence.
However, at times the woman gave the impression she was “motivated by a desire to paint the cricketer in an unfavourable light”, the judge said.
“I find that the evidence regarding the complaint far from supports the complainant. Rather it undermines the reliability of her evidence.”
The cricketer’s defence team signalled he will apply for the Crown to pay his legal costs of defending the allegation.Outside court, Gunathilaka thanked his lawyers, parents and others who supported him during what he described as a very hard 11 months.
“I’m happy my life is normal again,” he said. “I can’t wait to go back and play cricket.”
Gunathilaka and the woman matched on the dating app and met for drinks at Opera Bar in November 2022 before having pizza together in the Sydney CBD and then catching a ferry to the woman’s eastern suburbs home.
Police initially brought four charges against Gunathilaka, who was arrested at the Hyatt Regency hours before the Sri Lankan cricket team was due to fly out of the country. Prosecutors later dropped three of those charges.
In statements to police and the court, the woman accused the batsman of various acts of aggression and violence such as slapping her buttocks, forcefully kissing her and bruising her lips and choking her during sex.There was no suggestion by prosecutors at trial that any of these acts constituted an offence, although the woman in her evidence said the sex was non-consensual.
Gunathilaka always maintained his innocence, pleading not guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent relating to the cricketer’s alleged “stealthing”, or removing his condom during sex without the woman’s consent.
During the judge-alone trial, defence lawyers questioned the credibility of the complainant, claiming her story shifted over time and that she edited her version of events to paint Gunathilaka as an aggressive person.
Judge Huggett also heard evidence from two of the woman’s friends who described her as fragile and distraught the day after the cricketer attended her home.Police officers who spoke to the woman were also questioned about the way they handled the case, including omitting crucial details, throwing out notes and potentially contaminating witnesses.
Judge Huggett on Thursday described the conduct of police in prosecuting Gunathilaka as “very concerning” and “far from satisfactory”.
Gunathilaka has been on bail during the trial but was unable to play international cricket or return to his hometown of Colombo.
Cheering Indian crowds welcome Pakistan team before ICC Cricket World Cup
The Pakistan cricket team has been greeted with warm applause and loud cheers by hundreds of Indian fans upon its arrival before the ICC World Cup 2023, which starts on October 5.
The contingent landed at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad late on Wednesday and was given a raucous welcome by local fans who had lined up to catch a glimpse of the cricket stars from across the border.
Videos posted by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on X, formerly Twitter, showed fans taking photographs with their phones and shouting the Pakistani players’ names to catch their attention as the squad walked past them inside the terminal.
Bigger crowds awaited the players outside the terminal and along their route out of the airport.
They let out loud cheers for Pakistan’s captain and star batter Babar Azam when he smiled and waved back while boarding the team’s bus.
Danushka Gunathilaka found not guilty
Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka has been found not guilty of sexual intercourse without consent following an accusation of “stealthing” involving a Tinder date in Sydney.
The 32-year-old was arrested in November while in Australia for the T-20 World Cup, after he went for drinks with a woman near the Opera House.
He had chatted online for several days and then had dinner with the woman, who can’t be identified for legal reasons, before being invited back to her eastern suburbs home, the NSW District Court heard.
The Crown’s case was that he removed a condom during intercourse without the woman’s knowledge when she had consented only to protected sex.
The complainant told the court she did not see the batsman remove the condom, but saw it on the floor shortly after the intercourse stopped.
Judge Sarah Huggett today found evidence about the “genesis” of the woman’s complaint undermined the reliability of her evidence. The judge said the woman had given different accounts in her two statements; the second, given in April this year, went into further detail about the issue of ‘stealthing’ and added that the complainant did not have a “clear memory” of what happened around the time she saw the condom on the floor.
“The evidence establishes there was no opportunity for the accused to remove the condom during the intercourse because that intercourse was continuous,” she said.
Judge Huggett considered the woman’s first conversations with two close friends, which seemed to frame the complaint in terms of the roughness of the sexual activity.
Gunathilaka’s defence counsel argued the woman lied, gave self-serving evidence and appeared to not remember parts of the night that were inconsistent with a “narrative” she created, which morphed over time.
Murugan Thangaraj SC told the judge the Crown failed to establish the woman’s reliability and highlighted what he said were inconsistencies and implausibility in her version of events.
He said it was “completely illogical” to claim she felt ambushed before lighting candles in her bedroom, effectively setting it up for “a romantic sexual liaison”.
In court, the woman alleged Mr Gunathilaka kissed her “forcefully” on the way home and on her couch, where she felt “ambushed” before moving to the bedroom.
She further alleged he choked her three times during sex, leaving her fearful for her life, and ignored requests to go slow.
Judge Huggett found the woman was an “intelligent witness who gave evidence in a considered way”, and was overall a “calm and responsive” witness.
But the judge said there were times when it appeared the complainant was motivated by a desire to paint the accused in an unfavourable light.
In his police interview, Mr Gunathilaka said he told her his preference generally was to not use condoms but wanted to on the night because it was their first meeting.
In the interview, the cricketer made mention of there being two condoms because one malfunctioned — which the Crown said was a deliberate mistruth.
But Judge Huggett disagreed, finding that his answers were the result of “confusion, fatigue, a language barrier and possibly memory”.
“I formed the distinct impression he was doing his best to be truthful and assist the police,” she said.
Sitting in the interview room, Gunathilaka told police the woman had organised him a taxi and he kissed her before leaving. “She didn’t even text me, I didn’t text her also,” he said. “And that’s it, then I’m here.”
Gunathilaka has been in Australia on bail since mid-November.
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