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Golden point and Crusaders scrape through in week 7

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by Rajitha Ratwatte

The Otago Highlanders after their record-breaking win over the Crusaders who looked unbeatable up to that point in the season, were up against the Waikato Chiefs who also seemed to have turned their season around after beating the Wellington Hurricanes. However, the chiefs were without their captain and All Blacks captain Sam Cane, who is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. It was going to be an even contest and a keenly fought match was expected.

15 minutes into the game the sides were inseparable with the score line reading 13 each. In the 15th minute a penalty awarded to the Chiefs, right in front of the posts saw Damien Mackenzie make no mistake and the Chiefs crept ahead 13 – 16. The next 45 minutes saw no change in the score line and typical robust forward play and strong unshakable defence from both sides. It was only in the 60th minute that the Chiefs were able to finish a number of phases and scramble over the line, close enough to the posts to enable 7 points 13 – 23. In the 69th minute, Josh Ioane one of the “bad boys” from last week (dropped with 7 others for breaches of discipline) joined the line and spotted a gap to go over the line mid left of the posts. He converted himself and the score line was 20 -23 Highlanders catching up. 4 minutes from the scheduled close, the ‘Landers completed the catch up thanks to a simple penalty and the score was even Stevens at 23 all with two minutes to go. The Chiefs were awarded a penalty on the 50-meter line at the full-time hooter and Damian Mackenzie stepped up, but his kicking record particularly over long distances was not convincing enough to leave the die hard ‘Landers fans, without hope. Sure enough he missed and we were in to the Golden Point, extra time for the first time in Aotearoa super rugby 2021.

Golden point is when the game is restarted with another toss and played for 10 minutes and whoever scores first wins. If no one scores the match is declared a draw. Highlanders skipper Aaron Smith won the toss and picked the side of the field that he wanted to start from. Two minutes into the golden point, the Chiefs line out was penalised for jumping early. Since this was only a free kick the ‘Landers called for a scrum, it was a good attacking position on the opposition 22-meter line. The ball was won and passed straight into the pocket with Josh Ioane well positioned for a drop goal. Josh Ioane would have celebrated his comeback in style if he managed to convert this drop goal attempt, but it was not to be. Four minutes into extra time Anton Lennert- Brown that hard working All Blacks and Waikato center three-quarter showed us that backs can also play like forwards by supporting his own weight over the ball and securing a vital penalty off a ruck. It was around 37 meters out and straight in front of the posts. This was the extreme limit of the range that the diminutive Damien Mackenzie could achieve. He stepped up and the X factor that exceptional players are able to call on when the going gets tough, must have played a part in the kick sailing over the middle of the posts and securing a desperately needed win for the Waikato Chiefs 23 – 26.

Sunday afternoons game was Wellington Hurricanes against the Crusaders. Wellington playing at home and 19-year-old schoolboy, Rueben Love making his debut at no10. Aardie Savea was wearing the no 7 jersey for this game. Joe Moody who mans the loose head slot for the All Blacks and Crusaders was playing his 100th game and auctioning his jersey after the game in aid of prostate cancer. He lost his father to this disease around 10 months ago.

The debutant Rueben Love got off to a great start picking up the ball inside his 10-meter line and making a great run and a chip kick that took the ball into the crusaders’ 22. Two minutes into the game the ‘Canes got themselves a penalty around 50 meters out and in front of the posts. Usually, meat and drink for Jordie Barret but he was kicking into what Ian Smith (tongue in cheek) described as a breeze. There is never a breeze in Wellington, it is either a force 10 gale or a typhoon! Jordie missed, no addition to the score. Ten minutes into the game the Crusaders conceded another much easier penalty around 28 meters out and in front. J. Barret was not going to miss that, and the Hurricanes went into a 3 – 0 lead. The Crusader retaliation came just two minutes later when George Bridge, that great finisher powered his way over the line but seemed to be held up until Ngani Laumape of the “canes dived on top of the players and allowed the ball to be grounded. Laumape displayed a weakness that some Pacific island players have in relying on brute force when rugby union is really about finesse. 3 – 7 and Crusaders leading. In the 23rd minute George Bridge went over again for a try in the extreme left corner and Mo’uanga converted brilliantly, 3 -14. Meanwhile the “canes got out of jail” with a penalty reversal coming off a captains challenge and what would have been a gifted 3 points to the crusaders, turned into a clearing kick due to a high tackle that had been missed by the ref. A great example of the new trial rule working to perfection. Meanwhile lineout throws from both teams were not working and turnovers from lineouts were rife. Wild passes and handling errors from the Crusaders continued, at one stage Crusaders handling errors were 5 to nothing from the Canes. The mighty Crusaders pack was losing scrums and conceding penalties. Big trouble in the workings of the juggernaut. The 27th minute saw some great tireless forward play from Dan Coles the Hurricanes hooker, he got involved in three phases of play out of sseven and finally got a great pass off to Laumape who powered his way over the line for a 7 pointer. 10 – 14 Crusaders still in front.

At this point in the game there was a flurry of scoring. First the Crusaders clawed three points straight back with a simple penalty and went back into a seven-point lead. 10 -17. Straight off the resumption, the younger Savea brother, Julian sprinted down the right touch line and scored for the ‘Canes. Jordie Barret kicking into the wind from the extreme right of the field was able to bring the ball back and send it between the posts. Score’s level 17 all. Mo’uanga showed his absolute brilliance with a beautiful chip kick after drawing the defence and sent Seevu Reece (the leaping prawn) away. However, Reece was pinged for foul play and the Hurricanes got out of jail again! It was almost half time, and the Hurricanes got a 60-meter penalty but chose to kick for touch as they were kicking into the wind and even Jordie Barret may have found this difficult. However, they gained good touch and got over the line but were unable to ground the ball.

At this stage we had an incident that has begun to typify the way the Crusaders play. Highly unnecessary for a side with so much talent and ability. Scott Barret the Crusaders captain raised a captain’s challenge (the half time hooter had gone) and got the ref to review an incident when Ngani Laumape displaying the aforesaid unnecessary force that is his penchant, kneed a player on the ground. Now in the “bad old days” when rugby was still a man’s game such incidents when missed by the ref, were duly noted and referred to the “hit men” of the team and revenge extracted at an opportune moment. However now, and especially the Crusaders cry out in anguish to the referees, throw in some acting skills and usually get a yellow card or even a red card against their opponents. The ref duly obliged (yellow card) with a faint air of embarrassment, that I could relate to, and this meant the Hurricanes would start the second half one man down.

Second half started with scores level and the Wellington team playing with the wind at their backs, this would obviously add range to the already massive kicks of the youngest Barret brother. Two minutes into the second half Aardie Savea made a great break off the back of the scrum (he played no 8 although he was wearing the no7 jersey) and sent his no 9 Brent Hall away who then passed to Westhuizen on the left wing who scored. Jordie Barret converted with another brilliant kick and the score line was 24 -17, ‘Canes in the lead. Aardie Savea seemed to have taken a big knock on his knee but soldiered on and continued to make a huge difference to the Hurricanes loose play. The Crusaders went into full attack mode and usually when they do this, they are clinical and perfect and invariably score. However, basic mistakes, pinged for obstruction, conceding scrum penalties and chip kicks going astray led to the Hurricanes not conceding points. The Crusaders were unable to score with the opposition one man down and in fact the opposition scored! Maybe the rugby God’s are still able to have their way! In the 55th minute the entire Hurricanes side was pinged for not bothering to get onside off a kick from their full back. It was a huge booming kick from Jordie Barret and the fact that the Hurricanes players did not wait for him to put them on side would have made little difference to the game, but we are told the referees have been asked to crack down on this infringement. The resulting penalty was easily converted by Mo’uanga. 24 -20 but the home side still ahead. Another penalty this time for the ‘Canes, around 30 meters out posed no problem for Jordie Barret and with those 3 points he became the highest points scorer for the tournament (overtaking Ritchie Mo’uanga) to date and took his team to a 27 – 20 lead.

At this point two players who had been playing their hearts out for the Wellington team, skipper Aardie Savea and hooker Dan Coles were subbed off the field. This proved costly but would have been necessary as a man can only do so much! 63 minutes into the game the Crusaders strung together seven phases of play and Seevu Reece went over the line from what initially looked like a forward pass but was later cleared by the TV ref. scores level once again 27 all. 71 minutes into the game, the Hurricanes got a penalty 63 meters out but Jordie Barret was kicking with the wind behind him, and the crowd was chanting JORDIE< JORDIE and left their team with no choice but to take the kick. Aardie Savea was moving his lips in prayer from the sidelines. Jordie missed but it was not due to lack of distance! two minutes from the end Ritchie Mo’uanga tried a drop goal and missed, scores level at full time and two golden point games in succession.

This is where superior coaching and complete coaching comes to the fore. The acting Hurricanes skipper looked lost with the decisions he had to make when he won the toss and the Crusaders pulled off a great one- two trick with Ritchie Mo’uanga who usually takes drop goals running with the ball and getting involved in a ruck and making the Hurricanes defence think that the danger of a drop goal was non-existent, only to have David Havili kick a drop goal from acting first receiver. All over red rover, with just two minutes into extra time.

The Crusaders did win but they should be rather worried because the usually well-oiled juggernaut is not functioning the way it should.



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Spoilsport

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Bombay Don hiding in Maldives

While Big Tom, 800 man and the Load of St. John’s Wood have all returned home from the neighboring country after the cash rich event abruptly ended recently, the Bombay Don has fled to Maldives instead. It is said that he is avoiding the seniors. The seniors are believed to be having an axe to grind with the Bombay Don for having used manipulative methods to keep them away from coloured clothing encounters. He cannot be hiding for too long and when he returns home all hell will break loose, seniors say.

It’s pay back time for toe-crusher

Fitness seems to be the buzz word these days and many are those who are licking their wounds unable to earn their living having failed to meet minimum standards. In that context, many are wondering the motive behind bringing the toe-crusher making startling exceptions. It is said that the
toe-crusher is the one who got Bombay Don his current job having recommended him to the richest family in the region. Now that Bombay Don is all powerful here, it is pay back time. A friend in need is a friend indeed, they say.

Why Crown Prince favours former boss?

The Crown Prince is doing all within his means to bring the former boss back to the hot seat. All logistics during international games have been given to the Crown Prince’s father-in-law by the former boss. Although many would consider it conflict of interests, the Crown Prince doesn’t think so. He has said that his father-in-law was in this business even before he had become the authority for all games. The Crown Prince has gone to the extent of backdating a gazette to save the former boss. Insiders say that having been responsible for his illustrious father’s political defeat in 2015, the Crown Prince is sealing the fate of his uncle too.

Sailors pulling out a concern

The nation had three brand new international venues after the sport’s showpiece event in 2011. With maintenance costing an arm and a leg, the authorities at that point reached an agreement to let the tri-forces look after the three stadiums. The sailors were in charge of the new ground in the hill capital and for ten years they had done a terrific job looking after it very well. However, now that the sailors had been moved out and maintenance given to a private entity, there are concerns that it will not receive the care that was once given. All in all, it was a good job by the sailors.

Kandy Mandela chases cops away

The man who was the ultimate authority on games ten years ago is politically ambitious. The name he has given himself is Kandy Mandela. (Nelson must be spinning in his grave). He had recently made a big noise claiming the famous 2011 final was fixed. But after Dubai issued a statement that they have no reason to doubt the result of the game, Kandy Mandela has been left with egg on his face. The skipper who is the Lord of St. John’s Wood now and knows his law is not taking it lying down. He wants action taken against Kandy Mandela and together with his colleagues has made a complaint to the newly established police unit that is investigating corruption in games. When cops had visited Kandy Mandela to record a statement, he had chased them away threatening them with transfer

Good job curator

The curator who was given such a hard time after the drawn first game is in good moods these days after the second game produced a result. The curator has been getting lot of criticism but he seems to have done a fair job in his role overall despite the surface receiving not so complementary rating by the game’s big bosses. Despite perceptions and appearances, the curator is said to be a good man.

Election by video conference

While many elections in games are postponed due to pandemic, those running the richest game want the election held on schedule. Efforts are underway to hold the election through video conference now. A sports body known for rigged elections and individuals voting against the mandate of the club, it remains to be seen how this year’s election will be conducted.

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Oneli wins Online Under 18 Chess Championship

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Oneli Vithanawasam of Lyceum International School, Wattala won the Online Under 18 Girls’ Youth Chess Championship as she scored six points to clinch the top award.

Vithanawasam played exceptionally well to beat Prasansa Premanath in the fifth round and drew with Esandi Newansa and Piyumi Uthpala in the last two rounds to finish the event with six points.

During the first four rounds she beat Hasandi Akuratiya, Miyuni Jayasinghe, Tenuli Dahamna Rathnayake and Nemindi Linaya Ramanayake. She was awarded the championship trophy and the gold medal for her outstanding feat.

Esandi Newansa of Dharmasoka College, Nemindi Linaya of Bandaranayake Central College, Veyangoda and Piyumi Uthpala of JMC International School, Kalutara were tied scoring 5.5 points. Newansa was awarded the silver as she was better in the tie breaker.

Esandi beat Sanuli Dulanya, D. T. Joachim, Chanindi Mewna, Desandhi Dhihansa and J. A. K. N. T. Indrajith and drew with Oneli Vithanawasam and lost only to Prasansa Premanath. Nemindi Linaya Ramanayake was better in the tie breaker against Piyumi Uthpala to win the bronze.

CFSL Online Under 18 Girls’ Open Youth Rapid Chess Championship 2021 conducted by the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka was held on May 8 and 9. A total of 36 players registered for the event which was conducted on seven rounds with the time control of 15 minutes and 10 seconds increment per each move played.

Final Standings of top 10 players were as follows.

Name Points

1. Oneli Vithanawasam (Lyceum International, Wattala) 6.0

2. Esandi Newansa (Dharmasoka College) 5.5

3. Nemindi Ramanayake (Bandaranayake Central, Veyangoda) 5.5

4. Piyumi Uthpala Amaratunga (JMC International, Kaluthara) 5.5

5. Premanath Prasansa (Girls High School, Kandy) 5.0

6. Desandhi Dhihansa Gamage (Sirmavo Bandaranayake BV) 5.0

7. Dulinma Hemalni Rathnayake (Viharamahadevi BMV) 5.0

8. Chanindi Mewna Attanayake (Devi Balika Vidyalaya) 4.0

9. DG Jayandi Bimansa (Bandaragama Central College) 4.0

10. J A K N T Indrajith (St. Joseph’s BMV, Kegalle) 4.0

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Sri Lanka cricket selection strategy and replacing the captain

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Taking out Dimuth Karunarathne from captaincy needs a closer look

In the best interest of Sri Lanka cricket and its progress I thought to pen a few words regarding the recent selection purely to give confidence to all concerned and hoping that it will be treated in the best interest of the game.

We all know that cricket in Sri Lanka is the only game that our country has gained world class status of which we are very proud of. Since it is a very competitive sport in the international arena, authorities in charge have a huge task to meet the demand locally and internationally. Starting from domestic to the national level it needs very careful and professional planning. There should be no short cuts taken and a very professional approach should be taken to produce results. “Winning is not everything but winning is the only thing.” This was what the famous All Blacks coach said to his team.

Whatever the sport, all players, coaches, selectors etc. should be very committed with command presence if they are to achieve success. To achieve identified goals, to get to that level each individual has to identify his ability, weaknesses, opponent’s strength and the determination to achieve the target.

Based on my above observation I am compelled to make my assessment on the recent selection of the captain of the national cricket team for the forthcoming Bangladesh tour.

Taking out Dimuth Karunarathne from captaincy needs a closer look. After a low West Indies Tour, under his captaincy Sri Lanka did well to win a Test series after a long time, where he faired extremely well as captain and specially as a solid batsman with an impressive record. One wonders why there is a need for a change in captaincy at a time like this when Dimuth was fairing extremely well. Further, when you remove a cricketer from the international calendar for a long period it is going to affect his form and his mindset. For a sportsman to perform well one of the most important aspects is confidence, continued exposure at competitive level. If you are out of it you have to start all over again and it needs sacrifice and mental preparation which I believe is not the challenge that he should face as he has come in as captain at a very difficult time and have performed extremely well, was in the process of achieving more. If you are going to groom a captain for the forthcoming World Cup this is not the time to remove and try others as he has shown good results and proved that he is a potential, affective captain material and also one wonders how come out of form Kusal Medis is accommodated as vice-captain as his recent track record won’t qualify him even to be a member of the national team.

Nimal Lewke
Former Chairman of National Sports Council

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