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Hurricane force in dead rubber



by Rajitha Ratwatte

It was emphasised that the game between bottom of the table Hurricanes and the Otago Highlanders was not a dead rubber, in view of the trans-Tasman stage of the super rugby tournament that is due to commence in two weeks time. If the Highlanders won this, it would give their coach some satisfaction as it would mean that they had beaten all the participating Aotearoa teams at least once. The conditions started off perfect with no wind and great conditions underfoot. Rain was predicted later.

The first scrum was in the second minute of the game, it had to be reset twice and finally the Hurricanes conceded an easily kickable penalty due to their tight head prop Tyrell Lomax being pinged for collapsing the scrum. Mitch Hunt the Otago number10 made no mistake, 3 -0 lead to the visitors. A series of kicks for territory ensued, reminding one of the old days when Rugby Union used to be referred to by its detractors, particularly from rugby league as “kick and clap”! Seven minutes into the game Karefi of the Hurricanes in the no seven jersey broke through the ‘Landers defence and found that irrepressible playmaker Dan Coles who wears the no two jersey but plays more like an open side flanker and also spends a lot of time lurking on the wing, he then passed inside to the no eight Flanders who showed good speed to canter over the line and score. Jordie Barret converted 3–7 and the Hurricane gathers force. The ‘Canes were awarded two kickable penalties in the course of the ensuing play but chose the touch option each time. Meanwhile in the 15th minute Dan Coles who characterises his brilliant loose play with the occasional “push and shove” got into a brawl with the Highlanders no10 Mitch Hunt. The resultant TV replay saw both parties at fault and two concurrent yellow cards were issued to two key players in either side! The referee Ben O ‘Keefe gave a long-winded explanation and justified his actions.

The Otago team was able to take advantage of the 14 man per side game first, with Josh Dickson the brother of their captain scoring right of the posts in the 17th minute. Easily converted even in the absence of Mitch Hunt and the ‘Landers back into the lead at 10 – 7. Now it was the Highlanders turn to turn down kickable penalties probably due to their first-choice place kicker being in the sin bin and two such opportunities were disregarded for territory gains. The penalty count was reading 2 – 6 against the Hurricanes and at this point both yellow carded players came back on the field. Jonah Nareki that highly rated young winger from Otago who started his super rugby career with a bang scoring two tries on debut, streaked over the line to score mid left after some great phase play with the Otago no eight, Japanese international Kazuki Himeno participating on two occasions. Additional points for conversion added and the score reading 17 – 7 for the Otago boys. The 33rd minute saw a penalty right in front of the posts disregarded for a scrum and the 20-year-old Hurricanes no10 Rueben Love dropped the ball on the line! Rueben Love has loads of talent and will be a star of the future but right now straight out of school, he looks a little lost at this level of the game. This is a real case for taking the club game to a higher level from the sponsor ship money that will become available if the senior players in NZ rugby agree to the mega bucks sponsorship deal that is pending from an American organization.

36 minutes into the game a captain’s referral made by Aaron Smith the All Blacks and Otago no nine against Dan Coles who was up to his tricks again, went against the challenger and the penalty was reversed and Otago lost their right to challenge for the rest of the game. This penalty although easily kickable for points was not taken and territory was preferred once again. The weather decided to support its namesake the Hurricanes with a fresh breeze and some rain coming down at this stage of the game. Dan Coles continued his impact on the game scoring a try mid left off some bruising loose play. Jordie Barret was unable to convert, and the score read 17 -11 with Otago ahead. A long kick by Jordie Barret went over the goal (probably due to the wind and rain) and a simple touch down would have resulted in a goal line drop out but a brain freeze by midfielder Gilbert of the ‘Lander saw him slice the attempted clearance and give the ‘Canes just what they wanted, an attacking line out well inside Otago territory. A penalty was awarded to the Wellington side from the ensuing maul, right in front of the posts and with the half time hooter echoing across the ground Jordie Barret took the home side even closer to their opponents 17 – 15.

The first minute of the second half saw Nani Laumape of the Hurricanes playing mid field and making a real bid for a place in the national side, beating Aaron Smith with a sprint for the goal line off a chip kick and scoring far left. Barret converted from a difficult angle and the ‘Canes into the lead 17 -22. It looked like the Highlanders came back straight away, stringing together 13 phases of play and Smith with a great pass sending no14 Sam Gilbert over the line. However, a captain’s challenge from the canny Dan Coles pointed out a marginal knock forward by the attacking side and the try was disallowed. The wind and the rain started up in earnest and a rather messy and scrappy period of play ensued. We have been spoilt in Aotearoa this Autumn, having lovely sunshine and little rain. We have forgotten that most of our Autumn rugby is usually played in wet and muddy conditions with the forwards dominating play! 52 minutes into the game and Dan Coles was subbed off, as no doubt the coaches were satisfied with his contribution to the game.

One minute later Rueben Love decided to showcase some of his talent by hitting a gap, showing a fantastic turn of speed and passing to Karefi from the third row who scored within easy converting distance for their strapping full back and the youngest of the Barret brothers, Jordie. 17 – 29 Hurricanes blowing hard! The Otago lads were not done yet and in the 57th minute another possible 3 pointer was disregarded, and the ensuing line out saw their skipper Ash Dickson score far right of the posts. The conversion was missed 22 -29 Hurricanes prevail. There was a lot of aggression from both sides, uncharacteristic for a local derby and also a virtual dead rubber. In the 70th minute Nani Laumape made another great break and Braydon Iose wearing the no20 jersey and in as a substitute third rower scored after a long thrilling run, far left of the posts. Barret missed the conversion, 22 -34 Hurricanes surging ahead. Less than 3 minutes from the end Solesi Rayasi scythed his way through the Highlander defence for over 35 meters and scored mid left. This was converted and the final score read 22 – 41 with the Wellington Hurricanes finally living up to their potential even in the absence of their regular captain Aardie Savea.

An item that may have caught the readers interest could have been the mention of the pending Mega sponsorship deal pending from an American organization. New Zealand Rugby has received a $465 million offer from US technology investment giants Silver Lake for a 15 per cent share of commercial rights valued at $3.1 billion. All provincial and club rugby organizations have voted in favour of this deal. However the current All Blacks players have the final say as it may result in less money for them in the form of match fees. The sponsorship money is expected to flow down to the lower levels of the game and NZ rugby has never seen such sums before. The players decision is awaited with trepidation and anticipation.

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KJP urges to play fearless cricket



by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s newly appointed ODI captain Kusal Janith Perera has urged his team to play without fear of losing in the lead up to his first assignment. The national cricket team will be heavily involved in limited overs cricket during the next two months traveling to Bangladesh for three ODIs on Sunday and then playing three ODIs and three T-20s in the UK. In July, they will be hosting India for three ODIs and possibly five T-20 Internationals.

KJP was named as captain with an eye for the 2023 World Cup as six seniors were axed following a string of poor performances in limited overs cricket.

“We have to play fearless cricket. Can’t be playing to protect your place in the side. When you do that you don’t give 100 percent. What I am telling the team is to give your best and that will work in crunch situations,” KJP told journalists yesterday.

“What I want is to create a winning culture. Fear of losing is not going to help us and we need to adopt a brand of cricket where we play fearless cricket. Personally, I have been successful batting fearlessly and I want the team to follow the same method. We won’t be hundred percent successful, but the important thing is that we need to be positive,” KJP explained.

KJP has struggled with fitness and injuries in recent years particularly hurting his hamstring too often. However, the reasoning behind the think tank of Sri Lankan cricket is clear as they want the team to adopt a bold approach without playing it safe.

One of the best knocks in Test match cricket in the history of Sri Lankan cricket was produced by KJP in Durban two years ago when he threw caution to wind batting with last man Vishwa Fernando and pulled off a stunning win against South Africa. His unbeaten 153 set the tone for the rest of the series as Sri Lanka became the first Asian country to win a Test series in South Africa.

However, he has not been able to hold onto his place in the Test side but the move has been criticized by some of the finest brains in the sport. His elevation to the captaincy seems to have come with their blessings.

KJP’s appointment is a bold move and it’s an indication that Sri Lanka need to cast away their traditional way of playing limited overs cricket.

Fielding has been one area that has been sloppy and has received little attention but with a new captain and a crop of young players in the side, this is an area that should improve vastly.

Exciting times are ahead for Sri Lankan cricket and it remains to be seen whether KJP with his attacking style is able to bring the team back to winning ways.

KJP is expected to keep wickets as well. It is the first time Sri Lanka have appointed a wicketkeeping captain since Kumar Sangakkara quit in 2011.

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Bertie Ekanayake – The versatile Sports Personality of the Royal Ceylon Air Force



Flight Sergeant Bertie Ekanayake (Clk GD) is considered as one of the finest sportsmen ever to be produced by the Royal Ceylon Air Force (RCyAF). Ekanayake was an old boy of Zahira College Colombo. He represented Ceylon in Boxing from 1958 to 1964 and represented Defence Services in rugger, boxing, basketball and soccer. He represented the RCyAF in rugger, boxing, basketball, soccer, athletics, cricket and hockey.

Bertie Ekanayake was a key member of the RCyAF Boxing team which won the prestigious Xavier Roche Memorial Challenge Shield presented by the ABA Ceylon to the Most Successful Boxing Club of the year in 1961.

He represented Ceylon in Boxing from 1958 to 1964. He was the Fly Weight Champion of Sri Lanka in 1958, 1959 and 1960, Feather Weight Champion of Sri Lanka in 1961 and 1963, Feather Weight Champion of Pakistan in 1963, Defence Services Champion in 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 and 1964. He was the undisputed RCyAF Champion from 1958 to 1963 and the only winner at the Ceylon Vs Pakistan contest held in Ceylon in 1961 (Pakistan won 6 – 1). Ekanayake toured with the National Boxing Team to India, Thailand and Pakistan and captained the National Boxing team at the First Asian Boxing Championship in Bangkok in 1963. He was selected to represent the country at the Rome Olympics in 1960, however an injury prevented him from attending.

In rugby, he excelled as a fine full back and represented the Air Force from 1959 to 1973. He represented Defence Services from 1959 to 1962, 1965 and 1968. He was a key member of the RCyAF team which became runners up of Clifford Cup championship in 1965. He was selected for Ceylon Trials in 1961 and 1965 and represented Colombo Clubs vs. Presidents XV. Bertie Ekanayake functioned as the Assistant Manager of the Ceylon Rugger team in 1972. In basketball, he represented Combined Services team at the All-India tournament in 1962.

Flight Sergeant Ekanayake was the first winner of the prestigious ‘Varatharasa Trophy’ in 1962, which recognizes the Best Sportsman of the year in the RCyAF. He won the award again in 1963.


by Air Cdre Padman De Costa

(Former Secretary Air Force Sports Council and Defence Service Sports Board)

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National Athletics Championship disciplines prioritized for Olympic hopefuls



by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka Athletics published on Wednesday the list of eligible athletes for the first stage of the 99th National Athletics Championship which will be held on May 22 and 23. The track and field governing body has prioritized nine disciplines for the first stage with the hope of giving Olympic hopefuls a final chance to achieve qualifying standards as the cutoff date for entries nears.

On Wednesday Sri Lanka Athletics picked five women’s events, namely the 3,000 metres steeplechase, 800 metres, 400 metres, 100 metres and javelin and four men’s disciplines, the 100 metres, 400 metres, long jump and javelin for the first leg. They are the disciplines where some of the country’s leading athletes have the chance to reach qualifying standards for the Tokyo Olympics.

The time is running out for Sri Lanka Athletics to identify athletes who have reached qualifying standards for the quadrennial event.

On Sunday Sri Lanka Athletics Executive Committee decided to conduct the 99th National Championship during four weekends starting from May 22 and 23 to minimize the number of athletes per day per venue due to the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic. Sri Lanka Athletics announced only the eligible list of athletes for the first stage (May 22, 23) yesterday and did not comment on the fate of the other three stages.

Women’s steeplechaser Nilani Ratnayake and men’s high jumper Ushan Thivanka are currently on the threshold of earning entry standards for the Olympics. The US based Thivanka cleared 2.30 metres to establish a new Sri Lanka record in the men’s high jump on Saturday in Texas. While he is fast improving his world ranking (48) a performance of 2.33 metres would make him eligible as a direct qualified athlete. He will be competing in meets in the USA.

Ratnayake has to clock 9:30.00 seconds if she is to earn direct qualification, though she is currently ranked within the required range to be eligible to earn a berth through world rankings.

Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe and former national record holder Waruna Dayaratne are in the list to try their chances in the men’s javelin. Ranasinghe too has high hopes as he has remained among the top ranked athletes in the world.

Dilshi Kumarasinghe who created a new national record in the women’s 800 metres at the last Athletics trial will vie for honours against former champion Nimali Liyanarachchi and Gayanthika Abeyratne and schools athlete Shanika Lakshani. Only seven athletes are eligible to compete in this event.

Men’s and women’s 100 metres and men’s 400 are the only track events where semi finals and finals are likely to be held. Janaka Prasad Wimalasiri in the men’s long jump and Olympian Nadeeka Lakmali and Dilhani Lekamge in the women’s javelin are the top contenders in their respective events.

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