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Hurricanes and Highlanders both win with a bonus point

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by Rajitha Ratwatte

Hurricanes at home to the Queensland Reds at Sky Stadium in Wellington. Basically, a dead rubber with the finals now definitely between two of the Kiwi teams and the Hurricanes all but ruled out. The tournament also taking on an air of “much of a sameness” and only the Australian teams showing improvement, probably due to playing better opposition. The Kiwi teams getting sloppier and losing their discipline and professionalism as the tournament progressed. A notable feature was that this was going to be the last game in New Zealand for Ngani Laumape a great servant of Wellington rugby and the current incumbent of the no12 jersey and sometimes All Black winger. A lucrative contract from a French club and not enough certainty from the All-Blacks selectors, who seem to have their eyes focused elsewhere, being among the reasons for the loss of this great player to NZ rugby.

The Reds started off with a basic error by not kicking the required 10 meters and the centerfield scrum that resulted gave Laumape his chance to show just how good he is by scoring under the posts in the third minute. 7–0 to the hosts. A few minutes later Laumape went over again but the TV replay showed him to have dropped the ball over the line due to a great tackle by Dangunu on the Reds’ wing. The Reds had developed a nice tactic with big forwards gaining momentum from long runs in and getting the ball of their nippy halfback McDermott in the second or third phase and breaking through the “Canes defence. Number eight Wilson made a great break this way but lost the ball inches from the line. Another try was denied to the Hurricanes in the 25th minute when Jordie Barret who had a very physical game, went over the line but the TMO ruled a knock-on. The ball seemed to be greasy and there were plenty of handling errors and loose passes. The Reds’ forwards were dominating the set pieces and Tyrell Lomax the ‘Canes loosehead prop was yellow-carded in the 27th minute and this meant they lost Du’ Plessis Kirifi (temporarily) in the number seven jersey as well because another prop had to come on for the scrums. A minute later McDermott came off the back of an advancing scrum and scored under the posts for the Reds, 7–7. The ‘Canes took a penalty mainly to run the clock down during the Lomax yellow card and took the score to 10–7 at halftime.

Within three minutes of the restart, Dangunu was yellow-carded by Ref James Doleman who was to issue two more yellow cards and award a penalty try before he was done for the day. Rueben Love the 20-year-old Hurricanes fly-half scored his first try in Super rugby in the 45th minute and Jordie Barret managed a difficult conversion taking the score to 17–7. The Reds still playing with one man short scored through their dynamic hooker Amosa in the 48th minute and Bryce Haggerty their number 10 converted taking the score to 17–14. At this stage, the Hurricanes captain and number eight Aardie Savea went off the field injured, and the Reds may have seen an opportunity. It was not to be however as Dan Coles came in off the bench (What an option!) and inside his first three minutes in the game, scored what is now his trademark try off a rolling maul constructed at the end of a line out. Only a five pointer this time and the score 22–14. 62 minutes into the game one of the most experienced commentators in NZ was reduced to the single expletive “blimey” when the referee aided by the TMO awarded a penalty try to the Hurricanes and dished out a yellow card knocking the ball deliberately over the dead ball line (i.e., a professional foul in a scoring situation) in a bizarre interpretation of the rules. 29-14 and Nani Laumape was subbed off the field to loud cheers from appreciative fans. The Hurricanes duly achieved the bonus point in the 70th minute Through Devon Flanders (36–14) and did one better before the full-time whistle when Dan Coles got his second off another rolling maul. The Final score 43–14 a record win for the Hurricanes over the Reds.

The second game on Friday was the ACT Brumbies hosting the Otago Highlanders in conditions very familiar to the Highlanders, extreme cold, in Canberra. Mike Frazer was the referee, and the Brumbies went into an early lead scoring an unconverted try through their winger Len Ikitai. Brumbies skipper and loosehead prop Alalatoa had a “brain freeze” and was caught blatantly offside in the 16th minute. The resultant touch kick and line out saw Ash Dickson the ‘Landers hooker score off a rolling maul and Mitch Hunt their fly-half had no difficulty taking them to seven points over the Brumbies five. Jonah Nareki got into the game in the 26th minute making great territory off an advancing scrum and passing to Aaron Smith who helped himself to a seven pointer 14–5. Lachlan Lonnegan the Brumbies hooker pulled one back for his side scoring on the stroke of halftime taking the score to 14–12 at the break.

The Highlanders sustained an unrelenting attack in Brumbies territory from the start of the second half. First, it was Aaron Smith who scored off an attacking scrum (21–12) and inside the next 10 minutes two more tries, one from Billy Harmon, unconverted (26–12) and another from Tomkinson on the wing (33-12) ensured a win with a bonus point for the Highlanders who have a very good chance of featuring in the final next week.

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So near yet so far for several junior athletes

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Medhani Jayamanne (centre) wins the girls’ 100 metres. (Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

by Reemus Fernando

While sprinters Isuru Kaushalya and Medhani Jayamanne further cemented their places in the team for the World Junior Championships it was a case of so near yet so far for a number of athletes who missed qualifying standards by narrow margins at the Junior Trial held at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo on Tuesday.

After going through many a hardships to continue training amidst the Covid 19 pandemic junior athletes produced some outstanding performances during the one-day competition yesterday.

St. Joseph’s College triple jumper Pasindu Malshan missed the qualifying standards after his best jump of 15.76 metres was measured with a wind reading of +3.7. The qualifying standards (QS) achieved with a tail wind of +2 are not considered eligible. He had two outstanding jumps measured at 15.76 metres (+3.7) and 15.47 metres. The qualifying standard is 15.60 metres.

Hurdlers Amesha Hettiarachchi from Kandy, M.D. Dharshana of Ambagamuwa Central and Kaveesha Bandara of Royal College, Colombo narrowly missed the qualifying mark. Amesh, despite failing to maintain the rhythm from the penultimate hurdle, returned a time of 62.66 seconds (QS: 60.75secs)

Dharshana hardly had any competition in the boys’ 400 metres hurdles and returned a time of 53.22 seconds which was a fraction of a second behind the qualifying standards (QS: 53.10). Royal hurdler Bandara was unlucky as he battled wind to return a time of 14.34 seconds in the 110 metres hurdles (QS: 14.15).

St. Peter’s College javelin thrower Ramesh Tharanga who is one of the promising throwers to have emerged from the junior circuit hurled the javelin to 68.33 metres (QS: 69.5m) which was just short of the target.

Long jumper Hirusha Hashen too narrowly missed the target as he cleared 7.31 metres (QS: 7.58 m).

Lumbini College missed a rare opportunity to field two 100 metres sprinters for the World Junior Championships when Chalith Piyumal had to run against the wind (-2.1). When Medhani Jayamanne who is also from Lumbini achieved the qualifying standards in the girls’ 100 metres, Piyumal clocked 10.78 seconds running against the wind (QS: 10.58).

 

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Kaushalya, Medhani dazzle as chance looms for mixed relay team

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by Reemus Fernando

Ananda Sastralaya Matugama sprinter Isuru Kaushalya produced one of the best performances by a junior athlete in Asia in the 400 metres this year when be bettered the World Junior Championship qualifying mark for the second time this season at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka Athletics conducted a Junior Trial yesterday to provide competition-starved junior athletes a chance to reach qualifying standards for this year’s World Under-20 Athletics Championships.

Kaushalya and sprinter Medhani Jayamanne were probably the best performers on the day as several athletes met disappointment after having come almost close to achieving qualifying standards for the World Junior Championship which will be held in three weeks time in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kaushalya, who had already achieved qualifying standard when he entered the one-day meet, clocked 46.90 seconds in the 400 metres final. His outstanding feat is the seventh fastest time this year by a junior athlete in Asia. While only seven junior athletes had clocked sub 47 seconds in Asia, Kaushalya improved his personal best clocking sub 47 seconds and now is the seventh fastest Asian over the 400 metres in his age category.

Medhani Jayamanne, who qualified for the world event in the 200 metres at the Interstate Championship in India recently, did her best to qualify in the 100 metres as well. Her efforts aided by a tail wind (of +2) stopped the clock at 11.85 seconds, the exact qualifying standard required to enter the event.

Holy Cross College, Gampaha runner Shanika Lakshani and Ratnayake Central athlete Tharushi Karunaratne are the others who had already qualified for the World Junior Championships. Having already secured her place in the team in the 800 metres, Karunaratne tried to achieve 400 metres qualifying standards as well yesterday. She fell just short of the target as she returned a time of 55.19 seconds (qualifying standard: 54.85 secs).

St. Joseph’s College triple jumper Pasindu Malshan missed the qualifying standards after his best jump of 15.76 metres had a wind reading of +3.7. There were a number of others who met similar disappointment.

Chance to field mix relay team

Sri Lanka is yet to field a mix relay team for any international event. However with strong performances in both the boys’ and girls’ 400 metres yesterday Sri Lanka Athletics has a golden opportunity to provide youngsters an opportunity to compete in the combined event in Kenya.

In the girls’ 400 metres, both Tharushi Karunaratne (55.19 secs), who has already qualified for the World Junior event in the 800 metres, and Holy Cross, Gampaha athlete Lakshima Mendis (55.29secs) both produced their personal best performances. In the corresponding boys’ event Wekada MV sprinter R.D. Bandara who finished second behind Kaushalya clocked 47.55 seconds.

With junior athletes lacking international exposure, exploring chances of fielding a mix relay team will augur well for their future.

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Second T-20 postponed after Pandya tests positive

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by Rex Clementine

Yesterday’s second T-20 International between Sri Lanka and India at RPS was postponed after Indian player Krunal Pandya tested positive for COVID. The game is expected to be played today followed by the final T-20 International on Thursday depending on the PCR results of the remaining players.

During the Antigen test taken on all players yesterday afternoon, Pandya had tested positive. Accordingly, seven other players who are identified as his close contacts were isolated.

All players of the Indian team and support staff then did PCR tests and although the results were expected by 6 pm yesterday, there was no official announcement when this edition went to print. Sources said that Pandya had tested positive in his PCR test as well.

There were a few concerns as to how Pandya tested positive as all players and coaching staff are in bio-secure bubbles and outside interaction is little. Health authorities were conducting investigations.

It is not clear as to how many days Pandya’s close contacts have to remain in isolation. However, India are carrying an extended squad and fielding a decent team should not be a worry.

This is the second instance the series has been postponed due to the pandemic. Earlier, after Sri Lanka Batting Coach Grant Flower tested positive, all Sri Lankan players were isolated and the series was pushed back by several days.

The Sri Lankan team was informed about the series being pushed back when they gathered for the team meeting at the hotel at 3pm. The Sri Lankans are staying at Cinnamon Grand while the Indians are at Taj Samudra. Both teams were supposed to stay at Taj but the Sri Lankans were evacuated after Flower tested positive.

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