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Juggernaut derailed and the Blues scrape home



by Rajitha Ratwatte

It was expected to be a one-sided easy win for the Canterbury Crusaders. They were playing the lowly Otago Highlanders, top of the table against the near bottom. Furthermore, the Otago coach Tony Brown had dropped six of the stars or starting players, due to a breach of team discipline and ethics. Otago had Mitch Hunt was playing at no10 against the mercurial Ritchie Mo’uanga, both former teammates at Canterbury. A team of Wannabees from Otago against a team of superstars from Canterbury.

It was a frenetic start and the normally reliable George Bridge on the wing for Canterbury dropped a perfectly placed cross-kick and with it a chance for the Crusaders to get ahead early. 10 minutes into the game the Highlanders got a penalty far left of field and about 40 meters out. Mitch Hunt stepped up and converted, 3 – 0 to the underdogs. Seven minutes later Codie Taylor the Canterbury hooker was pinged for offside, 30 meters out and mid-right. Again, the Otago no10 converted 6 -0. Otago had learned from the Auckland Blues’ mistakes of not taking three points whenever Crusaders gave a penalty, as happened last week. The Highlanders continued their dominance with no seven Billy Harmon going over for a try within easy converting distance in the 23rd minute. 13 – 0 and a few punters who had taken the long odds, were beginning to smile. The Punters even began to buy drinks for their mates when another penalty was converted in the 31st minute and the ‘Landers went ahead by 16 – 0.

Crusaders were making many mistakes, dropped balls, wild passes, and even mistakes in the line out resulting in turnovers, and loss of territory was very “uncrusaderlike”. Otago continued to play well with Jonah Nareki one of my favorite up-and-coming young wingers in the tournament, pulling off an amazing turn-over off a defensive ruck and turning another Crusader attacking move to naught.

On the halftime hooter, the Crusaders forwards powered their way over the line from a rather scrappy line out. Codie Taylor the red and black hooker scored, and the conversion was simple for Ritchie Mo’uanga; 16 -7 at halftime.

Ten minutes into the second half Scott Barret the captain of the Crusaders was caught offside mid-right and inside their 22. Another three points for the ‘Landers and the score; 19 – 7. A good old-fashioned fly hack off a crusader’s dropped pass saw useful territory gained and 10 phases later Michael Collins of the Highlanders went over the line for another try which was converted. 26 – 7, where was the famed Crusader second-half spurt, even if it did come, was the margin too much? These were the burning questions around the long bar of the Ellerslie pub! The 68th minute saw David Haveli of the Crusaders score but Ritchie Mo’uanga missed a relatively easy conversion 26 -12 and into the last 10 minutes. It was all over in the 73rd minute when the Highlanders bench no12, Garden-Bachop picked up another dropped pass and scored a seven pointer 33 -12 and a half-strength (in theory) Highlanders team had achieved the impossible! Crusaders were beaten by what was possibly a record margin and against all odds. Committed, keen disciplined players are worth more than “superstars” to a coach – Is a theorem that has been proved time and time again; Kudos to Tony Brown, this is the stuff that great coaches are made of.

The Auckland Blues at home to the Wellington Hurricanes. Eden park the bastion of the Blues not as full as usual due to the Easter long weekend and the more affluent denizens of Auckland away at their holiday “batches” and on their boats. However, the Blues fan base are mostly pacific Islanders from the hard-working lower-income bracket of society, and they were probably also celebrating an increase of the minimum wage, brought about by the ruling Labour Government with effect from the beginning of April! The Auckland coach, Leon McDonald had made vital changes to the no 9 and no 12 positions in his team and the Blues skipper Patrick Tuapoletu was out of the game due to a shoulder injury. The ginger-haired Tom Robinson who had thus far been mainly a bench player started as the stand-in captain. A big job ahead of him, particularly as the usually wrong Sir John Kirwan of the expert panel backed the Blues to win!

The Blues kicked off and four minutes into the game the first scrum showed a bit of dominance by the home side. Two penalties 50 – 60 meters out but kickable for the giant Jordie Barret were not attempted and the Blues also disregarded a possible three pointer and chose the touch option. Jordie Barret can’t be kept out of the game and a huge 50-meter clearance kick from a defensive position may have woken his captain up to the fact that here was a kicking machine. In the 15th minute a penalty right in front of the posts, conceded by the Blues was a mere formality for Jordie Barret and the score read 0 – 3 to the ‘Canes. The Blues were pinged again, but the TV ref intervened, and the penalty was reversed, and a yellow card issued to Duplessis Kurefi of the Hurricanes for a high tackle. The 18th minute saw a great ruck by Aardie Savea the captain and no 8 of the ‘Canes, earning a penalty around 52 meters out and slightly left of the posts. Since the Hurricanes were a player down due to the yellow card and this was well within the kicking range of Jordie Barret, trying for the 3 pointer was a no-brainer. Barret missed but it was not due to lack of distance!

The Blues were not looking good. Basic mistakes, ball handling errors, forward passes, and bad line out throws plagued them to an extent that the fans started to wonder if it back to the bad old days. They were unable to take advantage of being one man up in the 10 minutes that ensued. In the 30th minute, a Blues rolling maul heading for the opposition line was apparently collapsed by Aardie Savea and a penalty try was awarded to the Blues and Savea yellow carded. Score 7 – 3. The general consensus was that Savea was hard done by, he will have to be careful however because if he wants to captain the All Blacks in the possible absence of Sam Cane the incumbent skipper, due to a shoulder injury, he has to reduce the number of times he is being sent to the sin bin. Savea is undoubtedly the best no 8 playing Super rugby Aotearoa at present, sometimes his over-enthusiasm results in too much attention from the referees!

The deficit was reduced four minutes later in the 34th minute when the Blues conceded another penalty in front of the posts and around 22 meters out. 7 – 6 with Barret junior doing the needful. However, the 37th minute saw the ‘Canes pinged in front of their posts and on the 22-meter line. Another “gimme” three pointer took the score to 10 – 6 in favor of the Blues. On the half-time hooter the ‘Canes got penalty 30 meters out from the Blues posts, in front of the posts and amid Jeff Wilson (Goldie) of the commentary panel waffling on about the Hurricanes needing to try and score a try, Jordie Barret took the three points. The score read 10 – 9 to the Blues at halftime.

Two minutes into the second half saw the Blues loose head prop Tu’ungafasi go off the field with a knee injury and another of my favorite players Alex Hodgeman come on. Hodgeman is very good in the loose and was soon showing his handling skills with a couple of great offloads. However, he was given a hard time by the ‘Canes tight head Alex Fidow and conceded a couple of “knee down” scrum penalties. He will no doubt learn not to get sucked in by these tactics as time goes on. Two minutes later in the 44th minute the Blues conceded one of those scrum penalties, it was around 55 meters out with the angle and mid-right. Jordie Barret stepped up and over it went, right down the middle. 10 -12 ‘Canes back in the lead and the youngest Barret brother making an emphatic statement as to why he should be a permanent member of the All Blacks. The ability to score three points from anywhere inside 60 meters of the opposition’s goalposts, surely assures a player of his place? Even in the All Blacks!

Around the 50th minute, the changes in the Blues three-quarter line began to pay dividends with a series of nice running breaks and great passes resulting in the new no 12 T.J. Faiane scoring mid-left. Duly converted and score reading 17 -12 for the Blues. The 64th minute saw Mark Telea score on the right-wing off a Ricco Ioane pass. A difficult kick was slotted by Otere Black, and Blue’s lead was extended to 24 -12. The Blues continued to show a lack of initiative on the field and probably missed the leadership of their injured skipper. A needless penalty was conceded in the 75th minute and Reed Princep went over for a try that Jordie Barret was unable to convert. 24 -17 was the scoreline until almost on full-time hooter when the Hurricanes scrum conceded another penalty 40 meters out and mid-right. Oteri Black who had a relatively quiet game but seemed to have regained his kicking form, put this one over too, to secure a 27 -17 victory for the Blues at home. This kick saw the Hurricanes lose their “losing bonus point” due to the increase in the winning margin.

A singularly unimpressive victory with shades of the “bad old days” of mindless, unthinking rugby that we had witnessed from the Auckland team in the past, raising its ugly head once again.

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Murali hospitalised for cardiac treatment



Muralitharan was at the Chepauk when Sunrisers played Mumbai Indians on Saturday, incidentally his 49 birthday. © BCCI/IPL

Sri Lankan cricket legend Muttiah Muralitharan, who is part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad support staff in the ongoing IPL, has undergone an angioplasty in Madras.

It was reported that the champion off-spinner “had a stent fitted to unblock an artery, and will rejoin Sunrisers Hyderabad when discharged.

He has been the bowling coach and mentor of Sunrisers Hyderabad since 2015. His team has suffered three losses in a row this season.

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Dilhara Lokuhettige gets eight-year ban for corruption



Dilhara Lokuhettige had been slapped with corruption charges in April 2019

“The severity of the sanction reflects the seriousness of his offences and his continued refusal to cooperate”

Dilhara Lokuhettige, the former Sri Lanka allrounder, has been banned from all cricket for eight years by the ICC anti-corruption tribunal after being found guilty of breaching the ICC’s anti-corruption code on three counts.

Lokuhettige had been slapped with corruption charges in April 2019, five months after the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) had also charged him. The charges relate to the 2017 T10 tournament played in the UAE, which is why the ECB had been first to lay charges.

In January this year, the tribunal found Lokuhettige guilty of:

Article 2.1.1 – for being party to an agreement or effort to fix or contrive or otherwise influence improperly the result, progress, conduct or other aspect(s) of a match.

Article 2.1.4 – directly or indirectly soliciting, inducing, enticing, instructing, persuading, encouraging or intentionally facilitating any participant to breach code article 2.1.

Article 2.4.4 – failing to disclose to the ACU full details of any approaches or invitations received to engage in corrupt conduct under the code.

“Having represented Sri Lanka in international cricket, Dilhara had attended a number of anti-corruption education sessions and would have known his actions were a breach of the Code,” Alex Marshall, the ICC general manager – anti corruption, said. “The severity of the sanction reflects the seriousness of his offences and his continued refusal to cooperate and should serve as a deterrent for anyone considering getting involved in corruption of any kind.”

An Al Jazeera documentary on cricket corruption in Sri Lanka had initially raised concerns about Lokuhettige. In that, Lokuhettige was seen to be in the room when another former Sri Lanka cricketer was talking to an alleged corruptor, as well as an Al Jazeera journalist posing as a prospective bettor.

Former Sri Lanka seamer Nuwan Zoysa was also found guilty of three corruption-related offences to do with that T10 tournament in November last year. Zoysa has since denied any wrongdoing.

Zoysa and Lokuhettige are the third and fourth former Sri Lanka players to be charged with corruption. Sanath Jayasuriya was the most high-profile cricketer to cop charges, and has served out a two-year suspension from the game, while former offspinner and sometime Galle curator Jayananda Warnaweera was the first to be charged with corruption by the ICC.

As Lokuhettige has been living in Australia and held no positions with Sri Lankan cricket, he has not faced a sanctions from the SLC so far.

He played 11 white-ball internationals for Sri Lanka, picking up eight wickets to go with 101 runs with the bat. His last competitive game was a first-class fixture for Moors Sports Club in February 2016.


(ESPN Cricinfo)

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Royal, Trinity march into semis as Ahan continues top form



Under-19 Cricket

Royal College marched into the semi-finals of the Under-19 Division I Tier ‘A’ tournament with a convincing six wickets victory over Nalanda as they stopped the team inclusive of at least two leading players of the tournament at the quarter-final hurdle on Monday.

Chasing 190 runs to win, the tournament’s leading batsman Ahan Wickramasinghe scored an unbeaten 71 runs for Royal to seal the semi-final place with 11 overs to spare. Dasis Manchanayake who took three Nalanda wickets also chipped in with 22 runs.

Wickramasinghe has scored over 400 runs now in six matches. Raveen de Silva who scored an unbeaten half century and Vinuja Ranpul who chipped in with 22 runs for Nalanda are the tournament’s second and third highest run scorers. .

In the other Tier ‘A’ quarter-final played on Monday, Trinity beat St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa by seven wickets to book their semi-final place.

While Royal meet the winners of the match between St. Anthony’s, Katugastota and Mahanama, Colombo in the semi-final, Trinity will encounter the winners of the quarter-final between Richmond and St. Joseph’s.

In the Division II Tier ‘A’ tournament, Lyceum International School, Wattala continued their impressive run as they edged out Rahula College, Matara in the quarter-final.


Division I Tier A

Royal beat Nalanda at Mount Lavinia


189 for 7 in 50 overs (Rashan Dissanayake 30, Nadil Jayakody 32, Vinuja Ranpul 22, Raveen de Silva 59n.o.; Dasis Manchanayake 3/17)


191 for 4 in 39 overs (Sineh Jayawardena 60, Isiwara Dissanayake 21, Ahan Wickramasinghe 71n.o., Dasis Manchanayake 22; Dineth Samaraweera 2/32)

Trinity beat St. Sebastian’s at Reid Avenue

St. Sebastian’s

131 all out in 43.2 overs (Yashan Avishka 51, Savindu Rodrigo 30; Dinuka Thennakoon 4/23, Abishek Anandakumar 3/37)


133 for 3 in 30.1 overs (Thevin Amarasinghe 39, Umair Raizan 60, Pawan Pathiraja 21n.o.; Sadeesh Fernando 3/39)


Division II Tier ‘A’

Lyceum beat Rahula at Darley Road

Lyceum, Wattala

148 all out in 42.1 overs (Gamitha Pawan 61, Jaron Fernando 20, Theekshana Shehan 26; Binura Sanketh 2/17, Sandew Rithmaka 3/27)

Rahula, Matara

117 all out in 42.2 overs (Tharindu Rajapaksha 52, Binura Sanketh 24; Mohammed Rifnaz 2/23, Mithush Lakshman 3/14)




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