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Kiwi teams prevail on first day of round 2

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Trans Tasman Super Rugby

by Rajitha Ratwatte

Round two of the Trans-Tasman super rugby tournament had two matches played on Friday night. The first one was the Wellington Hurricanes at home to the Melbourne Rebels who had been thrashed by the Auckland Blues last weekend. The Melbourne team were still missing the services of ace placekicker Reece Hodge and the Wellingtonians still without skipper Aardie Savea with Dan Coles captaining in his stead and Nani Laumape the tough irrepressible center back, in probably his last game of super rugby, as he has signed up with a French club.

The wind always blows in Wellington and the home team won the toss and chose to play into the wind for the first half and the visitors kicked off. A long opening sequence ended with a kickable penalty being awarded to the Hurricanes, but the touch option was chosen. The Melbourne team was defending well with the backs coming up together and tacking hard. The forwards even turned over the ball from two rucks effectively. The first scrum was six minutes into the game and the Melbourne pack did a much better job than the previous week, holding up well. A series of penalties were awarded to the ‘Canes as the Melbourne line was found offside for coming up too fast in their over-eagerness to rectify last week’s errors. All possible three pointers were disregarded as the Wellington boys had bigger things in mind. In the 14th minute referee Graham Cooper had enough and dished out a yellow card to the Rebels tight-head prop, (probably for the sins of his backs!) and this, of course, meant a one-man advantage to the ‘Canes for 10 minutes. Julian Savea playing on the wing, made an interception in the 19th minute and ran around 90 meters, and scored under the posts, absolutely against the run of play. The conversion was not a problem 7– 0 to the Hurricanes. Around two minutes later a penalty on the opposition 22, slightly left of the posts was taken, partly to eat up time until the teams were back to full strength and Matt Toomua the Melbourne skipper slotted it, taking the score to 7 – 3. In the 24th minute Nani Laumape who had been running hard at the opposition from no 12, finally broke through, offloaded beautifully to his scrum-half Billy Proctor who scored under the posts. Seven more points was a formality and the score read 14 – 3 to the Hurricanes. The Melbourne team was playing well stringing together 13 phases together and even winning a scrum penalty all to no avail. An almost certain three pointer was disregarded for touch but the Wellington defence which was found wanting last week, held its own and half-time was reached with no change in the score 14 -3.

The Melbourne Rebels scored first in the second half with their first try in this tournament coming from multiple phases and culminating in Michael Wells scoring far left. The Kick was missed, and the score read 14 – 8 the rebels were catching up and playing well. At this stage, Wes Goosen playing on the blindside wing for the Hurricanes beat nine defenders on the run and was brought up just short of the line. 54 minutes into the game ‘Canes half-back Proctor was back in the game with a great run ending with a pass to the Julian Savea (also known as the BUS) who powered his way with afterburners on, ran 20 meters along the touchline, and cut inside to score under the posts. Easy work for Jordie Barret to add the extra points, 21 – 8, and the Hurricanes looking ominous. The 59th minute saw the Rebels score another try far left Through Campbell Magney, but Matt Toomua’s kick smacked the left upright and didn’t go over; 21 – 13. In the 63rd minute, a kickable penalty was not taken by the Hurricanes with the touch option preferred. This was justified two minutes later with a perfectly weighted cross kick from Oban Ledger wearing the no10 jersey falling into the hands of his winger Wes Goosen who dotted down in the extreme left corner with consummate ease. Wes Goosen getting rewarded for his efforts and Oban Ledger succeeding in his second attempt at a cross-kick. His earlier attempt in the first half eluding the arms of Julian Savea on the right-wing. A great conversion by Jordie Barret saw the score proceed to 28 – 13 for the Hurricanes. In the 69th minute a kickable penalty was disregarded, and a quick tap taken by the Melbourne side and that hard-tackling tough winger, Marika Korabeti was stopped inches from the line by the Wellington defence. Two minutes later Wellington repeated the quick tap, and this time Laumape again scorched his way over 70 meters or so and passed to Asafu Omona who had come in off the bench to replace his skipper Dan Coles at hooker. Tackling this burly young hooker has been compared to “trying to tackle a cannonball” and so it was with the third try being scored and a bonus point achieved for the Hurricanes. Oban Ledger who had taken over the kicking duties now that Jordie Barret had completed his stint of duty was able to add the extra points and the full-time score read 35 – 13 to the hosts the Wellington Hurricanes.

Friday’s second game was in Perth with the Western Force who had lost by just one point due to a missed kick at goal to the Waikato Chiefs last week, hosting the Otago Highlanders. The experts were calling a win for the Force and the possibility of the first win for an Australian side in the tournament. Aaron Smith the captain of the Highlanders and the incumbent All Black halfback, was playing his 160th Super rugby game.

The Western Force kicked off and the opening lasted for almost five minutes and ended with the first scrum. Billy Harmon won a turnover penalty for the Highlanders and in the 11th minute, Aaron Smith jinked his way through a few defenders and found that great finisher Jonah Nareki waiting to support him and score under the posts. 7 – 0 to the ‘Landers. A basic mistake from Domingo Miotti the Argentinian international playing for the Western Force shortly thereafter, saw the ball being kicked out to touch after it had been carried back into the 22. The Highlanders regained the territory and in the 21st minute won themselves a kickable penalty off a scrum. The possible three points were disregarded, and loosehead prop Aden Johnston powered his way over the line scoring far left. Mitch Hunt playing at no10 for the Highlanders missed the kick and the score progressed to 12 – 0. The Force earned themselves a scrum penalty in the 27th minute and Miotti made short work of it taking the score to 12 – 3. In the 30th minute, the ‘Landers regained the three points with the Force conceding a defensive penalty right in front of their posts, 15 – 3. We were into the phase of play when an interesting statistic showed that the Highlanders had scored 11 tries; that was between the 20th minute and half time of a game. Aaron Smith decided to oblige, initiating a break away from a maul with perfect timing and sending Scott Gregory (ponytail and all) over the line scoring mid-right. Smith called for the ball when he spotted a gap in front of Gregory and passed directly to him making the job easy. Hunt missed the kick rather uncharacteristically and the score read 20 – 3. Two minutes from halftime Kubelli playing on the wing for the Western Force scored under the posts and after checking for an earlier knock-on the try was awarded. Seven points were not a problem and the halftime score read 20 – 10.

The second half began with both teams disregarding kickable penalties for territory and the plan to go for tries pretty evident. The Highlanders defended grimly and determinedly as is the penchant of hardworking Kiwi sides and managed to keep their line uncrossed. Shannon Frazelle ,who is always at the forefront in the no seven jersey won a defensive penalty for his team and saved the day. In the 59th minute, Greg Holmes of the Western Force was yellow-carded for a high tackle and one minute later the Highlanders scored. It was Aaron Smith again who passed perfectly to his outside backs and enable Scott Gregory to go over for his second try in the extreme left corner. The kick proved too hard for Mitch Hunt who was looking a bit shaky having made some rather basic and unforced errors earlier in the game. 25 – 10 to the Highlanders and a Bonus point insight. It was not to be, however, with the Force managing to score another try through their substitute prop Wagner who went over mid-right after a series of penalties conceded by the Highlanders. The conversion was missed but the Bonus point was forfeited and the final score read 25 – 15 to the Otago Highlanders.

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Harsha returns with personal best

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Lack of competition leaves Olympic hopefuls lagging behind standards

 

by Reemus Fernando

Youth Asian Championship medallist Harsha Karunaratne made a remarkable return to competition to continue the family trend and his school’s tradition as he won the men’s 800 metres at the Stage One of the Sri Lanka Army Athletics Championship at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Tuesday.

Former Ratnayake Central, Walala athlete, who won the Youth Asian Championship silver in 2017, was out of competition for more than two years due to a health condition, for which he needed surgery. Harsha, who inspired his younger sister also to produce record breaking feats at junior level, turned tables on Asian Championship participant Rusiru Chathuranga during the last 80 metres at yesterday’s event.

In winning the 800 metres title, the athlete trained by Susantha Fernando clocked 1:51.06 seconds, his personal best.

It was a joyous moment not only for Sri Lanka Army Service Corps, his regiment, but also for the athletics strong hold of Walala, who have established their dominance in this discipline in Sri Lanka.

While the discipline’s men’s and women’s national records are held by former Ratnayake Central athletes, namely Dilshi Kumarasinghe (women’s) and Indunil Herath, Sri Lanka Junior records are also written against names of former Ratnayake Central athletes.

Like the National Athletics Championship, the Sri Lanka Army Athletics Championship too is conducted in stages due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

Yesterday’s stage one witnessed just two meet records being established and some of the Olympic aspirants struggling to improve their seasonal best performances.

Sprinter Himasha Eshan broke the meet record with a feat of 10.34 seconds in the men’s 100 metres. Chamod Yodasinghe finished second in a time of10.73 seconds. National champion Amasha de Silva lived up to her reputation clocking 11.93 seconds to win the women’s 100 metres dash.

The other meet record was established by W.S.M. Fernando who threw the put to a distance of 16.89 metres.

In a strange move national champion Kalinga Kumarage did not feature in the men’s 400 metres final despite winning his heat in a time of 46.59 seconds. Aruna Dharshana won the final in a time of 47.05 seconds.

In the corresponding women’s event Nadeesha Ramanayake was hampered by lack of competition. Ramanayake who is ranked 56th in the Road to Olympics rankings returned a time of 54.48 seconds. Kaushalya Madushani was placed second with a time of 58.11 seconds.

Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe cleared 73.57 metres which is well behind the tough qualifying standard but that could help him retain his ranking.

Dilhani Lekamge’s winning throw of 56.94 metres in the women’s javelin was nearly three metres further than that of the second placed Olympian Nadeeka Lakmali’s best throw.

Steeplechase athlete Nilani Ratnayake, who is the only Sri Lankan track and field athlete so far to be within the required ranking position (as of yesterday) to earn Tokyo Olympic qualification, won her event in a time of 10:05.02 seconds.

In the men’s long jump Janaka Prasad Wimalasiri cleared a distance of 7.94 metres.

 

 

 

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Learning honesty and integrity through cricket

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by Lalith Gunaratne

My father was a very easy-going person but led a very principled life.  When it came to honesty and integrity, he was right there on top even at the expense of his family. He mentioned these two traits often to his children. 

Talking about cricket, he once asked me and my brother, “If you hit a ball and it goes up to be caught by a fielder, what is your status?” 

“Out” 

If you snick a ball and know that you did and if the wicket keeper catches it, what’s your status?” 

” Out” 

“If so, why do you look at the umpire to tell you so?” 

He went on to say, “if you snick and get caught, you walk back to the pavilion without shamefully waiting for another man (umpire) to tell you that you are out”. 

Thanks to my father, I have never looked at the umpire after snicking a catch and am proud of it. 

Taking this a bit further, my father was the Advertising Manager of the Ceylon Observer at Lake House, the year I captained Ananda. He was an extremely popular figure among his colleagues and subordinates. 

I excelled this year as an all-rounder.  I scored heavily, bowled successfully, and fielded extremely well, holding over ten difficult catches in the gully and at short leg. I was also responsible for three direct hit run outs which were rare at that time. 

Ananda were unbeaten after more than 15 years (Ananda were unbeaten also in 1958 under Palitha Premasiri, but the final tally read at 12 matches played, 12 drawn).  We beat St. Thomas’ College, Wesley, and St. Benedict’s College and time deprived us of beating St. Peter’s College and Mahinda College, Galle. 

I captained the victorious Colombo North Schools Cricket Team in the Inter-zonal cricket tournament.  We beat Jaffna Schools in the final.  Jaffna Schools were giant killers the previous year, beating a star-studded Colombo South Schools Team in the Finals. 

I have also had the honor of being selected to captain the Ceylon School’s Cricket team for the Robert Senanayake Trophy tournament and against the Hyderabad Blues team that included Hanumant Singh and ML Jaisimha. 

My friend Anura de Silva of Nalanda was my vice-captain. 

During this time, the results of the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year results were coming out and was announced as follows: 

Best Batsman –

Lalith Gunaratna. 

Sunil Wettimuny the stylish opener was right behind me only because he had scored just a few runs less than what I had got. 

Best Bowler –

Anura de Silva 

Best Fielder –

Lalith Gunaratna 

Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year – Anura de Silva 

I was not too disappointed. Anura in my opinion was the complete cricketer.  That was the official end to my schoolboy cricket career. 

The day I received the much-awaited telegram from the Army stating that I was selected to be enlisted as an Officer Cadet, I went out with my father to buy some items that would be required at Diyatalawa. We stopped for lunch at Parkview Chinese Restaurant. 

While enjoying our lunch, my father dropped a mini bombshell.  He started by saying he has something especially important to tell me. 

He said that he had made a written appeal to his boss Ranapala Bodinagoda, Chairman of Associated Newspapers, and also spoken to him regarding the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year program. 

He had pleaded with Bodinagoda to speak to the selection panel and persuade them not to select me as the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year if my name came up to the final few.  He had a valid reason to sacrifice the glory his son would have achieved even for a short while.  I did not say a word but kept on listening to him. 

He said, “Son, I do not know how far my plea went and although in my mind you deserved it, we would not have been able to stop people from saying that you got the award because I was a manager at Sunday Observer and that I would have influenced the panel. 

Statistics fade away, but insinuations move from generation to generation.” 

 I was more interested in the new way of life I was approaching as a budding Army Officer, I told him I had no issue with it and to forget about it.  Surprisingly, I was not upset about it and was glad that my friend Anura de Silva received the coveted award.                     

My father said,” there would come a time when your son’s friends will tell him that you became the Schoolboy Cricketer only because his grandfather pulled for him.” We laughed over the matter and continued with our shopping after lunch. 

So many years later, thinking back, I agree with what my father did although he had taken an exceedingly rare stand. I still do not know whether my father’s appeal to his chairman was successful. 

Neither do I know whether the panel had a selection criterion where Anura deserved the award despite me having the better statistics and post-school records in captaining Colombo North Schools and Ceylon Schools and also playing for the Board President’s XI against the Hyderabad Blues and scoring 40 runs. 

This was one of the greatest lessons I learned from my father. 

As for Anura de Silva who passed away a few years ago,  had earned my greatest admiration and respect as a cricketer.  He was great on the field.  He was complete.

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The kid who came to Colombo to study law

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by Rex Clementine

In late 1990s, there was a kid from Kandy who came to Colombo to pursue his studies in law. In 1980s, the universities had been closed due to the JVP insurrection and as a result there was a backlog in enrolling students to complete their degrees.  The kid from Kandy had to wait for two years for his chance to enter university in a bid to become a lawyer going in the footsteps of his father. So with lot of spare time at his disposal, he decided to play some cricket and was employed by Informatics for a salary of Rs. 4000. Brendon Kuruppu was running cricket at Informatics.

Around the same time, the national cricket team fared so poorly in the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1999 in England despite being defending champions. Captain, seniors, cricket board and the selectors were all sacked. President Chandrika Kumaratunga wanted change. The new selection panel headed by Sidath Wettimuny was looking for youth. Kuruppu was part of the selection committee and told his colleagues about this immensely talented kid from Kandy at Informatics. He was a hit with Sri Lanka ‘A’ and soon ended up in the senior side. The nation may have lost a successor to Romesh de Silva (PC) but cricket found someone who could fill the big shoes of Aravinda de Silva. Kumar Sangakkara is his name.

On Sunday night Sanga became just the second Sri Lankan to be inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame. The Kandyans were having a field day on social media so proud of the fact that both inductees from Sri Lanka into that rare club are from Kandy. Muttiah Muralitharan was inducted in 2019 and two years later now Sanga has joined him.

Sanga’s first cricket coach was his father – Kshema Sangakkara, a leading lawyer in the Central province. As his son was growing up he hired Kandy’s best cricket coach – Sunil Fernando to tutor his son. A few years later, he raised the bar even further hiring of all people the legendary Bertie Wijesinghe.

Yet, young Sangakkara was nothing spectacular in school cricket. The standout performers in his age group were mostly Colombo based. There was little doubt that Mahela Jayawardene, Tilan Samaraweera, Avishka Gunawardene and even Upehka Fernando were going to represent Sri Lanka one day but Sangakkara was nowhere close.

But the basics of his game were rock solid thanks to some fine coaching. Success followed in international cricket after the selectors persevered with him patiently. Sanath Jayasuriya, Sangakkara’s first captain needs lot of credit for backing the young player under his charge and letting him express himself freely batting at prime number three slot.

Sangakkara would soon go onto become Sri Lanka’s most prolific batsman.  He dominated bowling attacks in the world while his leadership skills were highly impressive. In his first assignment as captain, Sri Lanka reached the finals of the ICC World T-20 in 2009. In his next assignment, the team recorded their first series win against Pakistan at home.

There was more success as Sri Lanka won a first ever series in Australia under his leadership. His father Kshema remained unimpressed though. Even after he had smashed the most stunning double hundred against an attack that comprised Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akthar, Kshema Sangakkara would tell his son, ‘you batted like a donkey today’.

During a tour of Australia, Sanga had been woken up in the middle of the night by the hotel receptionist who informed him that he had received a fax from home. Bit worried as to what was happening back home he went to pick the copy of the fax. It was from his father. So what was in the fax?  Dad had sent some batting tips from Sir Don Bradman’s book ‘The Art of Cricket’ and with that there was a message, ‘read it before you go out to bat tomorrow.’

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