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One-way traffic at rugby and a farewell to Guneratne

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By a Special Sports Correspondent

The domestic rugby season commenced with the most likely results with the two Colombo based clubs CR&FC and Havelocks along with Kandy Sports Club (Central Province) producing wins in the first week of the inter-club league rugby season. Will such match results in the domestic scene take the interest away from the game? When the league tournament was launched at a well-attended media event the chief representative of rugby’s main sponsor- Nippon Paint-spoke about there being a prediction that the tournament this season would produce a new winner. Only ‘time’ will tell!

However, despite the thumping wins and point margins in these victories the keenness shown by some of the losing sides to stay competitive suggests that the top runners in the tournament will have a tough time as the tournament progresses. A good example is CH&FC. The players from the Maitland Crescent Club gave Kandy a hard time and the reigning champs had to draw strength from past experiences and the home turf advantage to make it look a comfortable win in the end. Kandy ran down four tries which came off the efforts of Thilina Bandara (2) and Nigel Ratwatte (2) who did the honours in the try scoring department. Even though the Kandy SC back line was bubbling with enthusiasm the eight member ‘pack’ was wanting in the scrums; an area where coach Fazil Marija will have to do much hard work. Kandy had no clue about how to steady that scrum and were lucky to be the winning side.

Senior referee Priyantha Guneratne called it a day with the whistle after officiating in the CH&FC vs Kandy SC game played in front of a large Sunday crowd.

Havelocks SC had an easy time at the Park and the only little contest that existed between the two teams was seen in the first half. At half time Havies had scored twice and the scores read 13-8 in favour of the host team. Debutante Dinupa Senewiratne produced a hat-trick of tries for Havies in a match where the host team crossed the Air Force goal line on seven occasions. Watching the second half was ridiculous as the players wearing the pink and chocolate jersey ran at will and made the opposition look like a schoolboy team. Sri Lanka Rugby cannot reduce gap in ability between the teams that are fancied and those which are not by offering additional help to less fancied teams. But the purpose of the tournament’s organizers to play matches under lights and attract more crowds for matches is defeated when the losing side simply folds up in the second half and allows the other team to have a ‘walk in the park’. The final score read 49-8 in favour of Havelocks SC.

Another team that had it easy in the first week of domestic rugby for the 2023/24 season was CR&FC which demolished Army SC by 55 points to 8 after leading 36-3 at half-time.

Referee Priyantha Guneratne is seen officiating
in his last game which was
between Kandy SC and CH & FC and
played at Nittawela on Sunday.
(Pic courtesy SLR media)

CR is still celebrating its hundred years and this win really boosted the morale of the Longden Place Club which is giving signs of finishing off on a high this season. Last season the Red Shirts finished second in the league tournament and won the prestigious Clifford Cup knockout tournament. By half time the fate of Army SC (the host team) had been decided. As many as eight tries were shared between seven players; which underscores the fact that more than half of the players in the CR&FC side have it in them to emerge as potential try scorers. Thenuka Nanayakkara was impressive during the game and slotted in five conversions apart from producing two tries. The Red Shirts are playing competitive rugby and much is expected of them this season.

Up in Nittawela last Sunday, senior referee Priyantha Guneratne called it a day with the whistle after officiating in the CH&FC vs Kandy SC game played in front of a large Sunday crowd.

Guneratne has made his contributions to rugby in the form of a coach and referee and is a respected individual in the rugby fraternity. He has officiated in crucial matches and done yeoman service to the Society of Rugby Football Referees in Sri Lanka (SRFRSL). He got his big break as a coach when he was selected as the assistant coach of the Sri Lanka national team when the islanders compiled a team to contest the Asian Junior Under 19 rugby tournament in Hong Kong. Guneratntne was presented with a memento at the match in Kandy by the SRFRSL President Dinka Peiris. Rugby will miss him, but the memories of the pint-sized Guneratne controlling 30 muscular men on the field with whistle in hand will never fade away!



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Jake Fraser-McGurk enjoys fine IPL debut as Delhi Capitals down Lucknow Super Giants

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Jake Fraser-McGurk marked his debut with a 35-ball 55 (BCCI)

Jake Fraser-McGurk announced his arrival in the IPL with a 55 off 35 – with 3 fours and 5 sixes – as Delhi Capitals handed Lucknow Super Giants their first defeat in the IPL in a game where the latter posted a 160-plus total. The DC bowlers – led by Kuldeep Yadav – tripped up LSG’s top-order early before Ayush Badoni counter-attacked successfully. LSG’s 167/7 was the highest total for a team after losing their first seven wickets for under 100 in IPL history. But this big effort was for nothing in the end.

Delhi Capitals might be languishing lower in the points table, but Khaleel Ahmed finds himself joint-third on the bowling charts for the season. He was instrumental in setting up the team’s only other win this season – against CSK – and was once again at hand in rocking LSG’s top-order. Khaleel had the rub of the green as the umpire ruled in his favour for an LBW appeal after Quinton de Kock missed a full ball on the leg stump. The left-hander’s stay was cut short by umpire’s call. In his next over, he had Devdutt Padikkal out leg before too.

The match-up worked perfectly for DC as this was the fourth time de Kock fell to a left-arm pacer and third instance for Padikkal.

The left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav,  lured Marcus Stoinis into a big, risky heave in his first over. The result was a leading edge to Ishant Sharma at backward point. LSG were left stunned just the next ball when he bowled a fabulous googly to an unsuspecting Nicholas Pooran and knocked back his stumps. KL Rahul, who had shown some intent early on, became Kuldeep’s third wicket in the 10th over. It needed DC to review but Rishabh Pant was convinced of an edge, and was rewarded for it.

LSG regressed further, slipping from 80 for 5 in 10 overs to 94 for 7 in 13 overs.

Ayush Badoni the 24-year-old resurrected LSG’s essay with an unbeaten 55 off 35. He had Arshad Khan for company in an eighth-wicket partnership worth 73 off the last seven overs. Badoni took on DC’s death-overs pacers Mukesh Kumar, Khaleel and Ishant Sharma as 39 runs came off the last three overs. Kuldeep meanwhile finished with figures of 3 for 20, including 10 dot balls.

David Warner’s dismissal in the fourth over did nothing to DC’s run-chase as their 22-year-old Jake Fraser-McGurk marked his IPL debut with an impressive show. He and Prithvi Shaw went on a boundary-hitting spree, collecting 15 off Arshad Khan and 17 off Krunal Pandya to take DC to 62/1 in 6 overs.

Ravi Bishnoi pushed DC back with a one-run seventh over that included the wicket of Shaw – caught at deep midwicket. This brought along a period of lull as DC managed just 13 runs in 4 overs until the halfway stage, without a boundary scored. Rishabh Pant then turned it around by going after Bishnoi in the 11th over, giving him the charge for a straight six and a four. The DC captain also went after Stoinis before Fraser-McGurk dwarfed the equation by hitting three successive sixes off Krunal – over deep midwicket, deep extra cover and long off.

In the space of five deliveries, Naveen Ul-Haq and Bishnoi dismissed both the batters and ended the chase-defining stand of 77 runs. But at this point, DC needed just 20 off 27 balls which Shai Hope and Tristan Stubbs saw through comfortably in 18.1 overs.

Brief Scores:
Lucknow Super Giants 167/7 in 20 overs (Ayush Badoni 55*, KL Rahul 39; Kuldeep Yadav 3-20, Khaleel Ahmed 2-41) lost to  Delhi Capitals 170/4 in 18.1 overs (Jake Fraser-McGurk 55, Rishabh Pant 41; Ravi Bishnoi 2-25) by 6 wickets

(Cricbuzz)

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Akebono, sumo’s first foreign-born grand champion, dies aged 54

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[File pic] Japanese sumo wrestler Akebono (right) has his opponent Kotonowaka airborne during their bout at the Australian Grand Sumo Tournament in Melbourne on June 6, 1997 (Aljazeera)

Akebono, an American-born sumo wrestler who became the first non-Japanese grand champion or “Yokozuna”, died of heart failure this month in Tokyo, the sumo association said on Thursday. He was 54.

The winner of 11 championships – the 10th most in modern sumo history – Akebono was physically imposing at 203cm (6 feet 8 inches) and 233kg (514 pounds). His fighting style relied on his immense size to thrust his foes out of the ring.

Born Chad George Ha’aheo Rowan in Hawaii, Akebono was a college basketball player who was recruited by the head of a Japanese sumo stable, who was also Hawaiian.

He entered the sumo world in 1988 and rose to its highest rank of Yokozuna in January 1993, becoming modern sumo’s 64th Yokozuna. He later became a Japanese citizen, taking the name Taro Akebono.

As a foreigner, Akebono followed in the footsteps of the even bigger Konishiki, also from Hawaii, and alongside fellow Yokozuna Musashimaru, originally from American Samoa.

“Throughout his 35 years in Japan, Akebono strengthened the cultural ties between the United States and his adopted homeland by uniting us all through sport,” US Ambassador Rahm Emanuel Emanuel posted on X.

Akebono also regularly appeared as a celebrity on Japanese TV shows, and after retiring from sumo in 2001 fought in various mixed martial arts and professional wrestling events.

“RIP to the Mighty Akebono,” posted Samoa Joe, the current world champion of AEW pro wrestling. “The epitome of a Yokozuna, both a warrior and a gentleman. A hui hou.”

Akebono is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons.

(Aljazeera)

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Bumrah five-fer, Suryakumar, Ishan blitz dismantle Royal Challengers Bangalore

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Jasprit Bumrah returned figures of 5 for 21 (Cricbuzz)

Jasprit Bumrah produced a fast-bowling clinic on a featherbed of a batting surface to take 5 for 21 before Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav led a batting onslaught to chase down Royal Challengers Bangalore’s total of 196 in just 15.3 overs. RCB, who had Faf du Plessis, Rajat Patidar and Dinesh Karthik hit brisk half-centuries, faced the worst of the conditions on a dewy Mumbai evening after losing the toss and were condemned to their fifth loss in six games while Mumbai continued to make the climb up the standings after a slow start to IPL 2024, giving their Net Run Rate a big fillip on their way up.

In his mid-match chat with the broadcasters, Bumrah said that he had seen deliveries from Mohammad Nabi’s first over of the match holding up a touch. And so, he resorted to hitting the hard lengths at pace. It took him just three balls to knock over IPL 2024’s leading run-getter. Virat Kohli, having made a scratchy beginning, backed away to the first ball and missed with an attempted swipe across the line. He wore the second ball, an inducker, on his pad. Another attempt to swing across the line sent him on his way as the inside edge was snaffled neatly by Kishan. Kohli was back in the hut for 3 (9) in the third over. His dismissal and that of IPL debutant Will Jacks – replacing big-money trade signing Cam Green – meant RCB got to a middling PowerPlay score of 44/2, despite a promising start from du Plessis.

Hardik Pandya summoned his bowling linchpin back at the end of the 10th over when RCB had staged a laudable comeback through du Plessis and Patidar. The pair plundered 45 in the four overs after the PowerPlay and the MI captain, who had leaked 13 in his only over, needed to reclaim a semblance of control. And so in came Bumrah and sent down a four-run over. There was no wicket here but the over included a pacy short ball that whizzed past Patidar before the follow-up yorker honing in on the legstump had to be frantically dug out. Control somewhat regained, MI proceeded to dismiss Patidar after his return-to-form 26-ball 50 in the following over before the returning Shreyas Gopal added to RCB’s misery by handing Glenn Maxwell a four-ball duck, extending his dreadful start to the season.

RCB recovered once more and at 149/4 with half-centurion du Plessis and Karthik in the middle, they were primed to cash in on the final four overs. But to entertain any thought of a finishing kick, they had to go through Bumrah once more. Du Plessis couldn’t. The RCB captain mistimed a low full-toss to long-on to depart for a 40-ball 61. Bumrah welcomed new batter Mahipal Lomror with a searing yorker with the batter unable to get DRS to his aid. The unexpected slide forced RCB to use their impact substitute in the first innings, but Saurav Chauhan didn’t last long with Bumrah offering him a quick short ball which the batter miscued to mid-on. Vijaykumar Vyshak was the next batter to get a first-ball duck when Bumrah served him another short ball and had him chip a simple catch to mid-off. That wicket helped Bumrah join a very select group of bowlers — James Faulkner, Jaydev Unadkat and Bhuvneshwar Kumar the others — to take two IPL five-fers. He finished with a sensational 5 for 21.

After two excellent half-centuries from du Plessis and Patidar, it took an even better effort from Karthik to take the visitors to 196. Karthik walked out to bat unusually early, in the 13th over and after nine balls had just six runs to his name. He took down Akash Madhwal in the 16th over, using the ramp to third to great effect. Four boundaries came in that over before Karthik added another four and a pair of sixes from Madhwal’s 20th over. Karthik’s unbeaten 53 off 23 made it only the 11th instance in the IPL for an innings to feature three half-centurions. His innings also powered RCB close to 200 but his innings was also a revelation of the easing batting conditions with the onset of dew.

Any hopes RCB had of defending the score was to be a function of how their bowlers fared in the powerplay. Reece Topley and Mohammed Siraj found swing in their first overs respectively and MI’s openers made a circumspect beginning. All that changed in the third over when Kishan edged Topley only to be reprieved by Maxwell, who was placed wide at first slip. Kishan proceeded to lay into the wayward RCB attack, dispatching Mohammed Siraj for two sixes and a four in a 23-run fifth over. Du Plessis turned to Maxwell’s off-spinners for some match-up advantage but saw the all-rounder leak 17 as Kishan reached a 23-ball half-century. The chase was as good as done with Mumbai Indians racing off to 72/0 after six overs.

If Kishan’s 34-ball 69 was rapid then what followed was a blitzkrieg. Suryakumar, in just his second game back from an injury, walked out in the ninth over behind a century opening stand and sent the opposition on a leather hunt. Akash Deep copped punishment to the tune of 24 runs in the 11th hour. All of the facets that make Suryakumar one of the best in the format: the wristy flicks, the slice over point for six, the walk across the crease and lap over short fine were all on display. Suryakumar proceeded to take down Reece Topley for three fours and a six and in the process completed a half-century off just 17 balls – his fastest in the tournament history and the second-fastest for the season. The only good thing at that point for RCB on the night was that their pain didn’t last too long thereafter.

Brief scores:Royal Challengers Bengaluru 196/8 in 20 overs (Faf du Plessis 61, Rajat Patidar 50, Dinesh Karthik 53*; Jasprit Bumrah 5-21, Gerald Coetze 1-42, Akash Madhwal 1-57, Shreyas Gpal 1-32 ) lost to Mumbai Indians 199/3 in 15.3 overs (Ishan Kishan 69, Suryakumar Yadav 52, Rohit Sharma 38, Hardik Pandya 21*; Vijaykumar Vyshak 1-32, Akash Deep 1-55, Will Jacks 1-24)  by seven wickets.

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