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‘Qingdao organic fertiliser shipment is pathogen free’: How scientifically acceptable is test report?



by Prof. Devika de Costa

(Chair Professor of Plant Protection, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya)


The bulk carrier, Hippo Spirit, carrying an organic fertiliser shipment of 20,000 metric tons manufactured by the Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd., China,started to sail to its destination, Colombo, Sri Lanka, from Qingdao port, China, on the 22 September 2021. Seventy-two days after its departure, on the 04 December 2021, Hippo Spirit left the Sri Lankan waters heading towards Singapore without unloading its shipment of organic fertiliser at the planned destination.

The reason for not allowing the shipment to be unloaded by the Sri Lankan authorities was the detection of the contamination of the organic fertiliser onboard with a plant pathogenic bacterium named Erwinia spp. and another group of bacteria of Bacillus spp., as confirmed twice by the National Plant Quarantine Service, Sri Lanka (NPQS). As per the Plant Protection Act No. 35, 1999 of Sri Lanka, material containing any organism harmful to, or injurious to, or destructive of plants and for the sanitation of plants in Sri Lanka, is not allowed to be imported.

Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd., the supplier, directed the Hippo Spirit, along with the bulk organic fertiliser shipment, to a test laboratory in Singapore, with the intention of getting a sample of the shipment tested for its quality by a third party and to initiate an international arbitration procedure.

The third party testing laboratory that the Qingdao Seawin selected was SGS Testing & Control Services Singapore Pvt. Ltd. (SGS). The reason for obtaining the services of a third party for the testing procedure was to support the allegations made by Qingdao Seawin against the NPQS. Qingdao Seawin denied the fact that their shipment was contaminated with the bacterium Erwinia, emphasising that NPQS had not conducted the test procedures scientifically and had not followed standard methodologies adopted by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC).

Accordingly, a sample of the organic fertiliser shipment in Hippo Spirit was submitted to the SGS laboratory for testing its microbial quality on the 13 December 2021. At the SGS laboratory, this sample was tested to detect the presence of a specific group of bacteria, according to a standard test procedure, and the test results were released on 20 December 2021.

SGS test report Figure 1

shows an image of the test report released by the SGS laboratory on the 20 December 2021. According to the report, the submitted sample was tested by two standard methods, namely ISO 21528-1 (2017) and ISO 21528-2 (2017), to detect bacteria belonging to the Family Enterobacteriaceae, a sub-group within the large taxonomic group of bacteria.

The testing period of the sample has been reported as seven days from the 13th to the 20 December 2021. Results released by the SGS laboratory reveal that bacteria belonging to Enterobacteriaceae have not been detected in the sample subjected to the above two testing procedures.

(see Figure 1: The SGS test report)

What are Enterobacteriaceae bacteria?

Enterobacteriaceae is a large family of bacteria consisting of 53 bacterial genera (Reference No. 1). According to ‘Gram Staining’, the standard staining technique used in bacteriology for initial categorisation of bacteria, the bacteria belonging to this Enterobacteriaceae are classified as ‘Gram negative’. A majority of the bacterial genera belonging to this family are inhabitants of the human and animal intestine. Such bacteria are termed as ‘enteric bacteria’. In addition to the enteric bacteria, some of the genera belonging to the family Enterobacteriaceae live in natural environments such as soil and water.

There are some bacterial genera of this family, which are pathogenic (i.e. having the ability to cause diseases) to plants and animals. Most of the bacterial members of this family grow well at a temperature of 37 oC but there are some bacteria that show a better growth at a temperature range of 25 – 30 oC. Therefore, it is clear that within the same bacterial family, there are different bacterial genera and species with different physical, nutritional and functional characteristics. It is equivalent to siblings of a given family having differences in terms of their external morphological features, behaviour, attitudes, performances, working efficiency, etc.

Scientific basis of the test protocol to determine the quality of the sample

ISO 21528-1 (2017) and ISO 21528-2 (2017) are recommended test protocols to detect the presence of bacteria belonging to the Family Enterobacteriaceae in food samples used for human/animal consumption or to test the environmental samples used for primary food production, food production and food handling. Using the above test protocols it is possible to detect the presence of ‘culturable bacteria’ (i.e. bacteria which are capable of growing on synthetic culture media) belonging to the family Enterobacteriaceae. This means that the selected test protocols are suitable for detecting only a limited, focused group of bacteria and that these specific test protocols have not targeted the detection of all types of bacteria. The specificity of this test protocol to target only the culturable type bacteria of the Enterobacteriaceae family has been achieved through the specific synthetic culture medium used in the protocol. The culture medium used here is called the ‘Violet Red Bile Glucose Agar medium (VRBGA)’. Microbiologically, the culture media which specifically target a particular group of bacteria or microorganisms are termed ‘selective media’. Such selective media favour the growth of a particular group of microorganisms while suppressing the growth of all other types.

Selectivity of the VRBGA medium is determined by the ingredients used when preparing it. For example, the chemical stain called crystal violet and bile salts are used when preparing the VRBGA medium and both these chemical ingredients suppress the growth of Gram positive type bacteria. Moreover, the bile salts used in this medium encourages the growth of bacteria that are resistant to bile salts. In other words, only the bacteria which are not destroyed by the action of bile salts will grow on the VRBGA medium.

On the other hand, the bacteria which cannot tolerate bile salts will not grow on this selective medium even if they are present in the test sample.

Enteric bacteria naturally inhabit in an environment containing bile salts (i.e. the gut of animals and humans) and consequently are usually resistant to bile salts. Therefore, growth of such bacteria will not be suppressed when a test sample is allowed to grow on the VRBGA medium. However, non-enteric bacteria usually live in environments such as soil or plant tissue, and therefore, have no exposure to bile salts. Accordingly, they are not accustomed to grow in an environment containing bile salts. As a consequence, the growth of non-enteric bacteria is suppressed on the VRBGA medium. Therefore, it is clear that a test protocol using the VRBGA medium is not appropriate to test the presence of microorganisms or bacteria in a test sample of plant origin such as the organic fertilizer consignment from Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd. More importantly, this renders the conclusion by the SGS test report invalid.

Erwinia spp. grow naturally in plant tissues which have no bile salts in them. Thus it is a group of non-enteric bacteria. As explained above, the growth of such non-enteric bacteria is heavily suppressed on the VRBGA medium. According to the results of the publication given as Reference Number 2, the VRBGA medium has been identified as a medium which underestimates the presence of plant bacteria such as Erwinia, despite Erwinia being a member of the Family Enterobacteriaceae. Therefore, it should be clear that even if bacteria belonging to Erwinia spp. had been present in the tested organic fertilizer sample from Qingdao, there was a very high probability for them not being able to develop colonies on the VRBGA medium. Thus, the conclusion that the sample is free from Erwinia is erroneous and inconclusive.

Scientific reasons for not agreeing with the conclusions made by the SGS report

The SGS report concludes that based on ISO 21528-1 (2017) and ISO 21528-2 (2017) test protocols, the sample does not contain bacteria belonging to the family Enterobacteriaceae, and therefore, the sample is free from Erwinia as well. Based on the above test report, news reports were released through public media (Daily News, 24th of December 2021 and News First, 22nd of December 2021) saying that the organic fertiliser shipment was free from plant, animal and human pathogens including Erwinia.

Given below are the scientific reasons to emphasise that the conclusion drawn is erroneous:

(a) Because of the highly selective nature of the VRBGA medium, all bacteria in the Enterobacteriaceae family will not develop colonies on it when the sample is tested by the above ISO procedures. Accordingly, Non-enteric bacteria and bacteria which are usual inhabitants of bile salt-free environments, and hence are not resistant to the effect of bile salts will not develop on the culture medium even if they are present in the test sample. Therefore, it is erroneous to conclude that the sample is free from Erwinia;


As a selective medium, VRBGA targets the detection of bacteria belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae family only. This medium suppresses the growth of all Gram positive type bacteria and other non-Enterobacteriaceae bacteria. There are many plant, animal and human pathogenic bacteria which belong to many other taxonomic families (i.e. other than Enterobacteriaceae/non-Enterobacteriaceae). Therefore, based on this test report, it is not possible to conclude that the sample is free from plant, animal and human pathogens from taxonomic families other than Enterobacteriaceae;


In giving their conclusion, the SGS report assumes that Erwinia belongs to the family Entereobacteriaceae. However, according to the most recent taxonomic classification of bacteria as given in Reference No. 3, the genus Erwinia is no longer a member of the Family Enterobacteriaceae. Accordingly, Erwinia genus is now included in a separate family named Erwiniaceae. This recent taxonomic classification is based on molecular biological methods of bacteria identification. In contrast, the previous classification, under which the genus Erwinia had been classified within the Family Enterobacteriaceae, was based on morphological and biochemical features of bacteria. It is widely acknowledged that molecular biological methods of bacteria identification are superior to methods based on morphological and biochemical features. This is equivalent to identifying a person by his/her genetic make-up as opposed to his/her external features and performance.

Organisms/microorganisms belonging to different taxonomic strata have unique behaviours and unique characteristics. These specific behaviours and features should be considered carefully when selecting appropriate methods for detecting microorganisms. Inappropriate selection of detection methodology leaves a very high possibility for a majority of microorganisms passing undetected, leading to erroneous conclusions about test samples.

If the fertiliser supplying company had the intention of clearing its good name that the shipment was free from Erwinia, the most appropriate methodology was to use specific, standard microbiological methods that are available to specifically detect the genus Erwinia or selected species of Erwinia. Or, the most logical and scientific approach should have been to test the sample for the presence of any culturable microorganism (using a standard microbiological technique suitable for this purpose) and if microorganisms were detected, to confirm their identity for genus Erwinia or species of Erwinia, subsequently. Instead what has been attempted through the test procedures that have been adopted by the SGS laboratory in Singapore was to try to convince the absence of Erwinia in an indirect way using a less sensitive and highly selective method targeting a particular group of bacteria with a questionable approach.

According to ISO 21528-1 (2017) and ISO 21528-2 (2017) test procedures, there is no specific guideline on the way of sampling. It is stated that the sampling is done on a case-specific way (if standard procedures are available for a given sampling material) and when such standards are not available, it is done via mutual agreement of the relevant parties.

According to the SGS report, the sample submitted for testing (Figure 2) is a parcel with approximate dimensions of 30 cm x 15 cm. The content within it could be estimated to be about 500 – 1000 g. It is highly questionable whether the amount of fertiliser sample submitted for testing was truly representative of the whole bulk of the 20,000 metric ton shipment. Furthermore, the number of samples submitted for testing seems to be only one, which is also not a sufficient number to represent the bulk of the shipment. There are widely-accepted sampling protocols that should have been used to obtain a series of representative samples. In scientific research, results based on a single sample are rarely, if ever, accepted as valid.

(See Figure 2: The sample used for testing as shown in the SGS test report)

ISO 21528-1 (2017) and ISO 21528-2 (2017) test procedures emphasise that the samples used for testing should be a proper representation of the bulk. In addition they provide clear guidelines on the quality of the sample at the time of its submission for testing. Accordingly, the sample should not have been damaged or changed during transport and storage. It is highly doubtful if the latter requirement could have been fulfilled from a shipment that had been stored in a bulk carrier for more than three months. Therefore, the validity/accuracy of the test results is questionable as the results do not reflect the initial quality/status of the shipment.

Based on above questionable/doubtful test procedures, it is not possible to conclude that the organic fertiliser sample tested by the SGS laboratory is free from plant, animal and human pathogens including Erwinia. The biggest concern arising from the conclusions of this nature is their negative impact on policy decisions and thereby the potential catastrophes that could be encountered by the nation as a whole. For example, the potential disease damage to a wide range of crops grown in Sri Lanka that could be caused by application of an organic fertiliser containing a plant pathogen such as Erwinia is enormous and could last for a very long period, incurring billions of rupees. Similarly, diseases to plants, animals and humans that could be caused by the wide range of microorganisms that are not detected by these highly-selective test protocols adopted by the SGS could lead to substantial economic and environmental damage along with human health hazards. These could take several years and several billions of rupees to be brought under control.

The meek response of the Sri Lankan authorities to the legal challenge of Qingdao based on the erroneous and questionable SGS test report from Singapore demonstrates their readiness to accept anything coming from an international agency while ignoring the scientifically-valid tests and conclusions of the Sri Lankan scientists. This sends a very negative detrimental signal to the national scientific community and to the nation as a whole.


1. UK Standards for Microbiology Investigations: Identification of Enterobacteriaceae (2013), Issued by the Standards Unit, Microbiology Services, Public Health England, 32 pp.

2. Baruzzi, F., Cefola, M., Carito, A., Vanadia, S. and Calabrese, N., (2012). Changes in bacterial composition of zucchini flowers exposed to refrigeration temperatures. The Scientific World Journal,, 6 pp.

3. Adeolu, M., Alnajar, S., Naushad, S. and Gupta, R.S., (2016). Genome-based phylogeny and taxonomy of the ‘Enterobacteriales’: proposal for Enterobacterales ord. nov. divided into the families Enterobacteriaceae, Erwiniaceae fam. nov., Pectobacteriaceae fam. nov., Yersiniaceae fam. nov., Hafniaceae fam. nov., Morganellaceae fam. nov., and Budviciaceae fam. nov. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, 66(12), 5575-5599.

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Glimmers of hope?



The newly appointed Cabinet Ministers leaves Cass un-uplifted. She need not elaborate. She wishes fervently that Dr Harsha de Silva will leave party loyalty aside and consider the country. Usually, it’s asking politicians to cast aside self-interest, which very rarely is done in the political culture that came to be after the 1970s. Thus, it is very unusual, completely out of the ordinary to appeal to Dr Harsha to forego party loyalty and do the very needful for the country by accepting the still vacant post of Minister of Finance. We are very sorry Eran W too has kept himself away.

Some of Cassandra’s readers may ask whether she is out of her right mind to see glimmers of hope for the country. She assures them she is as sane as can be; she does cling onto these straws like the dying man does. How else exist? How else get through these dire times?

What are the straws she clings to? News items in The Island of Tuesday 24 May.

‘Sirisena leaves Paget Road mansion in accordance with SC interim injunction.’ And who was instrumental in righting this wrong? The CPA and its Executive Director Dr Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu. It is hoped that revisions to the system will come in such as giving luxury housing and other extravagant perks to ex-presidents and their widows. Sri Lanka has always lived far beyond its means in the golden handshakes to its ex- prezs and also perks given its MPs. At least luxury vehicles should not be given them. Pensions after five years in Parliament should be scrapped forthwith.

‘Letter of demand sent to IGP seeking legal action against DIG Nilantha Jayawardena.’ Here the mover is The Centre for Society and Religion and it is with regard to the Easter Sunday massacre which could have been prevented if DIG Jayawardena as Head of State Intelligence had taken necessary action once intelligence messages warned of attack on churches.

‘CIABOC to indict Johnston, Keheliya and Rohitha’. It is fervently hoped that this will not be another charge that blows away with the wind. They do not have their strongest supporter – Mahinda R to save them. We so fervently hope the two in power now will let things happened justly, according to the law of the land.

‘Foreign Secy Admiral Colombage replaced’. And by whom? A career diplomat who has every right and qualification for the post; namely Aruni Wijewardane. If this indicates a fading of the prominence given to retired armed forces personnel in public life and administration, it is an excellent sign. Admiral Colombage had tendered his resignation, noted Wednesday’s newspaper.

‘Crisis caused by decades of misuse public resources, corruption, kleptocracy – TISL’.

Everyone knew this, even the despicable thieves and kleptocrats. The glaring question is why no concerted effort was made to stop the thieving from a country drawn to bankruptcy by politicians and admin officers. There are many answers to that question. It was groups, mostly of the middle class who came out first in candle lit vigils and then at the Gotagogama Village. The aragalaya has to go down in history as the savior of our nation from a curse worse than war. The civil war was won against many odds. But trying to defeat deceit power-hunger and thieving was near impossible. These protestors stuck their necks out and managed to rid from power most of the Rajapaksa family. That was achievement enough.

Heartfelt hope of the many

The newly appointed Cabinet Ministers leaves Cass un-uplifted. She need not elaborate. She wishes fervently that Dr Harsha de Silva will leave party loyalty aside and consider the country. Usually, it’s asking politicians to cast aside self interest, which very rarely is done in the political culture that came to be after the 1970s. Thus, it is very unusual, completely out of the ordinary to appeal to Dr Harsha to forego party loyalty and do the very needful for the country by accepting the still vacant post of Minister of Finance. We are very sorry Eran W too has kept himself away. As Shamindra Ferdinando writes in the newspaper mentioned, “Well informed sources said that Premier Wickremesinghe was still making efforts to win over some more Opposition members. Sources speculated that vital finance portfolio remained vacant as the government still believed (hoped Cass says) Dr Harsha de Silva could somehow be convinced to accept that portfolio.”

Still utterly hopeless

Gas is still unavailable for people like Cass who cannot stand in queues, first to get a token and then a cylinder. Will life never return to no queues for bare essentials? A woman friend was in a petrol queue for a solid twelve hours – from 4 am to 4 pm. This is just one of million people all over the country in queues. Even a common pressure pill was not available in 20 mg per.

Cassandra considers a hope. We saw hundreds of Sri Lankans all across the globe peacefully protesting for departure of thieves from the government. The ex-PM, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s answer to this was to unleash absolute terror on all of the island. It seems to be that with Johnson a younger MP stood commandingly.

Returning from that horror thought to the protesters overseas, Cass wondered if each of them contributed one hundred dollars to their mother country, it would go a long way to soften the blows we are battered with. Of course, the absolute imperative is that of the money, not a cent goes into personal pockets. The donors must be assured it goes to safety. Is that still not possible: assuring that donations are used for the purpose they are sent for: to alleviate the situation of Sri Lankans? I suppose the memory of tsunami funds going into the Helping Hambantota Fund is still fresh in memory. So much for our beloved country.

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Ban on agrochemicals and fertilisers: Post-scenario analysis



By Prof. Rohan Rajapakse

(Emeritus Professor of Agriculture Biology UNIVERSITY OF RUHUNA and Former Executive Director Sri Lanka Council of Agriculture Research Policy)

There are two aspects of the ban on agrochemicals. The first is the ban on chemical fertilisers, and the second is the ban on the use of pesticides. Several eminent scientists, Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha (formerly the Soil Scientist of RRI), Prof OA Ileperuma (Former Professor of Chemistry University of Peradeniya), Prof C. S. Weeraratne (former Professor of Agronomy University of Ruhuna), Prof D. M. de Costa University of Peradeniya, Prof. Buddhi Marambe (Professor in Weed Science University of Peradeniya) have effectively dealt with the repercussion of the ban on chemical fertilisers which appeared in The Island newspaper on recently.

The major points summarised by these authors are listed below.


1. These scientists, including the author, are of the view that the President’s decision to totally shift to organic agriculture from conventional could lead to widespread hunger and starvation in future, which has become a reality. Organic farming is a small phenomenon in global agriculture, comprising a mere 1.5% of total farmlands, of which 66% are pasture.

2. Conventional farming (CF) is blamed for environmental pollution; however, in organic farming, heavy metal pollution and the release of carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases from farmyard manure, are serious pollution issues with organic farming that have been identified.

3. On the other hand, the greatest benefit of organic fertilisers as against chemical fertilisers is the improvement of soil’s physical, chemical and biological properties by the former, which is important for sustained crop productivity. The best option is to use appropriate combinations of organic and chemical fertilisers, which can also provide exacting nutrient demands of crops and still is the best option!

4. Sri Lanka has achieved self-sufficiency in rice due to the efforts of the Research Officers of the Department of Agriculture, and all these efforts will be in vain if we abruptly ban the import of fertiliser. These varieties are bred primarily on their fertiliser response. While compost has some positive effects such as improving soil texture and providing some micronutrients, it cannot be used as a substitute for fertiliser needed by high yielding varieties of rice. Applying organic fertilisers alone will not help replenish the nutrients absorbed by a crop. Organic fertilisers have relatively small amounts of the nutrients that plants need. For example, compost has only 2% nitrogen (N), whereas urea has 46% N. Banning the import of inorganic fertilisers will be disastrous, as not applying adequate amounts of nutrients will cause yields to drop, making it essential to increase food imports. Sri Lankan farmers at present are at the mercy of five organizations, namely the Central Department of Agriculture, the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture, the Private sector Pesticide Companies, the Non-Government organizations and the leading farmers who are advising them. Instead, improved agricultural extension services to promote alternative non-chemical methods of pest control and especially the use of Integrated Pest Management.

Locally, pest control depends mostly on the use of synthetic pesticides; ready to use products that can be easily procured from local vendors are applied when and where required Abuse and misapplication of pesticides is a common phenomenon in Sri Lanka. Even though many farmers are aware of the detrimental aspects of pesticides they often use them due to economic gains

We will look at the post scenario of
what has happened

1. The importation of Chemical fertilisers and Pesticides was banned at the beginning of Maha season 1 on the advice of several organic manure (OM) promoters by the Ministry of agriculture.

2. The Ministry of Agriculture encouraged the farmers to use organic manure, and an island-wide programme of producing Organic manure were initiated. IT took some time for the government to realize that Sri Lanka does not have the capacity to produce such a massive amount of OM, running into 10 tons per hectare for 500000 hectares ear marked in ma ha season.

3. Hence the government approved the importation of OM from abroad, and a Company in China was given an initial contract to produce OM produced from Seaweed. However, the scientists from University of Peradeniya detected harmful microorganisms in this initial consignment, and the ship was forced to leave Sri Lankan waters at a cost of US dollar 6.7 million without unloading its poisonous cargo. No substitute fertiliser consignment was available.

4. A committee in the Ministry hastily recommended to import NANO RAJA an artificial compound from India to increase the yield by spraying on to leaves. Sri Lanka lost Rs 863 million as farmers threw all these Nano Raja bottles and can as it attracts dogs and wild boar.

Since there is no other option the Ministry promised to pay Rs 50000 per hectare for all the farmers who lost their livelihood. It is not known how much the country lost due to this illogical decision of banning fertilisers and pesticides.


1. Judicious use of pesticides is recommended.

2. The promotion and the use of integrated pest management techniques whenever possible

3. To minimize the usage of pesticides:

Pesticide traders would be permitted to sell pesticides only through specially trained Technical Assistants.

Issuing pesticides to the farmers for which they have to produce some kind of a written recommendation by a local authority.

Introduction of new mechanism to dispose or recycle empty pesticide and weedicide bottles in collaboration with the Environment Ministry.

Laboratory-testing of imported pesticides by the Registrar of Pesticides at the entry-point to ensure that banned chemicals were not brought into the country.

Implementation of trained core of people who can apply pesticides.

Education campaigns to train farmers, retailers, distributors, and public with the adverse effects of pesticides.

Maximum Residue Level (MRL) to reduce the consumer’s risk of exposure to unsafe levels.

Integrated pest Management and organic agriculture to be promoted.

1. To ensure the proper usage of agrochemicals by farmers

All those who advised the Minister of Agriculture and the President to shift to OM still wield authority in national food production effort. The genuine scientists who predicted the outcome are still harassed sacked from positions they held in MA and were labelled as private sector goons. The danger lies if the farmers decide not to cultivate in this Maha season due to non-availability of fertilisers and pesticides the result will be an imminent famine.

The country also should have a professional body like the Planning Commission of

India, with high calibre professionals in the Universities and the Departments and

There should be institutions and experts to advise the government on national policy matters.

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Thomians triumph in Sydney 



Nothing is happening for us, at this end, other than queues, queues, and more queues! There’s very little to shout about were the sports and entertainment scenes are concerned. However, Down Under, the going seems good.

Sri Lankans, especially in Melbourne, Australia, have quite a lot of happenings to check out, and they all seem to be having a jolly good time!

Trevine Rodrigo,

who puts pen to paper to keep Sri Lankans informed of the events in Melbourne, was in Sydney, to taken in the scene at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition. And, this is Trevine’s report:

The weather Gods and S.Thomas aligned, in Sydney, to provide the unexpected at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition, graced by an appreciative crowd.

Inclement weather was forecast for the day, and a well drilled Dharmaraja College was expected to go back-to-back at this now emerging competition in Sydney’s Sri Lanka expatriate sporting calendar.

But the unforeseen was delivered, with sunny conditions throughout, and the Thomians provided the upset of the competition when they stunned the favourites, Dharmaraja, in the final, to grab the Peninsula Motor Group Trophy.

Still in its infancy, the Sevens Touch Competition, drawn on the lines of Rugby League rules, found new flair and more enthusiasm among its growing number of fans, through the injection of players from around Australia, opposed to the initial tournament which was restricted to mainly Sydneysiders.

A carnival like atmosphere prevailed throughout the day’s competition.

Ten teams pitted themselves in a round robin system, in two groups, and the top four sides then progressed to the semi-finals, on a knock out basis, to find the winner.

A food stall gave fans the opportunity to keep themselves fed and hydrated while the teams provided the thrills of a highly competitive and skilled tournament.

The rugby dished out was fiercely contested, with teams such as Trinity, Royal and St. Peter’s very much in the fray but failing to qualify after narrow losses on a day of unpredictability.

Issipathana and Wesley were the other semi-finalists with the Pathanians grabbing third place in the play-off before the final.

The final was a tense encounter between last year’s finalists Dharmaraja College and S.Thomas. Form suggested that the Rajans were on track for successive wins in as many attempts.  But the Thomians had other ideas.

The fluent Rajans, with deft handling skills and evasive running, looked the goods, but found the Thomian defence impregnable.  Things were tied until the final minutes when the Thomians sealed the result with an intercept try and hung on to claim the unthinkable.

It was perhaps the price for complacency on the Rajans part that cost them the game and a lesson that it is never over until the final whistle.

Peninsula Motor Group, headed by successful businessman Dilip Kumar, was the main sponsor of the event, providing playing gear to all the teams, and prize money to the winners and runners-up.

The plan for the future is to make this event more attractive and better structured, according to the organisers, headed by Deeptha Perera, whose vision was behind the success of this episode.

In a bid to increase interest, an over 40’s tournament, preceded the main event, and it was as interesting as the younger version.

Ceylon Touch Rugby, a mixed team from Melbourne, won the over 40 competition, beating Royal College in the final.

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