Asian Sevens Series
By A Special Sports Correspondent
Sri Lanka’s men’s players would have to find inspiration from their past glories as they step into contest the first leg of the Asian Sevens Rugby circuit in Dubai (On November 19 and 20) sans much training.
As much as the islanders are proud of their achievements in cricket the same can be said about the country’s rugby players.
History has great power to motivate and its memories can fuel the human spirit when the chips are down. Rugby training in Sri Lanka was hampered to a great extent because of health regulations delaying the players from getting on to the field and having real sessions. What could be described as a burst of rain during the rugby drought in the island came in the form of the arrival of rugby sevens star Ben Gollings as Sri Lanka’s Rugby Sevens Director.
Sri Lanka’s rugby hierarchy has acknowledged the fact that the islanders will be represented by a new-look side where as many as four players are set to make their national sevens debut. These players are Nuwan Perera, Samuel Ogbebor, Kushan Indunil and Ishara Madushan. The Sri Lanka men’s team is led by Adeesha Weratunga who is a reputed third row forward in 15-a-side rugby in the country. Sri Lanka is pooled alongside Japan, China, and UAE in Group B. Sri Lanka is coached by Nilfer Ibrahim.
In a way, it is good that Sri Lanka has to field a young side because the cream of the country’s players from Kandy SC are unavailable because they didn’t participate in a selection trial; participation at the recent ‘Warriors Cup’ invitation club rugby sevens was mandatory for selections.
In the past there were under 21 and under 24 tournaments conducted by the SLR to keep the players in the game; hence there being a well-groomed youth line-up that could chip in if the need arose.
Our very own beast of a man Radeeka Hettiarachchi was spotted by the national selectors at an under 21 rugby game between Sri Lanka and China in Colombo and played in the late 1990s. A little-known fact is that Chinese officials were much impressed by Hettiarachchi’s performance that day and invited him to take wing to China and be part of their rugby team. Hettiarachchi hadn’t represented the senior Sri Lanka team by then and IRB rules allow a player to crossover from one nation to another if he or she has only played age-group rugby for the country of birth. This story was related to this writer by Hettiarachchi himself at a time when happenings in the sport of rugby were rocking his boat. This was largely because he was having issues with the club that he loved most to represent. For the record, he turned down the offer from China because his heart was with Sri Lanka rugby. Hettiarachchi was perhaps the best utility sevens player we have seen and we do have fond memories of those two ‘cracker’ tries he scored against Australia at the Hong Kong Sevens in 2009 where the islanders went down fighting to the Wallabies 56-12.
Some of Sri Lanka’s best performances in the sevens rugby came between 2001 and 2014 and that was thanks to the island concentrating on the abbreviated form of rugby in tournaments played overseas. And a point to ponder is that these performances were produced under homegrown coaches like Asanga Senewiratne, Hisham Abdeen, and Sudath Sampath. Sri Lanka produced one of its best performances in rugby sevens under coach Senewiratne when he guided the team to a memorable 24-14 win over Kenya at the Dubai Sevens. Sri Lanka also produced its only try against the All Blacks in any form of the game in that tournament when Sanjeewa Jayasinghe scored in a game where New Zealand walked away as winners with a 77-5 score.
One notable performance by Sri Lanka came at the 2006 Hong Kong Sevens where the islanders ran out as the winners with a score of 21-7 against the USA. The Commonwealth Games in 2014 was remarkable for Fazil Marija’s team when it beat Trinidad and Tobago 43-7 to win the Shield Competition. That’s a little bit from Sri Lanka’s rugby sevens history in the case readers are a bit jaded reading and rereading about two very old performances at rugby sevens which came in the form of winning the Bowl Competition at both the 1984 Hong Kong Sevens and the 1994 Fiji Invitation Sevens.
Sri Lanka has always performed well when the sevens set-up is structured, but not necessarily under a foreign coach though. Sri Lanka needs time and space (International events must not clash with domestic tournaments because the clubs own the players and not the SLR). We also remember small inputs made to the side when managers like Chaminda Rupasinghe organised sessions for the team overseas before the Sevens Tournament with coaches like Gordon Tietjens and his players.
So Sri Lanka’s present national players have a rich rugby history to draw inspiration from. The players must take note that rugby as a sport has evolved but the foundation for the sport was laid by past players who had half the support and technology the present athletes are enjoying.
Some years ago there was no Asian Sevens series and Sri Lanka when invited had to lock horns with the giants of world rugby. At present Sri Lanka can play with pride, respect and hope because the Asian Sevens Series offers them a level playing field and a chance to qualify for the IRB 11-leg World Sevens Series.
The sport of rugby sevens is also a discipline at the Olympic Games and that too offers great inspiration for the players to train hard, perform well, and be counted. Sri Lanka is also planning to send a women’s team for the Asian Sevens Series in Dubai.
The men’s squad:
Adeesha Weeratunga (Captain), Kanchana Ramanayake, Nishon Perera, Sachith Silva, Iroshan Silva, Sudaraka Dikkubura, Janidu Dilshan, Samuel Ogbebor, Kushan Indunil, Anjula Hettiarahchi, Ishara Madshan, Nuwan Perera.
Quarter-finals from today
Under 19 Division III Tier ‘B’ Cricket
The quarter-finals of the Under 19 Inter Schools Division III Tier ‘B’ cricket tournament conducted by Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association will commence with the Maris Stella College, Thimbirigaskatuwa meeting Wickramabahu National School, Gampola at Wickramashila National School ground Giriulla today.
Quarter-finals line up
Maris Stella, Thimbirigaskatuwa V Wickramabahu NS, Gampola at Giriulla
Ananda NS, Puttalam V Sri Sumangala, Kelaniya at Giriulla
Hindu College, Matale V St. Michael’s College, Batticalloa at Polonnaruwa
D.S. Senanayake, Ampara V Pannala NS at Polonnaruwa
Neyara to meet Anjalike in the women’s singles final
Neyara Weerawansa beat top seed Savini Jayasuriya in the semi-final to book a final berth in the women’s singles final against Anjalika Kurera in the 106th Colombo Championships at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Monday.
The semi-final, which recommenced on Monday after being interrupted by wet weather on the previous day, the British School Colombo player scored 6-1, 5-7, 10-7 to oust last year finalist Jayasuriya.
She will now encounter Anjalika Kurera in the final.
Aahil Kaleel Under 12 champion
Meanwhile, S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia player Aahil Kaleel beat Methika Wickramasinghe to win the Under 12 boys singles title on Sunday. He scored 1-4, 4-2, 10-7 in the final after edging out Pasindu Rukunnayake (quarter-final) and Chaminda Abeysinghe (semis).
Hayleys crowned winners of MCA premier league
Hayleys Group Recreation Club (HGRC) led by Avishka Fernando were crowned as the “League” winners of the 28th Singer-MCA Premier League which came to conclusion with a glittering awards presentation held at the MCA Legends New Wing on Thursday.
Though the tournament had a pre-mature ending, Hayleys by virtue of being unbeaten led the table of points at the point when the tournament was stopped. The MCA Tournament Committee with the consent of the rest of the three teams, decided to award the league title to Hayleys.
Hayleys, playing only their third season in the MCA Premier League, won the T20 title under Avishka Fernando in the previous season.
On their way to the title Hayleys beat HNB (by five wickets), CDB Finance (by 96 runs), John Keells (by two wickets) and HNB in their return game (by two wickets).
Avishka Fernando captained the title winning Hayleys team.
Hayleys squad included Avishka Fernando (Captain), Prabath Jayasuriya (VC), Dilruwan Perera, Kithruwan Vithanage, Chathuranga de Silva, Ron Chandraguptha, Lahiru Samarakoon, Nimesha Gunasinghe, Pasindu Thirimadura, Kavishka Anjula, Santhush Gunatillake, Kalana Perera, Vishad Randika, Navindu Fernando, Mohamed Shamaaz, Lahiru Tirimanne, Binura Fernando, Lasith Embuldeniya, Thashik Perera, Kabil Kapilraj, Lakshina Rodrigo and Sahan Nanayakkara. They were coached by Nishantha Weerasinghe with Vimukthi Deshapriya as the assistant coach. Pramoth Fernando was the manager.
Awards were given away by the Chief Guest, CEO, Singer Group Companies, Mahesh Wijewardene, Marketing Director, Singer SL, PLC, Shamil Perera and MCA Officials, President, Nalin Wickremesinghe, Senior Vice President and Chairman Tournament Committee, Mahesh de Alwis and Vice President Sirosha Gunatillake.
It was a memorable moment for Hayleys Group Chairman and CEO, Mohan Pandithage, Group Head HR, Dharshi Thalpahewa and the HGRC Officials – Jeramy Anandappa (President), Mohan Fernando (VP) and Ruchina Jayatillaka (Co Ordinator), who were present at the event.
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