As blue and green masses descended upon the CR and FC grounds to witness the climax of the school rugby season there was a sense of expectation among many in the crowd that this game was set to be a stunner. Two teams who had superlative displays of rugby throughout the season clashed for the biggest trophy on offer, the league cup. It was a fitting finale to what had been another brilliant season of the schools rugby league which offered the thrills and spills that makes this game so compelling. The Thomian grit which was on display for all to see and the dominant will of the Isipathana “Green Machine” clashed in a game of epic proportions. This game had the heavy burden of living up to the expectations of many, and it certainly delivered.
The game began in an exhilarating fashion as the stakes of this game were evident by the urgency in which both sets of players started. For the Thomians it was a chance to win the league crown after 16 years, an entire generation of Thomians hadn’t had the opportunity to see their team lifting the cup. For Isipathana it was about redeeming themselves after being runners up in all three main competitions last season. So when the Isipathana supporters saw the back of a downtrodden Henakankanamage walking towards the naughty chair they similar to their players smelt blood. In an opening 20 minute blitz where arguably the game was won and lost Isipathana College managed to score and convert two tries taking the score to 14-0 in their favour. In what was a cruel act of fate or coincidence the second try scored by Chamod Fernando who ran 50 meteres to score under the posts exploited the very gap that was created by the thomian winger’s absence. Another penalty by fullback wickremeratne took the score 17-0 to Isipathana. It was going to have to be the mother of all comebacks, but it wasn’t beyond the gritty Thomians who came from behind to win against Royal College and Trinity College. They certainly didn’t take long in getting back on the scoreboard as they made the most of a yellow card to an Isipathana player for the hulking No.8 Jayatileke to score. The boot of Ashwantha Herath put the conversion over. The score 14-7 to Isipathana College. Taking this momentum and the advantage of an extra man with their winger back on the field the Thomians launched an assault on the Pathana try line which paid off with Dhanuja Wijeratne putting the ball over the line. Heraths conversion was put wide.12-17 Isipathana still in the lead. The scoreboard remained the same going into halftime with the crowd and players both being allowed a chance to catch their breath.
The Thomians who managed to claw back into this game to reduce the deficit to 5 points started off on the front foot with their forwards leading the charge. The heart and spirit of the Green Machine was on display for all to see as they repelled the big Thomians who appeared to be twice their size. Unfortunately for the Thomians all of their pressure counted for naught as the Isipathana managed to win a penalty which they converted and then their No.8 Vageesha Weerasinghe a small made lad who pales in comparison to the size of his opposite number a 6 foot mountain of a man in Jayatileke collected a loose ball and ran 70 metres to score the game winning try at the end of which he was breathless.29-12 Isipathana with a 17 point lead. A testament to the character if the Thomians is their never say die attitude which we define so many great sports teams by. They continued fighting and were rewarded with Herath and more significantly Henakankanamage slotting the ball over the line. Henakankanamage the man who finished the game as the leading try scorer of the season displayed the pace and skill that we’ve seen so often this season but who was arguably a peripheral figure In this game. The final whistle blew with the scoreboard reading 28-24 in favour of Isipathana College. It was a well deserved victory for the lads from Colombo 5. They made the most of the opportunities they were presented with and managed to drive the heavier Thomain pack back. A huge amount of credit should go to the coaching and administrative staffs of both teams as the quality of rugby witnessed by the spectators was technically brilliant. At the end of the day Isipathana managed to redeem themselves after the heartbreak of last season and also losing to the Thomians in the finale of the sevens competition. A devastating loss for the boys from the school by the sea and their supporters however they will take many lessons from this game and be optimistic for the future after one of the most successful seasons of rugby in recent memory.
By T.A.N De Silva
Courtesy : – STC Media Unit