The Thomians began the rugby season for the year 2016 with the aim of improving upon their performances last year. After winning the sevens competition and emerging runners up in the league competition they hit a stumbling block in their bid to win the Milo Knockout competition ,a rejuvenated royal college out for vengeance. The Thomians having won back the Michael Gunarathne Trophy after a lapse of 3 years on the back of a last gap winning try scored by Naveen Henakankanamage earlier on in April entered the game looking to get a rematch with Isipathana College in the final while for Royal College it was about erasing the memories of having been seconds away from beating their arch rivals.
The game as it was on April 10th was played at the Royal college sports complex in front of a raucous crowd. In what can only be described as the perfect start to the game the Thomians managed to register a converted try in the opening 15 minutes. They immediately signaled their intent by going for the posts with their first shot at a penalty but unfortunately the Thomian center Herath missed the difficult kick. However he managed to convert the try scored by the second rower Mack after an excellent passing move by the Thomian forwards. 7-0 to the Thomians. Royal College immediately replied however winning a penalty which the fly half Askey put over.7-3 a narrow lead for the Thomians. Royal College was on the offensive again after being awarded a penalty which they kicked to touch they went with the tried and tested weapon of the rolling maul which when executed properly can be unstoppable. Having pushed the Thomians back towards their own try line scrum half Wijeykumar saw a gap in the Thomian defence and managed to put the ball over, Askey made a difficult conversion. 10-7 Royal College taking the lead for the first time in the game. The Royalists however were causing their own problems and after repeated infringements at the ruck the loosehead prop for Royal was sent to the sin bin. The Thomians however could not capitalize on the extra man and had to be content with just the three points from the boot of Herath. 10 all heading into the break.
The Royalists started the second half the better of the two teams and after being camped in the their oppositions half saw their opportunity when the Thomian skipper De Silva was sent to the naughty chair for his part in two penalties, with their prop back on the field there was no doubt that it was the rolling maul once again that would break the stubborn defence of the Thomians. It was the hooker Fajudeen who got his name on the scoresheet but it was the collective might of the Royal College eight that flustered the Thomians in this game.17-10 to Royal College. Credit must go to the Thomians who are one of the few teams who can claim that they managed to stop the rolling maul which has been terrorizing opponents of Royal College for a large part of the season. However in this game Royal College managed to play a territory based game and when in the Thomian half used their extra man to great effect and this time it was the Royal skipper who managed to score off the maul. The return of De Silva restored order to proceedings and allowed the Thomians an opportunity to score once again. This time it was the fullback Jayawardene who crossed the line. However much to the dismay of the Thomian supporters Herath missed the conversion. 24-15 9 point lead for Royal College. S.Thomas’ College in a desperate bid to get back into this game launched wave after wave of attack on the Royal defensive line but they didn’t budge. There was no incredible comeback no last minute score to clinch the game reality was that this time unlike the last time these two teams met Royal managed to hold on to the lead they fought so hard to get.
You could see just how much this game meant to both sets of players by the emotion shown after the whistle was blown. Royal College had managed to exorcize the demons of that loss to the Thomians. . Ultimately Royal College entered this encounter knowing it was by the finest of margins that the Thomians had beaten them, and in this game they managed to keep in check the man who would have caused some of them nightmares after his fateful try, Henakankanamage had a good game but was handled well by the Royal College defence and was not allowed space in the wider areas. Royal College advance to face Isipathana on their home turf in the final. For the Thomians it’s a bittersweet end to what has been an extrodinary season for Thomian rugby. They displayed the much fabled Thomian grit in many of their games this season and managed to win all of the traditional trophies on offer including those memorable ones against Royal and Trinity as well as the sevens crown . Although the season ends here the platform has been built for bigger and greater things and the college community has much to look forward to heading into next season.
By T.A.N De Silva
Courtesy : – STC Media Unit