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Police will rely on its forwards

Forwards have played a key role in the success of the Police during the last few years and they will be relied upon to deliver the goods this season too despite the loss of five top players due to disciplinary reasons.

The Policemen scored an impressive 32-21 win over Old Zahirians after suffering two heavy defeats at the hands of Army (12-32) and CR and FC (3-51) but should perform much better as the season progresses.

Police's rugby resurgence began in 2001 when they registered six victories in nine outings in the first round of the Caltex 'A' Division League and went down fighting to the mighty Kandy SC in the semi-finals of the Clifford Cup (11-18) after having edged out the formidable CR and FC (14-12) in the quarter-finals.

In the President's Trophy Tournament they scored two smashing wins over Navy (35-18) and CH and FC (23-18) in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively before losing to CR and FC (6-17) in the final. In 2002 Police enjoyed another fine season winning 10 matches out of 15 in the Caltex 'A' Division League finishing in fourth position. They also entered the Premier Champions Trophy final with a superb 36-27 win over Army in the semi-final before losing to CR and FC (18-26) in the final.

In 2004 Police had another successful season winning eight matches out of 14 to end up in fourth position in the 'A' Division League and had the honour of beating Havelocks, CR and FC, CH and FC and Army in the 'A' Division League.

The Sri Lanka Police reigned supreme in the club rugby scene in the 1980s winning the 'A' Division League rugby title for a record six years in a row from 1984 to 1989.

Upali Vidanage's Policemen clinched the Clifford Cup by winning the 'A' Division league title in 1984 and in the following year (1985) Police captained by Sunil Sahabandu clinched the rugby triple by bagging the John Player League, Rugby Sevens title and the Clifford Cup with a 22-16 win over Havelocks in the final and in 1986 Police led by H. Premasiri retained the John Player League Title.

In 1987 Muruga Jayaratne's Policemen bagged the Rugby Double by winning the John Player League and the Premadasa Trophy with a smashing 31-12 win over Havelocks in the final.

In 1988 Police skippered by Ajantha Samarakoon once again bagged a double by taking the Rugby Sevens title and John Player league.

In 1989 the Policemen under the leadership of Hafeel Marso had a marvellous season by bagging the John Player League, Premadasa Trophy (with a 12-4 win over CR) and Rugby Sevens title (with a 12-6 victory over CR in the final) to clinch the triple crown.

In 1990 Police withdrew from rugby when the second North East war broke out but in 1991 they returned to competitive rugby under the captaincy of Hemantha Yatawara and took the rugby double by winning the John Player League and Clifford Cup by edging out CH and FC (13-11) in the final.

But in the mid-1990s Police's rugby standard declined with the exodus of their players to other clubs while several others hung up their boots.

This year Police will be led by number eight Nishantha Welagedera who is a terrific player in the loose and a fine cover defender.

That resolute tackler T. D. Herath is assured of one flanker berth while the other position will be filled by either Tuan Nizam, K. K. Perera or Susantha Kumara.

The Policemen could boast of a solid front row. The prop-forwards positions will be filled by the experienced duo of Anura Fernando and Charaka Hewawasam. The experienced Asela Muthumala and young Chaminda Silva will fight it out for the hookers berth.

The Policemen can be assured of plenty of possession from the line outs with those two fine line out jumpers Pradeep Wilson and S. P. Kulatunge playing as lock forwards. The other player who could fit into the second row is Wekadapola.

Young Sujeewa Sampath will operate from the base of the scrum but he faces a strong challenge from Anjula Silva. Occupying the pivotal fly-half berth will be the experienced Sudesh Dissanayake who is also the place kicker of the team. The other player who is eyeing this position is Chaminda Fonseka.

Sri Lanka player Nilusha Fernando, a hard runner and a solid tackler will be one of the centres with Muthusanka, Kulasena and Asela Perera battling it out for the other position. Manning the two wings will be Ranjith Kumara and former Kingswoodian Mohamed Jabbar with Ayaz Hassen making a strong bid to oust one of them.

The last line of defence will be manned by Uditha Manoj. The other player who could fit into this position is Thusitha Dissanayake.

The Policemen are being coached by former Sri Lanka prop-forward Norman Silva assisted by ex-Sri Lanka scrum-half Sudath Sampath.

They are receiving all the encouragement and support from the Chairman of Rugby, DIG Nimal Lewke and Secretary SSP Nihal Samarakoon.

- (R.S)

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