Airmen - a force to be reckoned with
RUGBY: A team which has once again emerged as a force to be
reckoned with in the club rugby scene is the Sri Lanka Air Force. The
Airmen who were promoted to segment one of the Caltex ‘A’ Division
League this year came up with a fine performance in their first two
matches this year and went down fighting to the formidable CH (0-19) and
the mighty CR and FC (10-23) and should fare even better as the season
Air Force’s rugby resurgence began last year. They emerged runners up
of the segment two of the Caltex ‘A’ Division League by winning 13
matches out of 14 and came up with a stupendous performance in the
semi-finals of the Clifford Cup knock-out tournament in which they went
down fighting to eventual champions CR and FC by 13 points to 21 after
leading 13-11 at the breather. They also emerged runners up to CR and FC
in the cup championship of the second leg of the Singer Professional
Sevens losing the final by 29 points to 36.
The man who has brought about this remarkable change in the Airmen’s
fortunes is former Thomian and CH and FC prop forward Hafeel Wasil who
has taken great pains to mould them into a fighting outfit.
Lanky Pradeep Kurukulasuriya a fine line out jumper and a tireless
player in the loose has been entrusted with the task of leading the
Airmen this season. Pradeep who started his rugby career as a lock
forward shifted to the flanker berth last year and had a successful
season. He will occupy one flanker, berth with Sri Lanka poolist Sirej
Niranga filling the other position. Former Trinitian Dinesh Weeraratne
who has stood out in both attack and defence will be the number eight.
The experienced Prasanna Soysa and fresher Pradeep Kodagoda will be
the lock forwards. The Airmen boast of a formidable front row. Seasoned
campaigners Kosala Ranasinghe and former skipper Saumya Silva will once
again occupy the prop forwards berths with Duminda Vithanage as the
With last year’s scrum half Ajit Herath having left the Air Force
young Radeesha Seneviratne will operate from the base of the scrum and
will pair off with Nalin Sirisena who is also a reliable place kicker.
Two hard runners and solid tacklers Rushika Fernando and young
Charith Seneviratne will be the centres. Air Force will have the
services of two powerful runners - former Sri Lanka poolist Suranga
Arunashantha and Gayan Heenkande to man the wings with former Vidyartha
player Roshan Ratnayake and Deepal Chathuranga making a strong bid to
oust one of them.
The last line of defence will be manned by last year’s skipper Rohan
Fernando who had an excellent game against CR last week. He has been a
tower of strength with his safe collections and booming kicks to touch
and has made some daring runs by joining the line to form the overlap.
The players are receiving all the encouragement and assistance from
Chairman of Air Force rugby Air Commodore Saranath Raumbukwella and the
Commander of the Air Force Air Marshal Roshan Gunatilleke who turned out
for the Air Force with distinction as a flanker from 1979 to 1983.