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DateLine Wednesday, 17 October 2007

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Rugby Asiad in Sri Lanka after 17 years

The most spectacular event in the Asian Rugby calendar - the Singer Rugby Asiad will be worked off in Colombo from November 3 to 10 this year.

Ten countries will vie for honours at this year's Asiad six leading rugby playing countries in Asia will battle it out in the Cup Championship.

Asia's fourth ranked team Kazakhstan has been drawn into Group 'A' along with Chinese Taipei and Thailand while host nation Sri Lanka which is ranked number six in Asia is in Group 'B' with Malaysia and China, India, Pakistan and the minnows of Asian rugby Qatar and Iran will play in the Shield Championship.

Sri Lanka will confront China in the curtain raiser of the tournament on November 3 at CR and FC grounds, Longden Place while on the same day Kazakhstan will lock horns with Thailand at the Royal Sports complex.

It was seventeen years ago (1990) that Sri Lanka last hosted the Rugby Asiad. Sri Lanka was drawn into Group 'A' along with defending champions South Korea, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei while Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore were slotted into Group 'B'.

The Sri Lankans led by Double International Priyantha Ekanayake confronted the then third ranked team in Asia-Hong Kong in the curtain-raiser of the tournament at the Sugathadasa Stadium and gave a gallant display to go down fighting by 13 points to 21.

The Sri Lankan forwards came up with a power-packed display to match upto the bigger made Hong Kong 'eight'. Skipper Priyantha Ekanayake was a source of inspiration to his team-mates with a fiery display in the loose and was ably supported by Norman Silva, Shehem Siddik, L.V. Ekanayake, Asoka Jayasena and Ajantha Samarakoon who too gave a terrific display in the loose.

Centres Rohan Abeykoon and Grahem Raux stood out with some bone-crunching tackles while full back Chanka Jayaweera was a tower of strength with his safe collections and booming kicks to touch and had the honour of scoring the solitary try for Sri Lanka while fly half Nizam Jamaldeen dropped a peach of a goal and fired across two penalties.

Fly half Gary Acheson was Hong Kong's hero firing across five penalties and converting the solitary try scored by Steven Peacock to give his country a face-saving 21-13 win. Two days later Sri Lanka came up with another stupendous performance to score a sensational 9-6 win over the formidable Chinese Taipei.

Once again Sri Lanka's 'eight' played a key role in their success. Norman Silva, Priyantha Ekanayake, Siddik, Asoka Jayasena, Niranjan Abeywardena and Lasitha Guneratne (who replaced Samarakoon) played like terriers to outplay their famed counterparts in the loose while fly half Nizam Jamaldeen and centres Rauz and Abeykoon 'nailed' their opposite numbers with some fierce tackling.

Burly Lasitha Guneratne scored the match winning try for Sri Lanka with Jamaldeen adding the extra points and putting over a penalty to give the Lankans a historic win.

The Sri Lankans locked horns with the mighty South Koreans in their last Group 'A' match and gave a marvellous display to go down fighting by 16 points to 26. Once again the Lankan forwards gave a plucky display to match upto the power-packed South Korean 'eight' in the loose.

The three quarters especially centres Raux and Abeykoon and wingers Imthisham Marikar and Aruna de Silva made some daring runs before being brought down in the nick of time by their opponents.

Winger Imthisham Marikar scored the solitary try for Sri Lanka when he put the finishing touches to a classic three quarter move by diving over by the corner flag while fly half Nizam Jamaldeen fired across four penalties enabling the Lankans to end the tournament on a high note.

The mighty South Koreans went onto clinch the richest prize in Asian rugby by beating Japan by 13 points to 9 in the final played before a mammoth crowd at the Sugathadasa Stadium. The Sri Lanka team comprised norman Silva, Shehem Siddik, L.V. Ekanayake, Asoka Jayasena, Ajantha Samarakoon / Lasitha Guneratne, Ikram Odayar, Niranjan Abeywardena / Hector Gunatilleke, Priyantha Ekanayake (Captain), Sudath Sampath and Nizam Jamaldeen, Aruna de Silva, Graham Raux, Rohan Abeykoon, Imthisham Marikar, Chanka Jayaweera.

 

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