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DateLine Tuesday, 26 August 2008

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Triple rugby crown for Kandy SC

Defending Caltex Clifford Cup knock out champions Kandy Sports Club completed the 'red wash' of CR and FC when they beat them for the third time this season by 21 points (1 goal, 1 try 2 penalties) to nil to lift the Clifford Cup for the 14th time and complete the rugby triple in the finals of the Caltex Clifford Cup knock tournament match played at the Nittawela Rugby Stadium in Kandy on Sunday. At half time Kandy Sports Club had almost wrapped up the match leading 15-0.

Kandy SC the glamour boys of the local rugby scene first won the Dialog Professional Rugby Sevens, and also the Caltex League tournament and completed the triple crown by winning the Clifford Cup.

They have now become highest number of winners of the Clifford Cup winning it 14 times since 1992. CR and FC have won it 13 times with their first win coming in 1952. This will give some indication as to how the ruggerites from Kandy have dominated the Clifford Cup scene.

Heavy rain which fell one hour before the match made ground conditions met and slippery and no conducive to fast open rugby. But both teams handled the wet ball well. Kandy SC had plenty of possession coming in their from the line outs through good jumping by Zafeer Jhan, Sumedha Jayasinghe and Imran Bisthamin and in the tight heads too hooker Anuranga Walpola struck faster than young Navin Wijetunga of CR and FC. The loose play appeared to be even.

It was CR and FC who dominated play in the first quarter of the game making in roads into Kandy territory but some sustained play by the Kandy's three quarters prevented them from scoring. In fact they could have opened scoring in the 12th when they were awarded a penalty by centre Lasintha de Costa fluffed a 35 metre kick at goal.

In the 21st minute of play Kandy were awarded a penalty when a CR player was spotted off side but scrum half Saliya Kumara's kick at goal struck the uprights and rebounded into play. Shortly afterwards CR and FC's Suranga Pushpakumara was sent on 'sin bin (for dangerous) play.

The first scoring in the match came in the 29th minute of the first half when Kandy's scrum half Saliya Kumara picket up the ball from a ruck situation and slipped a pass to stand off Fazil Harija who in turn gave the ball to centre Pradeep Liyanage who with a fiery burst of speed touched down mid right. Scrum half Saliya Kumara's kick at goal was off target but the referee re-warded the kick as CR players had moved early. But the second kick too was off target. Kandy led 5-0.

In the 35th minute of a CR player was penalised for 'killing the ball' and Saliya Kumara put over a 35 metre penalty for Kandy to increase their lead to 8-0.

Kandy continued to attack and CR and FC were forced to defend grimly. During the injury time of the first half it was that man scrum half Saliya Kumara who broke off and sent a pass to centre Pradeep Liyanage who covered some distance and switched a pass to full back Radhika Hettiarachchi who formed the overlap and with a powerful run scored by the left corner flag. Saliya Kumara made a great conversion for Kandy to lead 15-0 sending into smoke all hopes of the red shirts making a come back. The second half the red shirts making some tractional changes and some concerted effort to break Kandy's defence which held back like Kandyan fortress of the good old days.

Rain which fell during the half time made ground conditions difficult and the light was fading with an Easterly wind blowing. At the stage had only 13 players on the field with look forward Zafeer Jhan and centre Gayan Weeraratne being sent on 'sin bin', But still CR and FC could not breach Kandy's defence which held on like a rock.

In the 18th minute CR and FC player was penalised for a high tackle and Radhika Hettiarachchi converted a 40 metre penalty for Kandy to lead 18-0. In the 24th minute another CR defender was spotted playing from an off side position and Kandy took the surprise decision of asking their winger Sameera Silva to take the penalty kick and to much to the surprise of everyone he converted it with a brilliant kick which was a 40 metre effort.

CR and FC tried hard to score with a sustained attack in the last 10 minutes of play to break their 'duck' but the more they tried, the more determined were their opponents in their defence. The last 10 minutes of play was played in semi darkness with the players hardly able to recognize each other. It was so dark that the ground authorities switched on the lights on the grandstand side to improve the light condition.

Tobei Lodthian from Hongkong refereed the match. Saliya Kumara of Kandy Sports Club was adjudged the 'Most Outstanding player of the match'.

Doing the honours at the Presentation of Awards ceremony were Managing Director of Chevron Caltex Kishu Gomes.



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