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Airmen out to fly high this year

A team which should reach great heights in the field of rugby this year is the Sri Lanka Air Force.

Chanaka Chandimal Charith Seneviratne

Air Force’s rugby resurgence began last year when they finished in fourth position in the Caltex ‘A’ Division league and went down fighting to mighty Kandy SC by 23-27 in the Clifford Cup semi-final at Bogambara.

They scored three smashing wins over CH and FC (10-3), Havelocks (20-3) and Army (22-14) before going down fighting to star studded Kandy SC (6-14), Police (27-32) and formidable CR and FC (13-18) having lost to the strong Navy (5-6) in the curtain-raiser of the tournament at Ratmalana.

The Air Force has obtained the services of seven Sri Lanka Youth Players – skipper Shenal Dias and Asitha Ratnayake (both from St. Peter’s) Kingswoodians Rajitha Sansoni, Prabath Jayalath, Chethiya Wadugodapitiya, Uchitha Jayasuriya and Royalist Mushin Faleel.

It was their coach former Sri Lanka winger. Imthishan Marikar who brought about this remarkable change in their fortunes last year and is determined to mould them into a champion outfit this year.

They have an abundance of talent. The pack will consist of seasoned campaigners of the calibre of Saumya Silva, Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Prasanna Soysa, Sajith Adhikari, Navinda Pullikuttiarachchi, ex-Sri Lanka prop forward Jayantha Ranaweera and talented youngsters Uchitha Jayasuriya, Chethiya Wadugodapitiya, Shenal Dias and former Thurstan Skipper Sasanka Ariyaratne.

The back division will be a formidable one. The experienced Milinda Jayasinghe and Sri Lanka fly half Chanaka Chandimal will form a superb halves combination.

The star studded three quarter line will also comprise Sri Lanka centre Charith Seneviratne, Migara Wijaratne, Mohomed Fazly, ex-Antonian Skipper Chanaka Gunaratne, ex-Sri Lanka. Sevens player Suranga Arunashantha, Kingswood skipper Rajitha Sansoni and Malin Hapugoda.

The last line of defence will be once again manned by Sri Lanka ruggerite Radhika Hettiarachchi – Strongly built Radhika has been a tower of strength with his safe collections, booming kicks to touch and his ability to join the line to form the overlap.

Air Force savoured its finest moment in club rugby in 1986 when under the leadership of Lakshman Caldera they clinched the richest prize in club rugby – the Clifford cup with a stunning 10-8 win over the mighly police.

Lanky lock forward Lofty Perera (jnr) scored the solitary try for the Airmen while fly half Tony Wimalasuriya fired across a penalty and dropped a goal to give Air Force a historic win.

They stormed into the final by overcoming the formidable CH and FC by 8-4 in extra time in the semi-final with flanker Harsha Fernando picking up a loose ball and dashing through 20 metres brushing aside several defenders to fall over for a glorious try.

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