Isipathana College and Royal College Colombo will feature in the Milo Inter-schools Division 1 President trophy knockout rugby tournament final at the Racecourse International Stadium, Reid Avenue at 4.30 pm today.
Royal College beat Wesley in the quarter finals with 29 – 21 points and then overcame the fancied Thomians’ with a 24 – 15 victory. They look like a team to beat the unbeaten green machines this season, especially with the last two weeks performances as their backs have shown marked improvement in comparison to the league.
Royal’s driving maul has been the strongest point where their forwards scored almost 75% of the tries. In the knockout stages, Ovin Askey starting from full back to fly half has been a positive sign for the Royals as has Janith Dilshan in the center. Mahima Gamage from full back and Sabith Feroze in the wing combining in the attack looked threatening. The other highlight has been Captain Nikhila Gunadeera who played as a no8 in the league starting as a tight-head prop in the last game two games. Then in the knock-out quarter final and semi-final he switched to play at loose head prop that strengthened the front row pretty well with Azmir Fajudeen and Ayesh Maduranga.
Although, Royal lost 28 – 14 to Isipathana in the league game which was played a month ago, they certainly look like a well gelled team now.
Ashok Wijekumar the half back, was the catalyst this season marshalling his forwards although he did not have a lot work to do with his backs.His decision making showed a lot of maturity and class. Also his box-kicking helped Royal to come out of jail from their red zone many times.
Royal College (Probable XV):
Ayesh Maduranga, Azmir Fajudeen, Nikila Gunadheera (Captain), Ashen Fernando, Harith Lokugamge, Maleesha Madumewan, Pasindu Amarasinghe, , Ashok Wijekumar and Ovin Askey , Nikil George, Thuleb Hassen, Janidu Dilshan, Shabith Feroz , Mahima Gamage,
Head Coach: Sanath Martis, Asst. Coach: Dushanth Lewke,
Isipathana College on the other hand had a week’s rest after the league final as D.S.Senanayake College gave them a walkover in the knockout quarters. As a result they played St.Peter’s College in the semi-final which was a lucky escape as the game was so close till the end. Despite a 24-20 win for the green machines, it was perhaps the best running rugby for the year 2016 as both teams played with so much intensity and showing some super XV brand of rugby.
It is likely there won’t be any changes in the Isipathana team this Wednesday and certainly the Pathana backs have a little X factor and some match winners than their opposition. Even though the Royal forwards were a lot more solid than the Isipathana tight five, they overpowered the Royals in the league clash at Longdon Place. Adeesha Weeratunga was the man who stole early lineouts to put the Royal Hooker under pressure. Will Royal let that happen again?
Isipathana front row looks small made but they were playing 110% in the league game, prop Isuru Ekenayaka and hooker Asitha Mapitagama was excellent and perhaps they need to give another 5% more to create problems for the inform Royal front three. Vageesha Weerasinghe doesn’t look like a No8, but he has showed his skills more than any #8 this season, his mobility, ball handling, tackles and turnovers were absolutely brilliant this season.
Isipathana College (Probable XV):
Kaveesha Madushan, Hasitha Mapitigama, Sharook Manabarana, Lahiru Wishwajith, Adeesha Weeratunga, Sashmitha Fernando, Devin Gunaratna, Wageesha Weerasinghe, Harith Bandara and Randy Silva, Chamod Fernando, Kushan Indunil (Captain), Sumudhu Rankothge, Ranindhu Padmasanka, Gayan Wickramaratne.
Head Coach: Nilfer Ibrahim, Asst. Coach (Forwards) Terence Henry
In the previous game Isipathana vs Royal had only about 30% possession and they still produced wins. Royal will surely know that possession or territory will not matter and it is points that will count in the end. Having said that Royal will be hoping to keep the ball among the forwards and run down occasionallywith the backs. But one thing both teams have to understand is that the space between the try line and the dead line is massive unlike at Royal Complex, CR&FC or Havelock’s etc. and therefore the kick and chase option is always available.
Ones to watch:
Ovin Askey ( Royal – Fly half)
So far he has been so cool at no 10, his partnership with Wijekumar will be vital as Askey is also capable of breaking the defense although he doesn’t do it quite often. Askey might never kick the ball possession away to play territory because kicking is not in the Royal strategy. His kicking at uprights has to be solid as that could perhaps win the game for his team.
Sumudu Rankothge (Isipathana – Center)
He will be given more balls to use his running angles which creates problems for the opposition. Race Course provides more width for the runners, therefore Rankothge will do well going in to contact and taking few defenders coming at him, which in turn will create space out wide for the wingers. So far his combination with skipper Kushan Indunil has been the best 12/13 union in the circuit.