Madagascar too hot to handle at the Race Course

Monday, 28 October 2013 00:34 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Lankan Tuskers were taught a lesson on Saturday as Madagascar turned up a good performance to outwit Namal and his band of merry men. A 5:30 p.m. start at the refurbished race course grounds in front of a sparse crowd of which at least half were invitees were treated to some poor quality rugby by the Tuskers. With several dignitaries in attendance including the parents of the skipper, the uncle and the brainchild of the race course refurbishment, all those present expected the Tuskers to dominate after their fine showing in the Asian 5 Nations championship held a couple of months ago. Fellow Parliamentarians of the Tuskers’ skipper were also in attendance and from the look on their faces it was evident that the finer points of the game were lost on them, maybe similar to proceedings in the House by the Lake. The Lankan lads had many an opportunity to score but decided that it would be nice to fluff the opportunity and provide turnover ball to Madagascar. The Tuskers forwards were slow to the break down point and we often saw the tight five slowly jogging to the set pieces. The two flankers gave a good account of themselves being involved in all of the breakdowns and remaining on their feet so that they could play the ball. The Tuskers are badly in need of a quality and thinking # 8 and not someone who can bulldoze his way on and off. Unless you are a Kieran Read, you cannot lurk on the wing and hope to score tries. For such a luxury the other forwards need to put in extra effort. Riza was pretty safe under the high ball and made sure that he crossed the gain line more often than not thereby ensuring that the forwards were on the front foot when possible. The art of scoring is that you need to maintain many phases of ball as gone are the days when one could score off first phase ball. The Tuskers missed tackles and dropped the ball at crucial moments of the game and paid the penalty for the same. Two tries set up by the Madagascar winger stand out as well rehearsed and perfectly executed moves. The winger coming in on the angle round the scrum and then hitting the gap between the set piece and the # 10, resulted in two tries as the Tuskers were left flat footed and a trifle bamboozled. At times we even got our basics in a tangle as off a restart by Madagascar, we chose to play the ball although it had not travelled the required 10 metres, and the result was turnover ball. With the three quarters in full flight in the opposition half the Tuskers chose to kick ahead as opposed to recycling the ball. A piece of outrageous play was when  a cross kick by the Lankan Tuskers for the winger to collect did not come off but if it did it would have been great. Maybe we seem to want to emulate the magic of Wallabies Quade Cooper inclusive of long cut out floating passes.  Madagascar played with intent and purpose and any misdemeanour by the Tuskers was punished with some quality running aided by some sloppy tackling by the Lankans. With a game to go, the Tuskers need to regroup, look at the starting line up and the quality of the bench. In such tournaments we cannot to afford to relent in choosing names as opposed to impact players. The game on Saturday was a point in question as some of the players coming off the bench were simply not good enough to create an impact and looked ready for a late night pickup as opposed to being on a field of rugby. It was heartening to see three former Cricket skippers, Dilshan, Mahela and Sanga, at the game and it must have been heartbreaking for them to see a national side muster a shoddy display for 80 minutes of rugby, when they have toiled at times in the hot blazing sun shoring up the Lankan batting against some real hostile fast bowling. The Tuskers have to do some soul searching and deliver a better performance next week if they are to redeem themselves. I think they can and will do so. (The writer can be reached via [email protected].)

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