Navy and Havies look for a final berth

Friday, 10 August 2012 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

After the blockbuster last week we are once again being treated to rugby from the top drawer. The four top teams will be in action this week as well, with the only change being the venue.

Thus HSC will play host to UCL at Havelock Park whilst Navy will have to meet Kandy at Nittawela. This is the business end of the season and there will be no time for mistakes and experiments.

Having just played the opponents a week before does not leave much time for planning and undertaking major changes to the game plan and strategy. HSC will be looking to replicate their performance of the previous week and at this point in time I cannot see any reason for them not to achieve this goal.

Other than the blip against Kandy they have been playing consistently well throughout the season and the miracle come back against the sailors would have done their self belief a world of good.

UCL have nothing to lose and have done pretty well for themselves; this being their maiden season. Although there is a gulf of almost 15 points between the table leaders and the fourth slot side, this would amount to nothing on the day. The team that plays the best on the day will move on and the other will have to hope for better days in the coming year. UCL will have to up their game by a couple of notches if they are to upset the Havies. As of now I cannot see that materialise.

Navy on the other hand will have their work cut out in their bid to repeat the performance against the same opposition in consecutive weeks.  They are definitely capable, but one must factor in the red card issued against one of their expatriate players in the last game, which would mean that they will need to fill that void.

The success story of Navy this season has been the relentless forwards thrust followed by the ball being spun out wide for the two expatriate centres to make merry. Thus this ploy may be curtailed to a certain extent and whether Kandy will be able to exploit this loophole will be vital. Over the past decade I cannot remember Kandy losing two games in a row in their recent history.  

Kandy will be keen to put the mistakes of the previous week behind them and get back to winning ways. It is not that they played badly, last week, but I thought they lacked their general killer instinct and came into the game with a preconceived notion that Navy is tough to beat in their own backyard at Welisara.

This monkey will be off their back as this time they will play at home in front of thousands of adoring and wildly cheering fans. In terms of crowd support, I am sure that Navy will have bus loads of their cheering squad as well in Kandy.

In the bottom half of the draw, Army will meet CH whilst Police will take on the Airmen. I cannot see any great rugby in these two encounters, especially in the CH game, given their quality of their play this season. The Airmen languishing at the bottom of the table with CH have on and off played some decent rugby.

If the first round game against Police is anything to go by, it should be pretty fiery and physical. I hope that saner counsel will prevail and that the wonderful sport will be played in the spirit it was intended when the game was invented, if not, it will indeed be sad day for sport in general.

I am a bit sad that none of these games are being telecast live unlike the previous season. There are loads of rugby supporters who although cannot make it for every game, are keen to follow it on TV. Alas they will not be provided with that opportunity and with the dwindling crowds in club rugby when compared to school rugby, the interest in club rugby may take another body blow. One hopes that those in charge will take this on board and provide all rugby enthusiasts with the opportunity to witness these matches.

With the controversy-ridden SLPL due to kick off on Saturday, one wonders whether the sports enthusiast will be spoilt for choice or whether they will ignore both sports. Only time will tell.

(The writer can be reached via [email protected])

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