The stakes were high for CR and FC as they took on the Sailors in Saturday’s clash at Longdon Place. The sailors were unbeaten so far and CR was coming off a loss at the hands of the gallant Police team.
CR curiously resorted to rather cautious tactics at the start. Despite this strategy, in the set pieces, CR had the advantage against the Sailors as they shoved their way past in the scrums and even stole line out ball.
Alas, these were not converted to points.
CR fluffed over five attempts at goal which were all well within their kicking range and for some strange reason Riza Mubarak had left his kicking boots back in the locker. As one of the senior club members explained, the previous week’s loss to Police was also put down to poor goal kicking and for the second week in a row the same fate befell them.
The Sailors had not got their game plan right in the first half. The fact that they were down to 14 men for the last 10 minutes of the first half and then conceded seven points courtesy of a brilliant individual try under the posts by the CR skipper Lewke would have been a bitter pill to swallow.
Dad Nimal was at the venue and the big smile on his face indicated that he thoroughly enjoyed the weaving run by the son. Maybe that was the only move that he had to cheer about that evening.
Navy must have had the riot act read out to them in the dressing room at the half time breather. What was said at the breather obviously had an impact on the quality of the Sailors’ play as they came out with a mission thereafter.
It was important that they scored first in the second half and that’s what they did to cut the deficit. The fact that they scored quickly upon resumption appeared to breathe a sense of new life and urgency in their style of play. This was very uncomfortable for the Red Shirts and they wilted under the onslaught.
Navy is a great spoiling outfit and they can carry on that style of play for extended periods of time. It was good to see the First Lady in attendance cheering her sons on. The first half saw her very anxious but the second half performance would have left her a very happy mum as the sons had done her proud once more.
It was also heart-warming to see the great and imposing figure of Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy watching the game with great intent. As a former club and national skipper he would have had different tactics to counter the Navy waves of attack. As I spoke a few words to him after the game, he was of the opinion that having possession and territory is of no use if the same is not converted to points. Very well said, sir.
Navy saved its play of the day for the last two minutes of the game. All those who had watched the game will agree that the game had not reached any dizzy heights till the last few minutes. Anyone who left a few minutes early must be kicking themselves in you-know-where.
Deep in enemy territory with the goal line a few metres away Navy was awarded a scrum. A team huddle soon took place with Skipper Yoshita, Bilal Hasasan and Malawana in the thick of things. It was obvious that Navy was going for one last push against the enemy. The crowd was virtually on their feet.
The Naval ratings were there in their numbers attired smartly in their well starched and creased blue outfits and appeared tense. They were in two minds as whether to yell themselves hoarse or remain silent and maybe seek divine intervention for a win.
CR on their part was determined that they were not going to be steamrolled especially after the fact that up to that point they had ground out 18 hard earned points. Navy were trailing by five points and hence a score would level things and if the conversion was successful they would win. Thus I would presume that the CR defence was concentrating on areas close to the goal post.
The ball was won despite a great push by the CR pack, the Navy number eight picked up the ball but the CR defence was up to it and he ran into heavy traffic. They soon had the ball out and scrum half Pushpakumara, who had a superb game, flung the ball to Dev Anand.
Amidst confounding all the critics, Dev cross kicked the ball far right and the winger collected the high ball in the ‘in goal’ area for a super try. To say that the Naval ratings exploded is an understatement. They went ballistic – after all it was a piece of individual brilliance of Dev and brilliantly choreographed and executed. If it had not come off, the rugby pundits would have had their knives out…
Alas, the kick at goal which would have resulted in a Navy victory and a second straight loss for CR was not to be as the ball hit the uprights and bounced back, and with that the final whistle of referee Priyantha Gunaratna brought proceedings to an end.
Next week’s CR/Havies battle will hopefully bring in the crowds, as in the past few years it has been ‘one-way traffic’ for the lads from Longdon Place. Havies is a resurgent side this year and a fascinating battle lies ahead. Go ahead and mark your diaries accordingly.
(The writer can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org)