By Sachin David
Kandy SC and Navy SC finished at the top two spots of the recently concluded Caltex ‘A’ division rugby league with the two teams playing each other twice through the season. Kandy SC won the first leg at the Nittawela stadium in Kandy whilst the Sailors won their home leg at the Welisara Navy camp grounds. The two teams will now vie for the ultimate honour in Sri Lankan domestic rugby, the final of the Caltex Clifford cup Knock out tournament. The game is scheduled to be played at 4.30 p.m. today at the Royal College Sports Complex.
A bit of history
The Clifford cup is the oldest tournament in Sri Lanka Rugby having been introduced exactly 100 years ago in 1911 when the Clifford cup was awarded by the then Governor Sir Hugh Clifford’s wife Lady Clifford on her birth day on 26 August 1911. The Clifford cup was played in patches mainly due to the World war and was only restarted in 1950 by the Ceylonese rugby football union where Havelock’s sports club won the inaugural tournament. Out of the 61 tournaments played so far Kandy SC holds the lead winning 17 Clifford cup finals after their resurgence from the ’90s while the pre-Kandy era was dominated by Havelock’s and CR.
The run up to the Finals
Kandy SC made their way to the finals beating a valiant CH&FC in the Quarter-final who went down with a narrow score line of just 28-13. Kandy SC led the game 13-00 at half time and scored 15 points in the second half to seal off the Semi-Final against Air Force SC. The Airmen to put Kandy to the ultimate test and forced them to prove their keep by beating Air Force 15-07 in wet conditions.
Navy SC faced off against Police SC in their Quarter-final game and beat them after a hard fought game with a final score of 15-12. The Police led the game 06-05 at half time but Navy fought hard and pulled it back with a last minute try through Bilal Hassan. In their Semi-final Navy faced the 3rd seeded Havelocks SC who gave the Sailors a good run for their money. Navy led the game 10-00 at half time and then went on to finish it off 23-12.
Possible turning points
Navy SC will have the advantage of the venue having played both their Quarter-final and Semi-final game at the venue of the final Royal Sports complex. Navy SC has also had the advantage of training at Royal College. Kandy on the other hand has never played at Royal College all season.
Kandy SC will go in with the momentum of their 12th consecutive league win. The Kandyans will know that they have dominated the rugby circles for over a decade now and will be very confident after having beaten Navy in last year’s final as well.
Players to look out for
Kandy SC- Sajith Saranga will be vital in the 3rd row for Kandy SC especially with the injury of last year’s skipper Sean Wanigasekara. The tall Isipathana number 8 will be the go to man for all the Kandy SC ball carries and line-out jumps along with Senaka Bandara.
The Halves combination of Roshan Weeraratne and Faazil Marija will be crucial for the defending champions as the coaching staff will expect them to control the game from the base and put their running backs into space in attack.
Tharindu Chanaka playing full back will have to be on his game in order to contain Dev Anands booming kicks.
Navy SC- for the Sailors the third row combination of Bilal Hassan, Yoshitha Rajapaksa and Dhanushka Perera will definitely have to click in order to put pressure on the likes of Faazil and the Weerarathne brothers of Kandy.
Dev Anandh will be a man to look out for the Sailors in his attempt to out play his opposite number and Cousin Faazil Marija. Dev will have to be on key to with his kicks on the day to make sure Navy SC gets all the points on offer.
Dinusha Chaturanga and Kosala Thisara will be playing at 12 and 13 for the Sailors and they will most definitely have their hands full as they go up against the two best centres in the country. They will have to be on target in defence all the way through the 80 minutes.