Dialog Knockouts President’s Trophy 2023 – Analysis of The Final
The Grand Stand tiers at the Sugathadasa Stadium were nearly full by 3:30 p.m. on Sunday with fans filling the seats with the anticipation of witnessing the closing rattle between two alpha challengers. Amidst fear of precipitation that could ruin the running play of the two sides, the game kicked off with sunshine evaporating the slight dampness that remained after a brief shower. Although the crowd was entertained with fast Rugby during the first half, the second half was mostly played in the rain, and with a slippery ball, despite the exemplary turf holding its own.
While no retreat; no surrender was the arrogance of the Greens, no stress; no pressure; was the mindset of the Peterites from start to finish, as the latter exhibited their best show in the knockouts to stay focused, positive and ahead of the ever-rampant Green Machine.
The Greens turned up for another crucial game with insufficient or ineffective game strategies in place that fell short of overcoming the unbeaten league champions. With so much effort and planning done by the Tournament Organisers to provide neutral and unbiased Officiators for this Final, the Coaching Staff of the Greens let the team and their supporters down by focusing more on non-Rugby elements, which resulted in their team losing focus on the game.
Both teams took centre stage looking to dominate each other in this Title decider, with utmost energy, enthusiasm and confidence, and continuously did so during the whole game. However, it became apparent as the game progressed that Isipathana lacked effective strategy in this game as well. Due to this, the Greens found themselves in the very position that they usually put their opposition into; chasing with penalty points. It is not unfamiliar during the glory days to catch Isipathana supporters heckling the kickers and chanting, “Those are the only points you will get mate”, but now to be ironically reminded of their words of the past.
Pathana’s defence against Peter’s runners is inadequate to restrict them to 1 or 2 Tries, hence they had to score enough points to chase a 4 Try tally with some extras, say a minimum of 26 if not 30. As no team this season has scored more than 2 Tries against the impeccable SPC defence, maybe the Pathana camp decided to chase the rest with penalties. However, SPC conceded 6 penalties within their grid in the semi-final, and only 2 were within kicking range. Even if one optimistically presumes that half of those 6 could be converted into points, then we have 19 but still 7-11 short. Therefore, an extra Try or two, depending on the number of converted Tries, was inevitable for the Greens and they should have planned and worked on the strategies to score them.
Although Pathana started off well in the all-important kicking game, they mostly failed to find touch during open play and were comfortably overtaken by the league Champs. The Pathans fumbled a splendid chance they got following a classic 50:22 on SPC’s 5m line by infringing in the subsequent maul. Although the Greens have shown splendid touch-kicking skills during open play in the first few weeks of the season, they failed to keep that skill refined when it mattered most. Short punts were used instead, but distressingly close to the SPC 22 was a total gamble in the minds of many, which also caused them to lose vital possession half the time, whilst producing zero results. Chancy options are usually adopted by weaker teams as they do not possess the skills to penetrate a strong defence otherwise. Isipathana being a dominant and skilled outfit, one would expect them to adhere to decisive tactics that depend on skill play as opposed to luck. Even if the Isipathana coaching staff were overwhelmed by SPC’s defence that they couldn’t think of anything else to breach it, they should have at least structured their attacks to facilitate drop goals to get them those extra points.
Expecting to thrill their supporters by sticking to their brand of Rugby, Pathana nearly caused nervous breakdowns among their crowds by continuing to run the ball within their 22, which backfired at times due to the wet ball. On another occasion, the Greens brilliantly turned over a lineout on SPC’s 5m but failed to exploit the overlap that persisted at the far end, possibly due to their focus on other tactics.
As being the clear favourites, some feared the Pete’s to take the field with over-optimism of having already won the Title, but the young Boys showed maturity, discipline and courage under fire to prove once again, that they were a champion team groomed by a champion coaching bunch. Special accolades should be bestowed upon the mental conditioning coach of the Peterites for moulding such tough-minded youngsters who showed absolutely no flutter under heavy provocation but focused intensely on their tasks and the final objective.
Result: St. Peter’s beat Isipathana 25-16