St.Josephs 20 – Dharmaraja 22.
Dharamaraja College, Kandy are now just one win away from making history by clinching the league title for the first time in their rugby history as well as going into the record books as the first team in history to win the league right after gaining promotion from the lower division. This after they notched up their 7th win at the expense of a spirited Josephian outfit who gave the league leaders a real run for their money. Backed by a huge red army who had traveled to Colombo who created a beautiful atmosphere, the Rajans knew a win at all costs was a must to sustain their position at the helm. In fact on paper the Rajans were expected to wrap up the game quite easily, But the Joes fresh from their win against the Lions last week were determined as ever and the ground conditions due to heavy rain, too suited their style of play.
From the whistle of Referee Charith Kodagoda it was the visitors who set the tone as they used their superior threes on the ball and tested the Joes defense early on with some threatening runs down the flanks. It seemed to have paid immediate profit as the Rajans were awarded a 35 meter penalty in the 5th minute. Despite the distance and the angle of it Rajans no.15 Thilina Wijesinghe was spot on as he sent the ball through the uprights to give his side an early lead. The joes seemed to be in total shock the even the restart went horribly wrong and it seemed Rajans were about to go on the rampage. But despite being awarded possession and the territorial advantage throughout the game the Rajans always gave back the golden chances they got from their opponents as they showed very poor skills and technique in the lineouts and scrums while showing indecisiveness at the breakdown situations. So it wasn’t a huge surprise as the Rajans lead lasted for only 5 minutes as the home side using their big made forwards came barraging through the Rajans defense and drove their way up to the 5 meter mark. After a few pick and goes with advantage being played by the referee, nippy scrum half V.Rahula took a quick tap and just managed to place the ball on the line to score the first try of the game. The conversion by Fly half Fernando was good and the Joes took over the lead (7-3). 10 minutes later the boys from Darley road increased their lead to 12-3 with hooker Devon Fernando going over. The conversion was missed. This woke up the slumbering Rajans as they came out all guns blazing putting the hosts under immense pressure. Despite putting up a resolute defense they finally conceded a try but it was all due to some sheer individual brilliance of Burly Rajans Center Buwaneka Udangamuwa who somehow managed to find a gap and squeeze through and run across under the posts. The easy conversion was on target and the score was 12-10 in favour of joes. Realizing the half time break was closing in. the Joes decided to have a go at the uprights when they were awarded a 20 meter penalty. The kick by Dulith Feranando was good and the lead was back to 5 points. Dharamaraja however were not in a mood to play 2nd fiddle even for a minute as they fought back hard and Center Buwaneka Udangamuwa once again went on the rampage covering a good 40 meters to score on the left flank. The conversion by Wijesinghe went astray and the teams went into the break on level terms. (15all).
The 2nd half saw the Joes trying to take the initiative as they punched holes with sheer will and kept possession to themselves and It seemed the Rajans were tiring with all the defending they were forced to do. The home team went on take the lead with pushover try when their N0.08 crashed over. The conversion was missed and Joes led 20-15. Rajans sensing the danger of the game slipping away from them started to go on an all-out offensive. During this period their two danger men Skipper Rochana Hettiarchchi and Full back Thilina Wijesinghe were all over the park running hard at their opposition at every given opportunity. But they seemed to be well marked as they were stopped with some last gasp tackles. But with 5 minutes to go, the unsung hero for the day Buwaneka Udangamuwa once again grabbed the game from the scrap of its neck as he made scintillating 40 yard burst before adding the finishing touches scoring under the posts. The conversion by Rochana Hettiarachchi was good to give the Visitors a two point lead. With 3 minutes remaining St.Joesephs were awarded a 20 meter penalty but Dulith Fernando was off target kicking it wide of the posts. With a golden chance going begging, that was enough to see Dharamaraja through and keep their unbeaten tag and more importantly their maiden title hopes alive with their last game to be played against Royal next week.