IUC Rugby 2018 | Kicking Tees and Bootlaces, the Final Showdown

     Sunday the 9th will be the final showdown of the Inter University Rugby season where the finalists of yesteryear meet again, the Sharks from Mora and the Lions from Pera. Both teams remained unbeaten so far and are hungry for that championship trophy, as one side of the crowd will be bellowing “Mora Mora Mora!!!” while the Kandyan crowd will be roaring “Pera Pera Pera!!!”

 

    The defending champions, Pera have had an excellent season so far, winning all their matches and is captained by Sasanka Weerakoon, whose only goal in mind is to retain the trophy which was won last year by beating Mora in a closely fought encounter. A team which boasts of 4 World University Rugby 7s representatives for Sri Lanka, they have indeed shown their class and dominance in every single game so far and is coached by Mr. Rohitha Mendis, the assistant coach of Sri Lanka at the WUR 7s tournament.

 

     It is difficult to mention exceptional players as their performance has been mainly on team work. The scores show it and their options to attack are plenty. They had a smashing season opener against the South Eastern University beating them 103 points to nil, a decent outing with University of Sabaragamuwa, 29 points to 3, a cracking quarter final against University of  Uva, 78 points to 3 and a challenging semifinal against University of Kelaniya, 29 points to 12. It should be noted that Kelaniya was the team that managed to breach the Pera wall (2 tries) and it shows that they have an excellent defense as well.

 

     As mentioned before, the Lions boast 4 players who represented WUR 7s, namely the captain himself who is the number 12 center, the place kicker Isuru Herath and speedsters Hasanka Ekanayaka and Arosha Jayathilake. They have a lot of experience and combinations among each other and their 7s rugby skills add so much depth in the Pera back division. Lots of pace, great communication and always make it into the points table. That is what makes them a team to watch out especially in open play. The team also possesses some big and mobile forwards who have the potential to barge over their opponents, which gives the backs ample opportunities to score.

 

   Mora won the championship four times in a row until last year when they went down to the Lions. Captain Sachin Nissankaarchchi has a lot of responsibility leading upto the finals. He is a tall and hard running number 8 who is also a WUR 7s representative. He is aided by his deputy, the place kicker Anuja Weerakoon. Interestingly, he is the twin brother of Sasanka the Pera captain and he too is a WUR 7s representative (well that’s an unusual family reunion, sibling goals for the win!). The team is under the watchful eye of coach Hisham Abdeen who is a former national 7s player.

 

      The road to the finals for Mora didn’t come so easy like for the Pera Lions. Mora had a walkover with the univeristy of Ruhuna and their first match was against the univeristy of Kelaniya. The game ended 31 points to 15 while they managed to decimate Jaffna University 60 points to nil the next week. The semifinal against Colombo was a thrilling encounter with Colombo surprisingly leading 7 points to nil but eventually lost the game 17 points to 12. The game changers in both games were young Dinuk Bentharage, a tall and fast winger with excellent defense and nippy scrum half Sandaru Himanga. The team has a very strong pack and shows a lot of dominance in the scrums.

 

   Speaking about my experience of this year’s rugby season as a first year student of Mora, I indeed enjoyed watching every game. As an avid follower of the sport for the past 6 years, I see a very significant difference when it comes to school rugby and university rugby. School rugby has so much criticism and politics involved at such a young level, making it almost semi professional like a club rugby format. Speaking of university sports, the culture seems quite different (for obvious reasons, you can’t ‘import’ players like how the school system works!)

 

     Every player from every university has being training tirelessly day in and day out. Mind you, these are teams where most players haven’t even touched a rugby ball in their schooldays! This indeed shows that university is a place where you aren’t too late to find talent, especially in a team sport like rugby. Hard work without discipline does not bring results and the teams are always bonded as a single fraternity, especially with a lot of support from their past rugby players.

 

     The matches are played slightly shorter than the standard time of 80 minutes but there is nothing short of entertainment. It feels great to cheer for your university every time someone runs with the ball and when a conversion is cleared. Of course, there is love in the air, no I’m not talking about the pretty ladies who add colour to this event, I’m talking about ‘bromance!’ A few pushing, shoving and some exchange of words will happen in almost any rugby match but regardless of the result, every team has always shown a lot of respect and sportsmanship after the match is over, a friendly tunnel where players exchange gestures of fair play and a bow towards the spectators. You really can’t say who won and it is the perfect definition of Sir Winston Churchill’s famous words, “rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen”. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call sportsmanship!

 

       In the words of Mahathma Gandhi, “every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph, a beginning, a struggle and a victory.”  The stakes are high and so much of expectations from either side. Every second, yard gained and tackle made counts. Vengeance from one side, redemption from the other. Will the Lions claw their way towards the end or will the Sharks bite their way through? May the better team win and dear reader, do come and enjoy a thrilling game of rugby this Sunday at the Racecourse grounds!

 

Article by Akhila Seneviratne

Edited by Piyumi Yashodha

Sponsored by LSEG Technology

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