Upsets, thrashings and a few good ones – let the Schools Rugby begin!

By Special Correspondent;

What could be termed as an exciting opening week full of surprises, occurred as the Dialog Schools Rugby League Championship 2024 kicked off last weekend. Eight games were up for decisions in the curtain raiser weekend, as the opening game itself, between equally termed teams St. Joseph’s College and Vidyartha College clashed at Havelock Park on Friday (14th June).

 

In a thriller of an encounter, Vidyartha pulled off a stunning 27-22 win against hosts St. Joseph’s in a game that was closely contested and widely open for both sides. With the halftime scores reading 17-all, any rugby enthusiast could have had clear doubts about naming an eventual winner, but what mattered eventually was the team’s attitude in handling crucial situations.

St. Joseph’s could have easily settled in for an exciting draw, not for the miscued conversion when they teamed up to brace a try in the dying moment of the game. Vidyartha were in the lead 24-17 in the 67th minute until St. Joseph’s indicated that they were not done. With the try they closed in at 22-24, and the conversion to follow could have changed the fate of the game.

Eventually, the kick drifted inches away from the posts, and the scores stood 24-22 in favour of Vidyartha. Not wasting any chance with just a couple of minutes away from the final whistle, Vidyartha took the restart and mounted pressure on the Josephians, who eventually conceded a penalty, almost on the halfway mark.

 

Vidyartha players opted to go for the penalty kick, and it paid off. They walked out winners, with a tally of three converted tries and the solitary penalty that sealed the game. St. Joseph’s, who were overanxious perhaps, being the opening game of the season, ended with a tally of three tries, two conversions and a penalty.

The game between Trinity College and S. Thomas’ College at Pallekele, a tournament encounter as well as a traditional game played for the Cannon R.S. de Saram Shield, was the pick among the seven games lined up for Saturday (15th June). The start was high-paced, with Trinity initiating an early onslaught and getting paid off with a try. But the Thomians turned the tables on their opponents, only to mount pressure on the hosts, who were left with very little answer. The halftime ended in favour of S. Thomas’ who led 8-7, after raking up their points from an unconverted try and a penalty.

 

But what occurred soon after the turnaround was ecstatic and motivating for all Trinity supporters. They gradually overturned the pressure on the Thomians, eventually losing the game by 31-8. The second half entirely belonged to Trinity, who completed the task of retaining the Cannon R.S. de Saram Shield for yet another year their 29th win in the trophy series and 42nd win since the series commenced in 1955 by scoring from a total of four tries, three conversions and a game-changing drop goal from Trinity’s playmaker Shan Althaf, who accounted for 17 points from the game.

In an outstanding quest to their title defence, last year’s League and Knockout winners St. Peter’s College massacred newcomers to the top Thurstan College by 112-0 at Bambalapitiya, in a game that could be termed one-sided and dominative. The Peterites scored tries at their will, cleaning up the first half at 55-0. The rampage never seized, even for a brief downpour, as St. Peter’s scored from a massive tally of 18 tries and 11 conversions. This is the second occasion a school rugby team has surpassed the 100-point mark in the recent years or decades. The previous occasion such a massacre occurred interestingly involved St. Peter’s, way back in 2010, when they destroyed a hapless Prince of Wales College side 164-0 at Havelock Park.

 

The next big kill occurred at Royal Sports Complex, a few miles away from Bambalapitiya, where Royal College pummeled an unimpressive Kingwood College side by 60-5. It was somewhat similar to what occurred at Bambalapitiya, but Royal was less ruthless than St. Peter’s. They were slow to begin, interestingly succumbing to Kingswood on an occasion by conceding a try. By halftime, the score was 27-5 in favour of Royal, but what followed was quite different from how it began. The Tuskers went on to complete the game scoring 10 tries and converting five of them in their run up to scoring 60 points.

The third in the list of such carnage occurred at Havelock Park, where Isipathana College clinically outplayed debutants Sri Sumangala College of Kandy 50-3. The Green Machine could have gone for a much bigger score, had they decided to dish out all their armour, but it was evident that they treated the game as a testing ground and allowed the entire bench to display their skill level. The start was slow-paced, with Isipathana being cautious and, at times being pressured by their opponents.

 

Sri Sumangala, though were given only the liberty to score from a solitary penalty, were a threat to their opponent, mainly during the first few minutes of the game and during the last few minutes, when Isipathana sent in their entire bench as replacements. Though Isipathana held on to an uninspiring 14-3 lead at the halftime break, the spectators did not leave disappointed. The true potential of the Green Machine was displayed soon after the second half kicked off, where they went on to score at will, in their trademark style. When Isipathana had rested their strong starting lineup, by the 60th minute, they had already scored 50 points, off eight tries and five conversions.

Science College travelled all the way to Nittawela, Kandy to face off against St. Anthony’s College and give them an unexpected shock. They were in the offensive during most of the first half but bounced back to record a 27-14 win. It was St. Anthony’s who made the early breakthroughs, but Science, being more composed and utilizing their skills and experience mindfully, completed a deserving win with a tally of four tries, two conversions and a penalty. St. Anthony’s, though holding the upper hand during the early stages, gradually succumbed while scoring their points from two converted tries.

At Longdon Place, D.S. Senanayake College hosted Dharmaraja College, only to provide them a shock. They recorded an impressive 44-12 win, which was perhaps a major upset thus far, after an anticipated shocker on Friday where Vidyartha shocked St. Joseph’s by 27-22. The Dons seemingly dominated from the start, to complete their mission with a tally of six tries, four conversions and two penalties. Dharmaraja, who looks as if they need more time to settle, scored from two tries and a conversion.

The match between hosts Zahira College and Wesley College at Maradana was anticipated to become a close affair, but it was rather the opposite. Wesley dominated from the first whistle, while making a solid start to their season, putting Zahira on the defensive from the beginning. In the end, Wesley won the game by 21-14. Zahira made amendments to their approach after the first half, but time stood in their way. Zahira is a team that can improve as the season progresses. Their approach towards the end of the game was different, as they settled in with a tally of two converted tries from the game.

 

Follow Quadrangle this season for all the stories, news, photos, match updates, roundups, trivia and reviews.

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