Petes edged out Joes 25-24 at the 62nd Josephian-Peterite encounter as Vindya De Mel scored the match-winning drop goal.
By Jason Perera
St. Peter’s College registered a shocking win in their 62nd Rev.Basil Wiratunga shield encounter by overcoming fancied St. Joseph’s College by 25 (3 tries, 2 conversions, 1 penalty, 1 drop goal) to 24 (3 tries, 3 conversions, 1 penalty) at Havelock Park on 16th September. At halftime, Joe’s led 21-3.
Josephians came into the game, the 62nd encounter between the Saints, as a clear favourite after ending the 2022 League and Knockout tournament as the 2nd best team behind Champions Isipathana College. Whereas Peterites had a forgettable season after winning the opening match of the Group stage games of the League (against Dharmaraja), they failed to win any, losing three and drawing against Wesley. After failing to secure a place in the second round Peterites lost their traditional encounter against S. Thomas’ by 01 point at home and were further rocked when SLSRA kept them out of the Knockout Tournament, the defending Champions, on the grounds of an ongoing inquiry. Though St. Peter’s were the last winners of Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunga Shield (in 2019, encounter missed 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19 pandemic) it was a herculean task for them to retain it against a strong Josephian outfit.
As expected Joes opened the scoring when half-back Vihanga Randeepa touched down for an easy try, which was converted by Ruchitha Rodrigo to go into a 7-0 lead early in the game. St. Joseph’s increased the lead with another try scored through Vishika Fernando. The conversion was put over by Rodrigo and they went into a 14 nil lead.
Immediately Peterites managed to open their score a few moments later through a successful penalty from fly-half Emith Jayaweera and they cut down the lead to 3-14. However, they could not score further as many promising moves were foiled through their own mistakes. Including losing their own line-outs and scrums. Making matters worse, one Peterite player was given the marching orders with a Red Card for a dangerous tackle.
Just before the halftime break Sachinthana Vidyanatha scored a try for Josephians which was slotted in by Rodrigo to go into a 21-3 hefty lead.
The writing was on the wall for a big Josephian win.
After the turnaround, the Peterites adopted a different style of play by running the ball at every given opportunity. As they were losing their own set pieces, and up against a heavier set of forwards, No 10 Vindya De Mel started to test the Josephian backline with punts and high balls. This worked in favour of Petes, the first try coming through the courtesy of Pasindu Thakshila. Vindya De Mel added the extra points from a difficult angle to close the gap to 10 points to 21. 14-man Peterite unit soon found their rhythm and motivation to do the unthinkable.
They kept up the pressure and followed it up with a brilliant second try scored through skipper Sudesh Jayawickrama. Credit should be given to the replacement flyhalf Vindya De Mel who spotted an empty space behind the Joes defence and opted for a superb grubber, as Jayawickrama chased it down to score near the posts. De Mel added the extra points and cut down the lead to 17-21.
During this passage of play Josephians also started to lose few key players due to repeated infringements, where Referee sent them to the sin bin with Yellow Cards.
Petes seized the moment, and silent the crowd at Havelock Park when they increased their lead to 22-21 when Yumeth Sihara scored an unconverted try after chasing a loose ball inside the Joes in-goal area.
The game was on a knife edge, as it moved to the last 10 minutes and Josephians bounced back through Ruchitha Rodrigo as he put over a penalty for the Joe’s to take the score to 24-22.
With 05 minutes to long whistle, the gallant St.Peters College fly half Vindya De Mel landed the killer blow with a stunning 35 meter drop goal to take the lead once again by 25-24, and that drop goal also sealed the win for the Peterites as Josephians could not find any space to fight back during the last few minutes. After the referee blew the long whistle St. Peter’s bowed out as worthy winners by 25 points to 24 and retained the Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunga (Shield) at Bambalapitiya for yet another year. Their 42nd win in the series since 1955.
NDB Player of the Match: Vindya De Mel (St.Peters College fly-half)
Referee: Dilum Deeshana had a good game with the whistle.