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All Blacks not at their peak for Lions tour, says Lewsey

March 30, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Ex-England international Josh Lewsey Wednesday said the British and Irish Lions had a great chance to overturn the All Blacks this year with the rebuilding world champions not at the “peak of their powers”.

All Blacks

Lewsey, speaking at the official launch of next month’s Hong Kong 10s tournament, said the timing was good for Warren Gatland’s Lions as they bid for their first series win in New Zealand in 46 years.

He said the All Blacks were “on their own journey” after greats including skipper Richie McCaw and fly-half Dan Carter stepped down following the team’s second successive World Cup victory in 2015.

“You can’t just replace those (players) overnight, it takes a while,” Lewsey said.

“That doesn’t mean players coming in aren’t just as exceptional, but bonding a team tends to take five, seven, eight years, for a team to really go for it.”

He added: “If you are going to go down there and have a result, you’re not playing a New Zealand who are right at the peak of their powers, so of course it’s an opportunity.”

Lewsey, 40, started all three Lions Tests on their last tour of New Zealand in 2005, when the visitors were whitewashed 3-0.

He tipped Lions coach Gatland to impose a cohesive style on this year’s composite team drawn from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

“Warren will have a very clear strategy about how he wants to play, and similarly, he will pick players who are most suited to play that style,” Lewsey said.

“If you’ve only got a group of guys for a short period of time, it’s the most effective way of gelling, and to be really clear what you want to do.”

He added that Gatland, a New Zealander, would know all about the strengths and weaknesses of the All Blacks ahead of the tour, which gets underway in June.

Lewsey joked it would hard for the 2017 team to be less successful than their predecessors 12 years ago under former England coach Clive Woodward.

“Perhaps we could have been more specific in terms of how we wanted to play,” he said.

“Because if you look at the teams in ’05, man for man we had a fantastic group of guys, and obviously the Test series spoke for itself in terms of scoreline.

“But I can’t help but feel with the talent we had, we underachieved.”

Perfect Crusaders march on, Jaguares beat Reds

March 26, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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New Zealand’s Canterbury Crusaders won their fifth-straight game to be one of only three unbeaten teams in this season’s Super Rugby as Argentina’s Jaguares won again this weekend.

Jaguares

The seven-time champion Crusaders whipped the hapless Western Force of Australia 45-17 to stake their claim for this year’s southern hemisphere provincial crown.

Fellow Kiwis Waikato Chiefs and South Africa’s Western Stormers are also yet to lose with the Stormers denying Japan’s Sunwolves 44-31 in Singapore while the Chiefs had a bye.

Across in Buenos Aires the Jaguares won for the fourth time this season, downing Australia’s Queensland Reds 22-8 to lie just one point off the lead held by the Golden Lions in the Africa 2 conference.

The Lions overpowered the endangered Southern Kings 42-19 in an all-South African derby in Port Elizabeth, while the Coastal Sharks won a high-scoring derby 38-30 over the Central Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

There was little joy for the beleaguered Australian hopes with the ACT Brumbies succumbing to an 18-13 loss at home to New Zealand’s Otago Highlanders, while the NSW Waratahs won a thrilling derby with a last-minute try 32-25 over the Rebels in Melbourne.

In the remaining game, the Blues downed South Africa’s Northern Bulls 38-14 in Auckland, while the defending champions Wellington Hurricanes had a bye.

The Crusaders posted seven tries to two and kept the Force scoreless in the second half to make it five wins from five this season.

It was a lopsided defeat the Force could have done without amid speculation the Perth club faces the axe as governing body SANZAAR look to revamp the dysfunctional competition.

The Stormers survived a​n audacious challenge from the struggling Sunwolves to maintain their unbeaten start, winning a 10-try thriller at Singapore’s national stadium.

Trailing for most of ​what was a high-paced, free-flowing match after being caught out by the Sunwolves’ innovative attack, the South Africans needed all their extra big-match experience to wear down the tournament newcomers, who faded badly in the last quarter of the match.

“The Sunwolves are a smart side and they’re very well coached,” Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said.

“We knew it was going to be tough but they still surprised us with some of the things they did, especially when they kicked in behind us.”

The Jaguares fortunes continue to improve this season with a side-stepping try by winger Ramiro Moyano the highlight of a bruising battle with the Reds.

Democratic Republic of Congo-born Madosh Tambwe scored his first Super Rugby tries as the Lions pounded the Southern Kings.

Tambwe took just four minutes to score, intercepting a pass before collecting a pass on the tryline to dot down for his second try.

Teenager Curwin Bosch proved an outstanding back-up for injured skipper Patrick Lambie, kicking 18 points in the Sharks win over the Cheetahs.

The 19-year-old fly-half slotted four penalties and three conversions from eight attempts and was voted man of the match as the Sharks made it four straight wins since losing the opening game of the season.

Centre David Horwitz scored a try in the final minute to cap a second-half fightback to give the Waratahs a thrilling win over the Rebels.

The Waratahs trailed 25-6 at half-time but squeezed home on the back of four second-half tries to deny the Rebels a prized victory over their better-resourced Australian rivals.

The Highlanders returned to the ground where they knocked the Brumbies out of last season’s quarter-finals to overturn a 10-5 half-time deficit.

Otago’s victory extended Australian teams’ misery against Kiwi opposition this season with New Zealand boasting a 7-0 winning record so far this year.

A second half revival sparked by two Matt Duffie tries gave the Blues a comfortable win over the Bulls.

Live updates: U20 schools rugby league tournament – Isipathana College vs Royal College, S. Thomas’ College vs Science College, Dharmaraja College Vs D. S. Senanayake

March 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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18:17 – At full time. S. Thomas’ College 20. Science College 12.

18:16 – S. Thomas’ College score again to extend lead. 20-12.

18:07 – At full time. Dharmaraja College 45. D. S. Senanayake College 12.

18:03 – Full time. Isipathana 22, Royal 14

17:55 – Dharmaraja College further extend their lead with a converted try. 31-12.

17:54 – Isipathana extend their lead. Isipathana 22, Royal 14

17:49 – Science College reduce the lead with a converted try. 12-15.

17:44 – S. Thomas’ College convert a penalty to make it 15-5.

17:38 – Science College put their first points on the board with an unconverted try. 5-12.

17:30 – Isipathana take the lead.
Isipathana 17, Royal 14

17:23 – At half time. S. Thomas’ College 12. Science College 0.

17:22 – S. Thomas’ College score their second try to extend lead. 12-0.

17:21 – Isipathana hit back with a try. Royal College 14, Isipathana 12

17:12 – half time – Royal College 14, Isipathana 05

17:12 – D. S. Senanayake College hit back with a converted try to reduce the lead. 12-24.

17:10 – Dharmaraja College score again to make it 24-5.

17:09 – Dharmaraja College scores their third try to extend lead 17-5.

17:04 – Science College doing well to keep the Thomians at bay.

17:00 – Royal score a second try. Royal 14, Trinity 05

16:58 – Dharmaraja College regain the lead with an unconverted try. 10-5.

16:57 – D. S. Senanayake College equalise with an unconverted try. 5-5.

16:49 – S. Thomas’ College open scoring with a converted try. 7-0.

16:45 – Dharmaraja College open scoring with an unconverted try to take the lead. 5-0.

16:42 – Dharmaraja College vs D. S. Senanayake College kicked off now at Bogambara.

16:38 – Royal score converted try Royal 07, Isipathana College 05

16:38 – S. Thomas’ College vs Science College match kicks off

16:26 – Isipathana score unconverted try — Isipathana 05, Royal 00

Royal College vs Isipathana College match kicks off

Live updates: U20 schools rugby league tournament – Zahira College Vs Wesley College

March 24, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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17:59 – Zahira 29, Wesley 32

17:56 – Zahira 29, Wesley 29

17:52 – Zahira 22, Wesley 29

17:49 – Zahira 22, Wesley 24

17:40 – Zahira 22, Wesley 17

17:36 – Zahira 15, Wesley 17

17:18 – Halftime

17:08 – Zahira 15, Wesley 10

16:50 – Zahira 15, Wesley 05

16:37 – Wesley 03, Zahira 08

16:33 – Wesley 03, Zahira 03

16:31 – Wesley 03, Zahira 00

Schools rugby laws to change

March 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Shehan Daniel

Several changes, mainly aimed at player safety, could be in the pipelines for the Under-20 Schools Rugby Tournament on the recommendation of Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) through the Minster of Sports, with the tournament to be renamed as Under-19.

The changes being considered include a reduction of playing time to 35 minutes a half and a restriction of players under the age of 18 lining-up in the front-row of the scrum.

SLR Vice-President Lasitha Gunaratne said the recommendation was made so that the schools tournament will be played in line with World Rugby regulations.

“We have recommended through the Minister to make these changes to the regulations, so that it falls in line with World Rugby’s Under-19 rule variations (of the laws of the game handbook),” Gunaratne said.

“We also recommended renaming the tournament as Under-19, since World Rugby identifies Under-20 as adult rugby,” he also said.

Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association (SLSRFA) Secretary Denzil Darling also confirmed this move adding that discussions with the Sports Minister and the Education Minister were to take place before deciding which changes to implement.

“The tournament will likely be changed to Under-19 next season, as the date of births for the age group anyway fall under the ‘Under-19’ category. There have also been suggestions to restrict players only above the age of 18 to be involved in the front-row of the scrum. Some teams have players who are as young as 15, and face a disadvantage against schools with older players.

There is also an issue that some schools don’t have players, so we need to consider that. We will engage in discussions with the Sports Minister and the Minister of Education before deciding which changes to make,” Darling said.

Other regulations in the Under-19 variations to rules in the laws of the game handbook include limiting the movement of a scrum to 1.5 metres, the sanction for infringement being a free-kick and the releasing of the ball from scrum – a player must not intentionally keep the ball in the scrum once the team has heeled the ball and controls it at the base of the scrum – and the restriction on wheeling the scrum.

No England-All Blacks clash in 2017

March 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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A mouthwatering showdown between England and New Zealand will have to wait until 2018 after it was announced Wednesday that the Barbarians will play the world champion All Blacks at Twickenham on November 4.

Retalick

England coach Eddie Jones had confirmed reports in the British media indicating that the Rugby Football Union, were keen to squeeze in a match between his Six Nations champions and New Zealand on that date.

But the invitational Barbarians, in a match marking their 125th anniversary, have now received approval from the RFU, English rugby union’s governing body, to play the All Blacks on November 4.

“The Barbarians approached the RFU last month with a request to stage this fixture at Twickenham and the request has been granted, replacing a Barbarians v Australia match previously approved,” said a Barbarians statement.

England are now not scheduled to play New Zealand until November 2018, with an RFU spokeswoman telling AFP that Wednesday’s announcement meant there was no chance of the two countries meeting later this year.

Their last clash was back in 2014, when New Zealand won 24-21 at Twickenham.

Several England players are, however, likely to face the All Blacks as part of the British and Irish Lions squad heading to New Zealand for a three-Test series in June and July.

England equalled New Zealand’s record of 18 successive Test victories by a ‘tier one’ or leading rugby union nation with victory over Scotland.

After that match, the Daily Mail reported that the RFU had approached their New Zealand counterparts about the prospect of a November 4 Test clash, although the paper highlighted tensions over how the gate receipts from a likely 82,000 sell-out crowd would be split.

England’s defeat of Scotland saw them retain their Six Nations title but their attempts to break New Zealand’s record and complete back-to-back Grand Slams foundered with a 13-9 loss to Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

It was the Irish too who ended New Zealand’s run with a 40-29 win in Chicago in November.

Jones speaking after Saturday’s match in Dublin, the Australian’s first loss as England coach, said of the Lions’ prospects of a first series win in New Zealand since 1971 that the All Blacks were “there for the taking”.

England are already due to play Australia, Argentina and Samoa in November this year.

Adding another Test to the autumn international calendar led to concerns over player welfare, with England’s Premiership Rugby, which represents the country’s top 12 clubs, reportedly against releasing players for an additional fixture outside of World Rugby’s November international ‘window’ without significant compensation.

Meanwhile the Mail reported Wednesday that NZRU chief executive Steve Tew wanted the All Blacks to play the Barbarians on November 4 rather than face England outside of the ‘window’.

Trinity, St. Peter’s hog the limelight

March 22, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Chris Dhambarage

Trinity College and St. Peter’s College stole the limelight while recording impressive victories in the Singer Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament fourth week of matches worked off during the weekend.

The Peterites put up a stunning performance to beat the high riding Isipathana College team 32-15 at Bambalapitiya while the Trinitians defeated S. Thomas’ College 29-14 at Longden Place.

Trinity also had the satisfaction of regaining the Canon R. S. De Saram Shield as they pulled off their fourth successive victory to remain unbeaten in the tournament.

The Trinitians certainly lived upto expectations as the favourites as they outplayed their rivals while collecting their points from two goals and three tries and conceding just two tries to the home side.

Trinity of course made their intentions clear and got off to a fabulous start as they dominated the proceedings and went on to build up a commanding 19-0 lead at the half way mark.

They never looked back from there onwards and consolidated their position in the second half with two more tries before adding the finishing touches in a spectacular manner.

The Thomians of course suffered a huge blow midway in the first half as their Skipper and star player Naveen Heenakankanamge was forced to leave the field with an injury.

Even then, this was a pretty ordinary performance from S. Thomas’ and they looked quite demoralized after their shock defeat at the hands of Wesley College during the previous week.

However, there was a brief comeback from the Thomians in the second half as they managed to penetrate the Trinity defence twice while playing under tremendous pressure.

But the Trinitians were not prepared to surrender the game to their opponents after having done all the hard work as they held on to their lead with a determined performance until the final whistle.

St. Joseph’s vs Dharmaraja

St. Joseph’s College powered their way to an emphatic 44-10 victory over Dharmaraja College in their Singer Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament match played at Longden Place.

This victory will be a great relief for the Josephians as they have performed extremely well but without success in the previous two outings which were both close encounters.

But this time they made certain that they would triumph quite convincingly with a splendid all-round performance as they collected their points from four goals, two tries and two penalties.

The Rajans after making a promising start just could not keep the same momentum throughout the game as they surrendered quite meekly while scoring only a solitary goal and a penalty.

Even then, this will be a huge morale booster for St. Joseph’s who have already made their presence felt after having gone down fighting against two heavyweights in schools rugby Royal College (22-28) and Isipathana College (32-39) respectively.

Wesley vs Science College

Wesley College cruised to their third victory this season when they outplayed Science College Mount Lavinia 36-10 in another Singer Under-20 League Rugby Tournament fixture worked off at Longden Place.

The Wesleyites produced another clinical performance to mesmerize their opponents as they dominated the game from the kick-off and collected their points from three goals and three tries.

Science College of course struggled to get their act together well against a more organised team as they managed to score only a solitary goal and a penalty.

This victory has also lifted Wesley into the second place of the points table which is a remarkable achievement for a side which suffered a heavy defeat in their opening fixture of the tournament.

But since that early setback they have turned things around magnificently to topple a couple of more fancied teams and they seem to be heading in the right direction as they look for more glory in the current season.

D. S. Senanayake vs Royal

Royal College proved too strong for D. S. Senanayake College as the team from Reid Avenue pulled off a smashing 47-7 victory in their Singer Under-20 League Rugby Tournament match worked off at Welisara.

Royal may have not played their best game of rugby this season but yet they had enough firepower to overcome a rather inexperienced D. S. Senanayake outfit in this scrappy encounter.

Royal had raced to a commanding 28-7 lead at the half way mark and they went on to add the finishing touches quite convincingly while collecting their points from six goals and one try.

Despite missing out a number of scoring opportunities, Royal will be quite pleased with their effort considering the fact that their line was crossed only once by their opponents.

In addition the place kicking of George Goonawardena was really outstanding as he was able to add the extra points to six of their seven tries.

The victory was also a huge morale booster for Royal ahead of their vital fixture against the defending champions Isipathana College on Saturday.

Zahira vs Prince of Wales

Zahira College proved their growing reputation as one of the most promising teams this season when they trounced Prince of Wales College 64-12 in their Singer Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament match played at Maradana.

The Zahirians who have already left a lasting impression in the tournament having dished out some superlative rugby went on the rampage and planted as many as ten tries and converted seven of them to complete a rousing victory.

The Cambrians were always up against it and they never looked like making a match of it as they responded with just four penalties.

Unbeaten Trinity trounce Thomians to reclaim de Saram Trophy

March 21, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Shannon Nicholas

High-flying Trinity College reclaimed the Canon R. S. de Saram Shield when they beat S. Thomas’ College by 29 points to 14 in their Singer Schools Rugby League 2017 fixture played at the CR & FC Grounds on Monday.

trinity

The ‘Lions’, who had a comfortable 19-00 lead at lemons, collected their points through two goals and three unconverted tries while the Thomians were only able to collect two goals. The win saw the Trinitians extend their unbeaten run to four matches, while retaining the top spot in Group B.

The game was expected to be thriller but the first-half proved to be a one-sided affair in which last year’s runners-up S. Thomas’ were stunned by the lads from Kandy. With just 15 minutes on the clock, Trinity drew first blood when Fullback Amit Kulathunga touched down after collecting the ball from Bandara Senevirathne, through a fast-paced counter-attack. Fly-half Lashan Wijesuriya added the extras with ease and the scores read 07-00.

The Thomians looked threatening but a perfectly executed team play was squandered within inches of the try line a few moments later. Avishka Sheik extended the Trinity lead ten minutes later when the Centre managed to dodge past three Thomian players to plant a try. With the conversion being successful, the scores were amended to 14-00.

The Trinity outfit was at their attack once again and was dominating possession, although some errors were seen. The nifty Scrum-half Anuka Boyagoda was influential throughout the game and his pass close to the touchline was collected by Wijesuriya, who dived over to score the third try for the Trinitians.

Trinity almost scored their fourth try on the verge of half-time but Diluksha Dange’s try was disallowed for a foul prior to it. The Trinitians failed to take advantage of the resulting ruck however, and the scores stood at 19 – 0 when Referee Rohan Fernando blew for half-time.

The Thomians looked rejuvenated when play was resumed and showed signs of bouncing back into the game. Hans Walpola put up the first points for the ‘Blue and Blacks’, when the outside-half was quick to take the ball over the line in front of the posts with just three minutes into the second-half. Dion Dias bisected the posts at the conversion and the scores were amended to 19-07.

The Trinitians struck back minutes later when skipper Nathan Yee managed to get the better of the Thomian backline to touch down and record their fifth try of the evening.

Trinity were reduced to 14-men ten minutes later when Akith Sakalasuriya was sin binned for an improper tackle in front of the posts. The Trinitians however were strong enough to cancel out the Thomian attack from the resulting ruck.

The Thomians scored their second try when Fullback Mayon Jayawardena broke through the Trinity defense to touch down. Dias added the extras from a difficult angle and the scores were set to 24-14.

The Trinitians had the last laugh however when Sakalasuriya was able to make up for his yellow card, scoring the sixth try of the evening. The conversion was missed and the scores were amended to 29-14 when the Referee blew for full-time.

Trinity will next face Prince of Wales at Pallekele on the 25th while the Thomians are set to take on Science College at CR & FC on the same day.

Rousing game on the cards

March 20, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Chris Dhambarage

Trinity’s unbeaten record this season will be under major threat when they take on arch rivals S. Thomas’ College in a crucial Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament fixture for the Canon R. S. de Saram Shield at Longden Place on Monday (20).

The Trinitians are currently riding on a crest of a wave after they had notched up three successive victories over Wesley College (64-24), Science College Mount Lavinia (52-7) and Zahira College (34-26) respectively.

In contrast, the Thomians of course will be still recovering following last week’s shock 19-23 defeat at the hands of Wesley College at this same venue as they surrendered the Oliver Gunathilake Shield to their opponents for the first time.

However, they have the potential and the ingredients to make a comeback and stretch their opponents to the maximum as they look to retain the Shield for the second successive year.

In fact, last year also the two teams figured in a thrilling encounter with the Thomians making a strong second half rally to win the game 23-20 and regain the Shield after a lapse of three years under the leadership of Pandula de Silva at Pallekele.

This time both teams studded with a number of Sri Lanka youth players are well set for another rousing battle as they look to clinch the top spot in the Segment IIA points table.

Trinity are currently on top of the points table after their early dominance in the league and they also have the credit of scoring the most number of tries (23) in the tournament.

This is of course mainly because they had the opportunity of piling up over 50 points twice this season against Wesley and Science College in two one sided encounters.

However, Trinity experienced some anxious moments in their next game and were put under tremendous pressure by a fighting Zahira outfit before emerging victorious in a close game at Maradana.

This time they are certain to face even a tough challenge as the Thomians will be determined to get back into winning ways following last week’s setback.

The outcome of the game will no doubt be decided in the manner how well the three quarters handle the situation as both teams possess some outstanding back division players.

The dynamic centre three quarter Diluksha Dange who is one of the top try scorers this season will be the key player for Trinity along with scrum half Anuka Boyagoda.

S. Thomas’ will look for another good performance from the more experienced winger Naveen Henakankanamge who will carry their hopes in this game along with Sharith Nananyakkara.

Petes end Pathana’s unbeaten streak

March 18, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Chris Dhambarage

St. Peter’s College delivered a stunning blow as they brought down the high riding Isipathana College outfit 32-15 in a high profile Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament match worked off at Bambalapitiya on Saturday (18).

The Peterites who went into the game as the underdogs came out with a stupendous performance as they went on to seal a memorable triumph while collecting their points from three goals, one try and two penalties after the scores were 15 all at half time.

Isipathana of course had a very poor outing with a number of unforced errors especially in the second half as they suffered their first defeat in the current season having responded with just three unconverted tries.

The Peterites’ victory also had a great amount of significance as they were able to record their first win over Isipathana since 2010 where they triumph under the captaincy of Keith Gurusingha.

This time it was the dynamic full back Diyath Fernando who masterminded a historic victory for St. Peter’s with a tremendous performance which completely surprised their opponents.

In fact, St. Peter’s made their intentions clear from the kick-off and were able to completely rattle the visitors while scoring twice inside the opening 20 minutes of play.

However, the Peterites could not consolidate their position from there onwards and Isipathana simply came back into the game with three successive tries to level the scores 15-15.

The Peterites looked a completely different outfit in the second half as they created a number of scoring opportunities and also held on determinedly to frustrate their opponents through some excellent defensive work.

Dashing centre three quarter Theekshana Dissanayake was undoubtedly the most outstanding player for St. Peter’s as he had the satisfaction of scoring a hat-trick of tries

Even then, it was their reliable fly half Stephen Sivaraj who actually controlled the game for the Peterites from the base with his booming kicks to touch and through some intelligent play.

Sivaraj was able to gain valuable territorial advantage for his team and also successfully cleared the defence on many occasions when the side was under tremendous pressure.

He also inspired his team by converting three of their four tries in addition to putting over two vital penalties which turned out to be quite decisive in the end.

Isipathana were never allowed to play their natural game in the second half and were deprived of several scoring opportunities as the gallant Peterites fought magnificently until the final whistle.

Live updates: Under 20 schools rugby tournament – Science College vs Wesley College

March 17, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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17:50 – At full time. Wesley College 36. Science College 10.

17:49 – Science College scores a consolation try. 10-36.

17:42 – Wesley College reduced to 13 players.

17:34 – Wesley College continue their dominance with another converted try to lead 36-3.

17:19 – Wesley College score their fifth try to lead 29-3.

17:09 – Second half underway.

17:04 – At half time. Wesley College 24. Science College 3.

17:03 – Wesley College scores again to lead 24-3.

16:57 – Yellow card for a Science College player.

16:48 – Science College score their first points with a penalty. 3-17.

16:45 – Wesley College plant their third try to make it 17-0.

16:36 – Wesley College extend lead with another unconverted try. 10-0.

16:33 – Wesley open scoring with an unconverted try. 5-0.

16:29 – Game kicks off

History beckons England as Ireland lie in wait

March 17, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Eddie Jones’s England head to Dublin for their final match of the 2017 Six Nations just eight 80 minutes away from rewriting the record books.

England

Victory for England, already crowned Six Nations champions, over Ireland at Lansdowne Road on Saturday would see them set a new record of 19 consecutive Test wins by a leading rugby union nation.

It would also mean they become the first side in the Six Nations era to complete back-to-back Grand Slams and just the sixth in the long history of the Championship.

Yet England were some away short of top form in the opening rounds of this Six Nations although, like many good sides, they kept winning when below their best.

So when former Ireland centre Gordon D’Arcy, in an Irish Times column, published between the third and fourth rounds, said “England look a team under ever-increasing strain,” it was not a fanciful notion.

But the shackles were thrown off in spectacular style during last week’s 61-21, seven-try rout of Scotland at Twickenham featuring a hat-trick from Jonathan Joseph.

That win came just a day after Ireland’s title hopes were dealt a hammer blow by a 22-9 loss to Wales in Cardiff where they couldn’t even manage one try, let alone seven.

In politics, many an Englishman has been stumped by the ‘Irish question’ but in rugbyterms it’s the hosts who face plenty of pre-match problems this week.

For all the criticism of Scotland’s defence, some of England’s attacking play was sublime. Now the question being asked of Jones’ men is did they hit peak form one week too early?

“Most teams in the Six Nations have one big performance, so we are anticipating them to be at their best on Saturday,” the England coach said when asked Thursday about Ireland.

But Jones insisted England’s “big performance” had not come and gone. “When I said ‘most teams’ we are not ‘most teams’,” he explained.

That might sound like typical English ‘arrogance’ coming from an Australian were it not for the fact England have won 18 Tests in a row.

Jones, benefitting from England’s large playing base and years of good youth development, has created a bench of replacements or “finishers” as he calls them who would start in many another side.

Such is England’s strength in depth that experienced scrum-half Danny Care finds himself playing second fiddle to Ben Youngs and impressive hooker Jamie George must wait his turn behind England captain Dylan Hartley.

“You look around the changing room and there are a lot of world-class players in a lot of positions,” said Care.

“George Ford (fly-half) and Owen Farrell (inside centre) as a combination seems to be working brilliantly.

“And you look at (flanker) Maro Itoje — he’s still only 22 but plays like he’s a 100-cap veteran.”

Powerhouse No 8 Billy Vunipola and wing Anthony Watson, who both scored tries off the bench last week, are now in the starting side, with left wing Elliot Daly cleared to play following a suspected concussion.

Ireland, who ended the All Blacks’ 18-match winning run with a 40-29 success in Chicago in November, suffered a setback when scrum-half Conor Murray was ruled out Thursday with a shoulder injury sustained against Wales.

The Irish will certainly need their forwards and a defence coached by Andy Farrell — Owen’s father — to front up if they are to win this weekend.

But Ireland coach Joe Schmidt took exception to Jones’s labelling his team’s play as “kick and clap”, with high ‘bombs’ from fly-half Jonathan Sexton their main weapon.

“I think last year he might have said that we kicked 60 percent of the ball that we had,” the New Zealander said. “And when it was mentioned to him that England kicked the ball more than we did it probably wasn’t convenient at the time.

“So we’ll do what we try to do best, and I know Eddie will have England really well-prepared to do what they do best, which is apply a heck of a lot of pressure.”

Review: Wesley in stunning win over S. Thomas’

March 16, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Chris Dhambarage

Wesley College have created the first major upset in the current Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament.

Last week, they produced a stunning performance to beat the favourites S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia 23-19 in a thrilling encounter worked off at Longden Place.

The Wesleyites who started the game at the backdrop of some uncertainty dished out some fantastic rugby to edge-out their opponents while collecting their points from four tries and one penalty.

The Thomians of course made a promising start to the game as they built up a crucial 19-13 lead at half time but could not add any points to their tally in the second half as they responded with two goals and one try.

Wesley were also able to avenged their last year’s defeat as they went on to regain the Sir Oliver Gunathilake Shield while recording their second victory in the current season.

No doubt the return of their six suspended players back into the side certainly made a huge difference for the Wesleyites as they dominated the second half and turned the game in their favour.

Even then, it were the Thomians who drew first blood as they opened scoring shortly after the kick-off before Wesley came back with a penalty and a try to snatch the lead 8-5.

However, S. Thomas’ took control from there onwards and scored two converted tries as they extended their lead to a commanding 19-18 shortly before half time.

Wesley hit back with their second try of the match a couple of minutes before the interval as they reduced the deficit to 13-19 at that stage.

The Wesleyites played with more cohesive in the second half as they managed to retain possession for a longer period which helped them to touch down twice and seal the game.

Dharmaraja vs Royal

Royal College recovered from an early setback to beat Dharmaraja College 18-15 in another exciting Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament match played at the Nittawela Stadium in Kandy.

Skipper Ovin Askey emerged as the match winner for Royal as he fired across a last minute drop goal to seal the game after the scores had been level 15-15 for quite some time.

Royal were under tremendous pressure after having conceded a 10-15 lead to their opponents but as they have performed in the past they staged a remarkable comeback to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

The Rajans were of course heading towards a memorable triumph at one stage after they had dominated the first half where they scored twice through their speedy three quarters.

But in a most dramatic turn of events Royal went on to have the final laugh as their Skipper Askey dropped a peach of a drop goal from 20 metres out to dash Dharmaraja’s hopes.

Zahira vs Trinity

Trinity College managed to maintain their unbeaten record with a hard fought 34-26 victory over Zahira College in a vital Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament match played at Maradana.

The Trinitiansnever had things easy against this fighting Zahira outfit under wet conditions and they certainly had to put up their best performance to clear this tough hurdle.

They had to use all their experience and the skills to master their opponents and it was after scoring six tries that they were able to bring down the opposition and register their third successive victory in the tournament.

This was another close encounter for Zahira who have already made a lasting impression having made their entry into top division rugby after a lapse of many years.

They were able to topple the more fancied Science College outfit 19-13 in their opening match of the tournament and last week they nearly brought down S. Thomas’ College at this same venue.

However, Zahira will need to learn the art of winning matches if they are to stay among the top contenders for the title this season.

They have been outstanding and overenthusiastic at times but likewise they need to be consistent and be able to add the finishing touches as well.

Isipathana vs St. Anthony’s

Isipathana College survived a fierce second half rally to beat St. Anthony’s College 43-35 in a high scoring Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament match worked off at Havelock Park.

The match will be of great significance for the number of tries scored with Isipathana going over on seven occasions and converting four of them while the Antonians responded with six tries and converting just one in addition to putting over a penalty.

Even then, Isipathana were heading towards a more convincing victory at one stage after having built up a commanding 24-13 lead at half time.

The Antonians came back into the game with four tries in the second half as they nearly created a major upset but their reliable place kicker Samuel Maduwantha was completely off colour making just a solitary conversion.

D. S. Senanayake vs St. Peter’s

St. Peter’s College had the satisfaction of recording a comfortable 36-5 win over D. S. Senanayake College in their Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament match played at Welisara.

The Peterites after their setback in the previous outing had the opportunity of making some amends as they went on to score six tries and converted four of them in addition to a penalty.

D. S. Senanayake of course started off very promisingly but they were unable to maintain the same momentum and managed to score just a solitary try.

Mum’s the word for Owen Farrell as England face Ireland

March 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Owen Farrell will find himself on the opposite side to his father for the first time when Six Nations champions England bid for a record-breaking win against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

Farrell

Victory at Lansdowne Road would give England a 19th successive international win, breaking the record for a ‘tier one’ or leading rugby union nation they currently share with world champions New Zealand.

It would also mean that England, who have already retained the title with a week to spare, became the first team in the Six Nations era to complete back-to-back Grand Slams.

But now England goal-kicking centre Owen finds himself on the opposite side to his father and Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell, who held a similar post with England until he left following the team’s first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup.

Farrell junior, however, said the only member of the family for whom this was a problem was his mother, Colleen.

According to her son, the ideal outcome for Mrs Farrell was a 3-0 England win, with Owen kicking the lone penalty.

“We don’t really joke about it. It’s not like he’s playing the game, there’s only one of us playing in it and he’s obviously got a coaching role,” Owen said.

“I think the only person it will affect is my mum, not us. She just wants everyone to do well. She wants 3-0 England I think!”

Farrell, once renowned for goal-kicking and defensive skills, has become a genuine playmaker as he demonstrated with the quality of his passing in the 61-21 rout of Scotland at Twickenham last weekend, a match where England scored seven tries.

Asked if his father would have come up with a plan to counter his attacking threat, Owen said: “I guess we’ll see…We don’t speak to each other every day. We speak to each other what I would say is the normal amount, as any family would.

“We chat a bit of rugby, but we also have general chat as families would.”

England coach Eddie Jones had no fear important tactical information may have inadvertently leaked out to the Ireland camp during a family conversation.

“They’ve probably been talking about rugby probably since Owen was big enough to sit at the table,” said Jones.

“I think they’re both mature enough to get on with it this week. Neither needs any more motivation to do well. They’re Farrells — I think that sums it up,” the Australian added.

Wales unchanged for Six Nations finale against France

March 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Wales will field an unchanged side against France in their final match of the 2017 Six Nations, it was announced Wednesday.

Wales

Interim head coach Rob Howley has retained the same starting line-up that beat Ireland 22-9 at home last week for Saturday’s match in Paris.

If Wales win — and England beat Ireland in Dublin on Saturday to secure a Grand Slam — it will mean that the Welsh are assured of a top-four position in the world rankings ahead of the 2019 World Cup pool draw in May.

Saturday will see Wales bidding for their sixth straight win over France in a match where hooker Ken Owens wins his 50th cap, with experienced Bath forwards Taulupe Faletau and Luke Charteris remaining on the bench.

Although Wales have already been beaten by England and Scotland this season, a win at the Stade de France could see them finish second behind already-crowned champions England if other results fall in their favour.

“I was delighted for the players about Friday’s result and performance, and they deserve the opportunity to build on that in our final RBS 6 Nations encounter,” said Howley after announcing his team.

The former Wales scrum-half, in charge while Wales head coach Warren Gartland is seconded to the British and Irish Lions for the combined side’s tour of New Zealand in June and July, and his team had faced criticism after the successive defeats by England and Scotland.

But Wales responded impressively by scoring three tries against Ireland, including two from powerhouse wing George North, while not conceding any at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium last Friday.

“The experience we showed and the intensity we brought to the match was hugely important, and that will be just as important as we face a good France team at home,” said Howley. “We put pressure on ourselves and turned that pressure into a result.”

He added: “For us, there are areas of the game we want to work on from Ireland, and we have an opportunity to do that on Saturday and finish the campaign with another quality performance.

“The players who took to the field at the Principality Stadium deserve the opportunity to start, and we were pleased with the impact from the bench, so will be looking for the same this weekend.”

Wales have not lost at the Stade de France since a 28-9 defeat in 2011.

They will face a France side who’ve also won two out of their four Six Nations matches so far this season, following victories over Scotland and Italy.

All Black Milner-Skudder out for six weeks

March 14, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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All Black utility back Nehe Milner-Skudder was told on Tuesday he will be out for at least six weeks with a foot injury, leaving his dream of facing the British and Irish Lions hanging by a thread.

Nehe Milner-Skudder

Milner-Skudder fell awkwardly in a tackle during Wellington Hurricanes’ Super Rugby loss to Waikato Chiefs on Friday and scans showed a break in his right foot.

“It’s disappointing but these things happen in rugby… it was just a freak accident,” he said in a statement.

The Hurricanes said it was a small fracture that required rest, not surgery, but Milner-Skudder would be out for at least six weeks.

The match was only Milner-Skudder’s second outing after a season-long layoff in 2016 due to shoulder surgery. He scored a hat-trick of tries in his comeback against the Melbourne Rebels.

A six-week Super Rugby absence, possibly longer, puts the 26-year-old on the sidelines until late April.

With the Lions arriving in June, that leaves him only half a dozen Super Rugby matches to persuade All Blacks selectors he is fully fit.

Milner-Skudder’s last Test was the 2015 Rugby World Cup final against Australia, when he scored a try to take his tally for the tournament to six.

His chances of facing the Lions may be boosted by the fact that fellow All Black backs Israel Dagg, Waisake Naholo, Seta Tamanivalu and Lima Sopoaga are all nursing injuries after the bruising early Super Rugby rounds.

Live updates: U20 schools rugby tournament – Trinity College vs Zahira College

March 13, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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17:54 – Trinity score again and consolidate their lead. 34-26

17:34 – Trinity regain the lead with a try. 29-26

17:26 – Zahira take the lead against Trinity. 26-24.

16:59 – A third try for Trinity, which is converted. Trinity 19, Zahira 12

16:55 – Zahira score to equalise again. 12-12

16:36 – Zahira equalise with a try of their own. Trinity College 07, Zahira College 07

16:27 – Trinity College take the lead with a converted try. Trinity College 07, Zahira 00

Live updates: Under 20 Schools rugby tournament – St. Anthony’s College Vs Isipathana College; Wesley College Vs S. Thomas’ College

March 12, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Full time: At full time. Wesley College 23. S. Thomas’ College 19.  Isipathana 43, St. Anthony’s 35

17:41 – Wesley College scores an unconverted try to reduce the lead. 18-19.

17:37 – Isipathana 43, St. Anthony’s 30

17:23 – Isipathana 43, St. Anthony’s 20

17:06 – Half time between Isipathana and St. Anthony’s. Isipathana 24, St Anthony’s 13

16:53 – Score remains the same after 15 minutes of play between S. Thomas College and Wesley

16:51 – Isipathana 24
St. Anthony’s 13

16:46 – Wesley puts over a penalty to reduce the margin. 3-5.

16:39 – Isipathana extend their lead again with another unconverted try. Isipathana 17, St. Anthony’s College 05

16:36 – S. Thomas’ College take the lead with an unconverted try. 5-0.

16:33 – Match underway at Longden Place.

16: 21 – St. Anthony’s hit back with an unconverted try. Isipathana 12, St. Anthony’s 05

16:29 – Isipathana extend the lead with a converted try. Isipathana 12, St. Anthony’s 00

16:23 – Isipathana College on the board early on with an uncoverted try

Live updates: Under 20 Schools rugby tournament – St. Peter’s College Vs DS Senanayake College

March 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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North double ends Ireland’s Six Nations hopes

March 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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George North silenced his critics with a brace of tries that saw Wales run out 22-9 winners over Ireland in Cardiff on Friday to end the visitors’ hopes of a tilt at the Six Nations title.

North

The result means England will be crowned Six Nations champions should they beat Scotland on Saturday.

North scored a try in each half and Jamie Roberts a late five-pointer, Leigh Halfpenny kicking two conversions and a penalty. Ireland, who had Jonny Sexton sin-binned, had just three penalties to show for their efforts through the Leinster fly-half (2) and Paddy Jackson.

“We knew we were one performance away from winning a game, they have been down to fine margins every week,” man-of-the-match and scrum-half Rhys Webb told BBC.

“We showed glimpses of what we can do and there is more to come from us. You don’t become a bad team overnight.”

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones added: “We owed that to the Welsh people and to ourselves. We haven’t done ourselves justice in the last two games.”

Irish skipper Rory Best admitted that his team, who bounced back from an opening defeat by Scotland with wins over Italy and France, were “very disappointed”.

“We came here hoping and expecting to win and keep everything alive. Credit to Wales but we are frustrated with the errors we made.”

It was a brutal match, the ferocity of some of the early bone-jarring hits reverberating around a packed, expectant Principality Stadium in full song: Ireland made 81 tackles in the first half alone.

Recent encounters between the Celtic cousins have been closely-fought affairs, and this attritional ding-dong was no different, although the winning margin was Wales’ best since 1983.

Ireland dominated a frantic opening period, monopolising both possession and territory. The pressure eventually paid off after Webb was penalised for a high tackle, Sexton making no mistake with the long-range kick at the posts.

Wales, who opened their Six Nations campaign with victory over Italy before losing to England the Scots, came battering back, but the Irish defence held firm.

Breaks from South African-born flanker CJ Stander and winger Simon Zebo kept Wales pinned back, but the visitors suffered a blow when a groggy Sexton, who caught a Jonathan Davies knee to his head, was replaced by Paddy Jackson in the 19th minute.

No sooner had the replacement come on then Wales sprang from a line-out.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt had predicted before the match that players can bounce back from a poor display with a much-improved one, and so it proved to be for North, heavily criticised in Wales’ capitulation to Scotland.

Webb broke into midfield and found Halfpenny with a long pass, the Toulon full-back fed North who stepped inside Keith Earls and rode Zebo’s tackle for a fine try.

Halfpenny missed the conversion and Jackson restored Ireland’s lead with a penalty.

Wales ended an entertaining half in the ascendancy, however, a Webb chip to the corner gathered by Liam Williams who fed inside only for Davies to be held up.

English referee Wayne Barnes had no choice but to yellow card Sexton for killing the ball on the line, Halfpenny making no mistake with the resulting penalty.

Wales made their numerical supremacy pay immediately into the second period, Halfpenny doing well to follow up a Webb chip and bundle the covering, obviously injured Connor Murray into touch.

Alun Wyn Jones rose to pluck the ball in the resulting line-out, the maul trundled forwards and Webb found North unmarked on his wing for a simple try, his 30th on the international stage. Halfpenny knocking over the extras.

The returned Sexton orchestrated an Irish fightback, Wales withstanding a remarkable 26-phase of attack before Dan Biggar was harshly penalised for a high tackle, Sexton pulling back three points.

Biggar saw a drop-goal go off the post as a raft of replacements came on in what was turning into a war of attrition.

And then Robbie Henshaw arguably cost Ireland a pushover try when he joined a driving maul illegally.

Sexton conjured up a couple of pinpoint cross-kicks that threatened the Welsh line late on, but the home side had the last word when Roberts barrelled over from close quarters, Halfpenny booting the conversion to leave coach Rob Howley and his coaching staff breathing a massive sigh of relief after two weeks of intense scrutiny over their selection policy.

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