The Sri Lankans took on the United Arab Emirates in the first game of their Asian five nations campaign ended in a 13 all draw today at the CR&FC in muddy conditions.
Half time score- nil all
Full time score – 13 all
It was a very scrappy game considering the heavy weather conditions underfoot and both teams took a long time to settle in especially during the first half. Both Hookers had a tough challenge in the line outs and in most instances dropped the ball on air.
The UAE team which possessed the larger forward in comparison to the Lankans controlled the scrums but The Lankan front row of Eranga Swarnathileka, Achala Perera and Terrance Henry held the scrum to give quick ball out to their number eight and captain Sean Wijesinghe. The home team Third row was exceptional with skipper Wijesinghe leading the way in defense. He was like a man possessed as he made tackle after tackle along with Danushka Perera and Yoshitha Rajapakse.
The second half began with a much favoured response from the home team as the loose head prop forward Eranga Swarnathilike barged his way in the right corner to draw first blood in the game. The Lankans who looked threatening in loose play scored a try with the assistance of blind side flanker Danushka Perera who drew his man and passed it outside for the burly prop to score. The conversion was missed by Nuwan Hettiarachchi but then he followed it up with a precise penalty right in front of the post to give the home team the lead mid way during the second half. Both teams who adopted a kicking game kicked to the back and made use of the wet conditions.
UAE then hit back immediately with a try and a penalty to level the score 60 minutes in to the game. The visitors used their tight five brilliantly penetrated through the holes near fringes of the rucks. They hit back again to take the lead for the first time in the game through a corner try but failed to make the conversion. The score was 13-8 in favour of the visiting team. Sri Lankan who had a lot of opportunities could not capitalize due to the bad weather and missed two crucial penalties of the boots of winger Nuwan Hettiarachchi and full back Saliya Kumara. With time not on their side the Sri Lankans needed some individual brilliance. And that spark came from winger Nuwan Hettiarachchi who bulldozed his way through the UAE full back Fletcher to score on the far left. Hettiarachchi received a brilliant pass from center Gayan Weeraratne who drew and passed for the winger to sprint nearly 40 meters to score his first try of the tournament. Conversion was missed by Saliya Kumara and the score was leveled at 13 all in the 70th minute.
The next 10 minutes saw both teams going hard at each other especially UAE who used their big forwards to ‘pick and drive’ and the move nearly paid off in the 74th minute but was stopped by a solid Lankan defense.
Just when we thought the game would end in a 13 all came a deciding moment of the game. Nuwan Hettiarachchi who had an outstanding game sliced through the defense and ran a good 40 meters to pass the ball out to Danushka Perera who swung a pass out to replacement wing Lasintha De Costa who put in a dive to go over the try line. The referee then consulting with the touch judge and local official D. Nimal suggested that there was a knock-on and disallowed the try to the dismay of several fans present at the CR&FC. Replays showed that Costa had kept the try and was a decision which went against the home team and could prove vital during the last stages of the tournament.
Saliya Kumara was then presented with a penalty in the dying stages of the game but swung it left of the upright to finish the game in a 13 all draw.
It was a disappointing end to the game but the Lankans put in a lot of effort under extremely hard conditions. They will take on Hong Kong in their next match which will be played on the 7th of May.