COLOMBO – The reigning champions Isipathana College will face an acid test when they confront S. Thomas’ College in a high-profile Inter-Schools Under-19 ‘A’ Division League Rugby Tournament first-round fixture at Mount Lavinia on Saturday.
Both teams, of course, will take the field brimming with confidence after recording contrasting victories during the opening week of this 14-team tournament, conducted by the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association.
The Thomians survived a fierce late rally from Wesley College before pulling off an exciting 19-13 victory on their home grounds to regain the Sir Oliver Goonetilleke Shield after a lapse of six years while Isipathana went on to register a more convincing bonus-point 32-8 victory over Kingswood College at the Bogambara Stadium in Kandy.
However, this time Isipathana will be under pressure and the Thomians will have the home advantage as the lads from Mount Lavinia will look to record their first win over their opponents after a lapse of 14 years.
In fact, in 2019, S. Thomas’ almost broke that hoodoo with a stunning performance before Manilkar Ruberu fired a last-minute penalty and helped Isipathana to force a thrilling 12-12 draw at Mount Lavinia.
Last year, of course, the two teams were drawn in different groups of the league championship but in the President’s Trophy Knock-Out Tournament semi-finals, Isipathana had the satisfaction of overcoming S. Thomas’ 29-13 at Havelock Park.
No doubt, the Isipathana three quarters will look to run the ball with Skipper Naveen Kanishka, Rinesh Silva and Shaahid Zumri capable of penetrating any defence.
The Thomians will bank on their halves combination of Mahith Perera and Yehan Bulathsinghalage, whose booming kicks to touch could cause some worries to the opposition.