Isipathana put an end to Royal reign

By Ranjika Perera

Royal College’s dominance, which earned them a hat-trick of League Titles, was brought to an end as Isipathana College emerged unbeaten in the Dialog School Rugby League Champions 2022 competition, after a thrilling 21-15 win at Havelock Park yesterday (14).
Defending champions Royal College opened the scoring with a converted try from Pasindu Heshan. All the hard work came from the forwards who drew in the defence, and once the ball was sent out wide, Heshan only had to step away from his counterpart to touch down in the corner. Nabil Yahiya added the extras.
The Royalists went on to add three more points through a penalty from Yahiya to extend the lead before the half hour mark. Isipathana College was penalised for playing offside, and Royal College was allowed to keep the ball in the attacking half for longer periods in the first quarter.
However, Isipathana earned back-to-back penalties, and one of them was converted into three points from Rinesh Silva. The biggest turning point of the game took place shortly afterwards when Royal’s Abdullah Yousuf was red carded after a high boot on Rinesh Silva.
It shifted the momentum to the Green Machine, who dominated possession until half time. They were able to keep the ball inside the Royal half and managed to add three more points before going to the break.
Despite the red card, Royal College defended with all their might. However, the only setback for them in the game was their lineouts. Isipathana managed to disrupt Royal College lineouts throughout the game which helped them dictate terms.
First points in the second half came from the boot of Hashen Randimal which cut the deficit only to one point. Moments later, Royal College were down to 13 when Hansaka Higgoda was shown yellow for a high tackle. Isipathana too lost a player in Nisanja Dunith for a late charge, which evened the field.
Randimal had an opportunity to put his team in the lead, but his penalty hit the post. However, they were able to get in the lead in the 58th minute through their first try from Naveen Kanishka. It was a moment of individual brilliance from Kanishka who spotted a gap through the middle, and touched down under the post. Randimal added the extras.
Royal College did not hold back as they responded with a try from their signature rolling maul. Danuja Samanarathne was trying to score, but the conversion from Yahiya missed the target which meant they were still one-point behind with six minutes remaining on the clock.
From the restart, Isipathana landed the killer blow with their second try through Preaveen Stephan. The move started from their own half as they ran the ball down the line and Sonal Sansoni broke through and offloaded to Stephan to touch down.
Full time: Isipathana College 21 – Royal College 15