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SLAF Ruggerrites Fly High in New Zealand

Published on: 2011-03-18 15:24:01
SLAF Ruggerrites Fly High in New Zealand
SLAF Rugby Squad arrived in Sri Lanka after completing a very successful tour in New Zealand from 16 February to 5 March 2011. During a three-week long tour, they have engaged in a number of rugby development sessions along with New Zealand players in the Royal New Zealand Air Force Base,  Auckland and played two matches.

The SLAF had its first encounter with the Royal New Zealand Navy which emerged as the Defence Services Champions last year, at Davenport Naval Base. Having observed a two minutes silence in memory of those who died in the earthquake in Christchurch a day before, the national anthems of the two countries were played. Just before the game started, the traditional HAKA was performed by the NZ Navy players. Even though the SLAF team was at a great disadvantage in terms of height, size and weight, the SLAF players commenced attacking from the very outset and outperformed the fast-running line and much heavier pack of RNZN. To the surprise of many New Zealanders,the SLAF won the game by 07 points-36 to 29. (SLAF: 04 Goals, 01 try and 01 penalty; RNZ Navy: 02 goals and 03 tries). While all SLAF players performed creditably well, the performances of the following

players were outstanding:

Cpl Chanaka Chandimal, (man of the match) AC Milinda Jayasinghe. Tries for SLAF were scored by AC Chanaka Gunaratne, AC Migara Wijeratne, LAC Pubudu Kodagoda, Cpl Chanaka Chandimal and AC Mithun Hapugodage. LAC Charith Seneviratne converted 04 tries and a penalty.

The SLAF played the second game with the Royal New Zealand Air Force team at RNAF Whenuapai Air Base, which the SLAF lost by a mere 2 points. The score stood at 18-16  in favour of the RNZ Air Force. SLAF 16—02 tries, 02 penalties; RNAF 18—01 goal, 01 try, 01 penalty and 01 drop goal). For the SLAF, LAC Suranga Arunashantha and AC Jayantha Ranaweera scored a try each and, LAC Charith Seneviratne put over two penalties.

The SLAF players also had the rare opportunity of witnessing the game between “Crusaders” and “Blues” in the Eden Park, and to interact with a number of All Blacks players. They were also fortunate to meet Gordon Tietjens (New Zealand’s 7s coach) and Buck Shelford (All Blacks Captain from 1987 to 1990).

The SLAF team was accompanied by Air Cdre Vijitha Gunaratne (Chairman SLAF Rugby) Mr. Imthisham Marikkar (Coach), Flt Lt Dinesh Weeraratne (Imprest Holder) Sgt Dhammika Madagedara (Manger), F/Sgt Kapila Munasinghe (Physio)and Cpl Irshad Cadre.

The achievements of the SLAF Rugby team can be summarized by the comments  made by Buck Shelford (All Blacks captain from 1987 to 1990 who holds the record of being unbeaten during the entire period of his captaincy)who was present to witness the match between the SLAF and RNZA. Speaking to SLAF players after the match, Buck said “No visiting team easily wins a game in New Zealand, service or otherwise; so you can be very proud of your victory against RNZ Navy and your performance with the RNZ Air Force. I saw some very slick passing and running lines, just a shade unlucky not to finish off tries; well done boys!” .




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