CR & FC were pushed to the brink, however, the hosts managed to hang on by the skin of their teeth, getting back to winning ways defeating a fighting Air Force outfit 36-27 at Longdon Place, to kick off week 6 of the Dialog Rugby League 2018/19.
The home side made 7 changes — Captain Kavindu being the headline name to miss out — to their starting XV while the visitors made 8 changes to their starting XV as both teams were desperate to get back to winning ways following defeats in the previous week.
CR kicked off but it was the visiting underdogs who came out of the blocks the quickest as Gayantha Iddamalgoda slotted over a penalty from in front of the posts, after the hosts were caught napping early on. (CR 00-03 AF)
CR hung in there, deflecting the early onslaught and struck back within the next five minutes of the game. Returning into the starting line-up, former Police and Zahira flanker, Wajid Fawumi was the first to cross the whitewash for the home side. Tarinda Ratwatta added the extras as CR finally showed some fight. (CR 07-03 AF)
That early try spurred on the home team to two further converted tries from Charana Sendanayake and Panduka Angammana.
Charana, making his way back into the starting XV, was found in acres of space as he dived over from close range after bumping off three onrushing Air Force defenders. (CR 14-03 AF)
The hosts struck again from the resulting kickoff, putting a cushion between the two sides. This time, fellow forward Panduka Angammana was the beneficiary — following some sublime build-up play from first-five Ratwatta and eighth-man Gunarathne — as the CR forwards looked too hot to handle for the visitors.
Tarinda soon slotted over from close range, making it 4/4 as the two teams were separated by a 21-point gap. (CR 24-03 AF)
Although CR seemed to be home and dry, the visitors managed to capitalize on the same problems the Reds have been going through throughout this season, as wobbly lineouts and shaky scrums started to creep into the hosts’ performance.
Air Force capitalized this time — unlike in the opening minutes – scoring their first try of the game through lock forward Thilina Bandara. The big man was at hand to crash over from close range, bringing the CR lead down to two converted tries. (CR 24-10 AF)
With the home team seemingly resting on their laurels, the next points came off yet another error from the hosts, this time as Ratwatta failed to find touch from inside his own 22.
Air Force returned the kick and Gayantha Iddamalgoda added the finishing touches, rightly so, punishing the hosts for their mistakes. The fleet-footed five-eighth sold a dummy, bringing on the Razzle-Dazzle and skinning Ratwatta with a right foot step he scored beside the upright to make it a 7-point game at the break.
Half Time: CR & FC 24 (3T 3C 1P) lead Air Force 17 (2T 2C 1P)
Failing to clear their lines came back to bite Air Force this time as Randitha Warnapura was the next to get his name on the scoresheet. Kevin Dixon countered with force, and his counter attack was finished in sublime fashion by Warnapura as CR restored the two-score margin between the two sides. (CR 31-17 AF)
For the first time in the game, both teams went scoreless for a period of more than 15 minutes, as Air Force went hammer and tongs at the CR defence.
The sustained pressure finally helped the visitors breach the home defence as Jero Dhananjaya dived over after being set up by Iddamalgoda.
Charith Senevirathne assumed kicking duties from Iddamalgoda, converting the try and adding another penalty to bring the margin down to 4-points. (CR 31-27 AF)
Air Force continued to attack, CR continues to defend. There was no change in the pattern, neither on the scoreboard.
The continuous attack drained the visitors and CR struck a sucker-punch, this time through Omalka Gunarathne. In the shadows for most of the game, –Captain for the day –Gunarathne found himself at the right place at the right time, crashing over beside the touch-line to seal the game.
Ratwatta failed with the conversion, however, the final whistle blew as CR breathed a sigh of relief as they now move their focus towards Army while Air Force are left to lick their wounds in search of ideas to rescue their season.
Full Time: CR & FC 36 (5T 4C 1) beat Air Force 27 (3T 3C 2P)
CR & FC: Wajid Fawumi 1T, Charana Sendanayake 1T, Panduka Angammana 1T, Randitha Warnapura 1T, Omalke Gunarathne 1T, Tarinda Ratwatta 4C 1P (4/5 Successful kicks)
Air Force: Thilina Bandara 1T, Gayantha Iddamalgoda 1T 2C 1P (3/3 Successful Kicks). Jero Dhananjaya 1T, Charith Senevirathna 1C 1P (2/2 Successful Kicks)