Isipathana College reclaimed the Inter Schools Under 20 Rugby League Championships after beating S. Thomas’ College 28-24 in the final week of the competition — a reiteration of their superiority of the oval ball game at school level.
It was set-up to be an evenly poised game, between two teams that had beaten all opponents along the way separated by one and a half points after the eight preceding games, and so it proved, after the Thomians stormed back from an eight-point deficit at the half only to lose by four points.
Isipathana last won the title in 2014, and had the rub of the green early on, when Thomian star winger Naveen Henakankanamage was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle, reducing his team to 14 players. In the ten-minute period when Henakankanamage was on the bench, Isipathana ran in two tries, and seized the early initiative, leaving the Thomians an uphill task – Vageesha Weerasinghe and Chamod Fernando making the scores. Isipathana had a 17 point lead when Gayan Wickramarathne, who also converted the two previous tries, put over a penalty.
The Thomians got their foot back in the door however, when Isipathana were reduced to 14 themselves, after Sudeera Gayanath was sin-binned, with Sachitha Jayathilake and Dhanuja Wijerathne going over for tries, one of which was converted. Isipathana scored in the final minutes before the half, with a penalty, that gave them the eight-point half-time lead.
Another penalty soon into the second half extended that lead to eleven points, before Isipathana, usually lauded for their attacking prowess, defended resolutely against droves of Thomian attacks, and then broke off a loose ball on the counter-attack, to score their third try, through Weerasinghe.
The Thomains didn’t give up and found themselves in a favourable position when Pathana were reduced to 13 players for the last ten minutes. Ashwath Herath and Henakankanamage both scored for the Thomians, but a game-winning try eluded them, as they fell four points short.
In the plate championship, St. Joseph’s College stormed to a 27-10 win, although game was called off after just over an hour, after an ugly melee between players of both teams.