Unshaken, unbowed, immovable and invincible – these words best describe Kandy SC’s smooth progress over 16 matches to Sunday’s (25) final against the Navy of the Dialog Clifford Cup Knockout Championship at the Racecourse.
It is a tad unthinkable that the League champions will fall at the final hurdle, given that they are on the threshold of repeating last year’s double triumph.
The Gayan Weeraratne led side has had a few close calls.
At times, they have been under the cash, but that strong team-spirit and work ethic have ensured that a defeat will not come to pass.
They have not been free of injuries. Anuruddha Wilwara, one of Sri Lanka’s finest wingers, Roshan Weeraratne, tough as teak No.8 Buvaneka Udangamuwe and versatile Jason Dissanaike (Sri Lanka players all) have missed a good part of the season.
Yet, the club has overcome those set-backs.
The main reason being the quality of their bench.
It appears that Fazil Marija has been persuaded to make one last appearance.
No other player can bring what he has to the table.
In a career that has seen far more highs than lows, Marija can be counted on for one, last mighty effort.
It is Kandy’s famed back division that has set the stage for many of their triumphs.
That resplendent start, Danushka Ranjan, who was not so productive in recent matches, came good and achieved a hat-trick against the CR&FC.
Richard Dharmapala, a strongly-built winger, is difficult to stop. Gayan Weeraratne has loads of experience and is, perhaps, the stabilising factor.
Wilwara’s place is up for grabs.
One presumes that either Lavanga Perera or Vishvamitra Jayasinghe who has done time, will function as the other winger.
Kandy has played a Sevens type of rugby.
Not surprising, as they are full of National Sevens players.
One of Sri Lanka’s best exponents of the Sevens game, Srinath Sooriyabandara has had an extended run.
To say that he has not let the team down would amount to an understatements.
Shehan Pathirana appears to have taken over the leadership of the pack.
He has touched down many a time.
Hit-men such as Dimitri Wijetunga and Heshan Kalhara have filled in to their roles well.
Lock Suhiru Anthony has a high work rate and is a considerable asset, especially in the absence of Udangamuwe.
That leaves Nigel Ratwatte, an effervescent player and one of the most improved lads around.
Navy has the terribly daunting task of coming back from two losses to Kandy in the league.
They can look back on that first game at Nittawela, which they lost 33-19, as one that got away.
The second meeting ended in a more comprehensive loss (41-17).
The champions blitzed them in the first 20 minutes or so and, after that, there was only one winner.
The Navy had a tense two point win over the Havies in a game that fluctuated.
They were sitting pretty at 25-12. But the Havies indulged in a couple of exciting sorties to lead 26-25 with a minute or two to go.
Then came Thilina Weerasinghe, Navy’s ever-reliable fullback to slot over the penalty that mattered.
The Sailors have some superb forwards in Charith Silva, Adeesha Weeratunga and Lahiru Vishvajith.
These together with that indomitable hooker Dulanjana Wijesinghe can give their opponents a very good run.
Flyhalf Mohamed Absal reads the game well and is efficient at distribution.
Centre Mushin Faleel is a nippy player with a lot of thrust.
Taken as a whole, Navy’s back division obviously lacks the glitter and glamour of their counterparts.
However, they have not failed their team.
The jewel in Navy’s crown is that highly acclaimed fullback and place-kicker Thilina Weerasinghe.
He is capable of turning impending defeat into improbable victory by the accuracy of his conversions.
That the Navy has come this far after losing a few key players – Lee Keegal, Sajith Saranga, Satya Ranatunga and Mateesha Sarachchandra – to the CH is a tribute to their mentor, Mothilal Jayatilleka.
As for the result, prediction can make fools of us all.