Rugby Spotlight
Air Force to wing back to rarefied heights

Saumya Silva (Capt)

                                                                        Air Force SC Rugby Squad - 2005

Props- Saumya Silva (Capt), Kosala Ranasinghe. Hooker- Sampath Wickremasinghe., Locks- Pradeep Wickremasinghe, Prasanna Soyza. ,Flankers- Pathum Ediriweera, Suranga Arunashantha., N0 8- Tharaka Chandimal, Scrum Half- Dhammika Medagedera., Fly Half- Sajith Bandara., Centres- Tuan Shabbir, Ruchika Chamika., Wingers- Rohan Fernando, Mohan Thiroshana., Full Back- Krishan Gunerathne.

One of the country’s longest serving rugby clubs is Sri Lanka Air Force SC.

Air Force SC who was among the top teams in various domestic tournaments in the days gone by has come down from their lofty perch in the past decade or so.

They were a real force to be reckoned with in the 1970s and 1980s and also produced an array of quality players for the national side in those eras.

But with the recommencing of the war in the North-East in 1990, they had to opt out of the major SLRFU tournaments.

Since then the Airmen have struggled to make their presence felt when pitted against top sides like defending champions Kandy SC, CR & FC and CH & FC to name a few.

When going through history books, it can be traced that Air Force SC had their finest moment in the rugby field in 1986 when they annexed the Clifford Cup under the leadership of Lakshman Caldera.

Since that heady success, Airmen have continued to answer the call of Sri Lanka rugby by producing a host of well known rugby players like scrum half Tikiri Marambe, number eight Nalin de Silva, flanker Harsha Fernando, lock Lofty Perera, stand-off Tony Wimalasuriya, to mention a few in the 1980s.

Air Force SC took their bow in the inter-club rugby tournament way back in 1972 and was able to make an impact three years later ending runners-up in the ‘A’ Division League under Shanthi Mendis.

They won 12 out of 16 games in the ‘A’ Division League and had entered the final of the Clifford Cup before losing to Army SC in a close game.

Two years later Airmen, led by scrum half Ronald Rodrigo, had again finished runners-up of the league to Havelocks SC, but the momentum gained in those formative years culminated in the epic win over Police SC in the Clifford Cup final of 1986.

In more recent times, one of the best players to emerge from the Air Force team has been the present manager of the national side, Squadron Leader Sanjaya Fernando.

In fact, it was under the

tutelage of Fernando that Air Force SC scored a stunning 27-3 win over Navy SC in the first quarter of the on-going Caltex League tournament at Ratmalana.

It was also under Sanjaya Fernando that the Air Force SC began its rugby revival in 2003 when he led the then Katunayake based club to seven wins out of 14 matches in the Caltex League and became runners-up in the Plate Championship.

In 2004, Air Force SC won the Plate Trophy in the club rugby Sevens and in the ensuing league tournament marked by a dramatic win over Havelocks SC.

In the 2005 season, they started their campaign by winning the Plate Trophy of the Under-24 rugby Sevens under the astute coaching of Sanjaya Fernando, who is taking great pains to mould them into a giant-killing outfit.

Air Force SC rugby squad is led this year by big made tight head prop Saumya Silva, while the loose head prop will be Kosala Ranasinghe.

P Samarahewa and Ruwan Senevirathne will be among the two reserve props.

The first choice hooker will be Sampath Wickremasinghe with Gemunu Indrachapa as his understudy.

Prolific try scorer Pradeep Kurukulasuriya and Prasanna Soyza will be the two lock forwards while Lasantha Bandara will be one of the reserves.

The third row will comprise Pathum Ediriweera and Suranga Arunashantha with Tharaka Chandimal at number eight.

Experienced Dhammika Medagedera and Sajith Bandara will be their halves combination with the latter known for his unerring kicking and fine tactical play.

Ajith Herath will be one of the reserve half back’s while Nalin Sirisena will act as a standby for the number 10 position.

Tuan Shabbir and Ruchika Chamika will be the two regular Air Force SC centres while Rohan Fernando and Mohan Thiroshana will start as left and right wing respectively.

The last line of defence will be manned by Krishan Gunerathne.

The team has been given the backing by Chairman of Air Force SC rugby Air Vice Marshall Channa Gunerathne and Secretary Group Captain Saranath Rambukwella.



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