Hell-hole at Havelock Park | Sunday Observer

Hell-hole at Havelock Park

Old boys of Isipathana College attempt to control a boisterous set of supporters who hurled  objects onto the field
Old boys of Isipathana College attempt to control a boisterous set of supporters who hurled objects onto the field

Violence-prone supporters of Isipathana College caused the first major after-match row at the new high profile inter-school rugby season that culminated in an assault on assistant referee Ajith Kumara and forced the match referee Praneeth Veheranga to be given a security escort while a triumphant St. Peter’s College team ran for cover in the face of a crowd invasion at Havelock Park last evening.

The Peterites won the high-intensity match 20-14 amid a spectator-packed venue but even a downpour at the conclusion of the game could not deter rowdy scenes as Ajith Kumara was assaulted.

The chaos in the unprotected venue which has a notorious and feared reputation for violence and referee abuse could have reached a higher level of madness if not for a band of Isipathana old boys led by former Air Force player Sanjaya Fernando who stepped in to control an attack on a group of Peterite fans who restrained themselves from counter attacking.

Isipathana player Kusal Ratnaweera is held back by a Peterite defender
(Picture by Saman Mendis)

Fernando identified one of the attackers and forced him out of the venue preventing the incident from snow-balling.

But none could have prevented assistant referee Ajith Kumara from the crowd rage. He was guided into the safety of the referees’ changing room amid the fracas.

“We referees don’t come here to be struck by anyone. I was hit by an Isipathana supporter from the rear. He was a coward, but I gave him what he deserved”, Kumara, a soldier in the army, told the Sunday Observer.

Kumara, an award-winning referee like Veheranga, said that despite a request made by the Referees Society for police security not a single uniformed cop was present at the venue.

According to tournament requirements it was the responsibility of the host team, in this case Isipathana, to provide protection at the venue.

The first half was also disrupted for nearly ten minutes when supporters of Isipathana threw a water bottle onto the ground after a Peterite player was at the receiving end of an illegal spear-tackle for which his team received a penalty.

Nevertheless in spite of the pressure-cooker situation, players from both teams endeavoured to express sportsmanship and on one occasion the acting captain of St. Peter’s College Marc Assauw patted an Isipathana player on his back who recovered from a heavy tackle in the second half.

The Peterites were not at their best but even a performance below expectations was enough to subdue a spirited Isipathana outfit that perhaps played better than they did in their last three games.

Where Isipathana lost was in their inability to continuously hold back a robust set of Peterite forwards who used their weight to good advantage to score two tries through Julian Charles.

But the Peterites leading 15-14 sealed the match just three minutes before the end when their plucky scrum-half Jason Karunaratne charged down a cross-kick, hacked the ball, collected and crashed over the line to score making the scores 20-14 much to the jubilation of the Peterite supporters.