Air Force SC put up a splendid performance to bounce back midway in the second half and dominated play with a narrow one-point margin until they were penalised for an illegal scrummage, which resulted in conceding a penalty to their opponents.
Centre Thenuka Nanayakkara fired the 30 metre kick to seal a nerve-tingling win after leading 13-6 at the short whistle.
The star-studded CH lads were never allowed to be in the comfort zone by the new-looking Air Force team, which was very nippy in loose play. Moreover, the home team executed immense pressure throughout the game and foiled most of the moves launched by their rivals.
On the other hand, CH made several basic errors, which resulted in them losing several scoring opportunities. Nevertheless, it was a commendable effort by both teams to lock horns and break the shackles after almost 18 months of barren rugby calendar due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The second leg of this encounter will be played in a week at the same venue.
Air Force SC’s Gayantha Iddamalgoda opened the scoring with a penalty in the sixth minute of the first half to lead 3-0.
But CH FC’s Sudam Sooriyarachchi reduced the lead four minutes later through a try which Nanayakkara added the extra points with the conversion to make the scoreline 7-3.
In the 16th minute, Iddamalgoda added three more points to his team through a penalty to reduce the gap to 6-7.
CH increased their lead through two more penalties in the 19th and 25th minutes respectively through Nanayakkara to lead 13-6 at lemons.
After the turnaround, Rohitha Rajapaksa barged over the goal line to plant another try which Nanayakkara converted to make it 20-6 in the 45th minutes of the game.
The pendulum swung the other way around since then, as the home team dominated the rest of the game running riots in the CH defence.
They posted 15 points during this passage of play through tries from Parakkrama Rathnayake and Anjula Hettiarachchi, one of which was converted by Iddamalgoda, who also put over two more penalties.
Nanayakkara placed the final nail in the coffin by converting the penalty to seal victory for CH and FC.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa graced the occasion as Chief Guest along with Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa.