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You don’t often hear about the lock forward scoring four tries, but it happened on Saturday when Sean Wanigasekara did so for Central Washington against Santa Clara University as the Wildcats won 61-5.
It was a crucial game for CWU, as they launch on a strange season without a conference in which to play. CWU is playing an independent DI-A schedule, with a good performance meaning they get to play against a team from the California Conference in order to move on.
The problem for CWU is, they aren’t sure how good a record they need, so they are shooting for undefeated. This game was their first DI-A game.
For Wanigasekara it has been a strange season so far, too. Last year’s captain, he acknowledges he was a bit weighed down by the position, and perhaps didn’t let his own game run free as a result.
“Last year was a lot of pressure,” said Wanigasekara, 24, who has been playing the game since he was five years old. “Maybe this year, seeing as I am not captain, I am just not worrying about it the same way. I still make the lineout calls, but not having full responsibility of 14 other guys is different.”
CWU Coach Tony Pacheco said he is seeing a more confident Wanigasekara also.
“I feel he put too much pressure on himself and tried to do too much last year,” said Pacheco. “This year he is focusing on what he does well and showing good form.”
The early stages of Saturday’s match with Santa Clara were tough and physical, but the Wildcats were up to the challenge. Wanigasekara scored twice on pick-and-jams, busting through the defense around the fringe of the ruck.
But then things started to open up as the fitter Central Washington team got to run.
“It was nice after practicing on a basketball court indoors this winter to get out and stretch our legs in 65-degeree weather,” said the Economics and Public Relations double major. “We have started clicking as a team. I like how the forwards have an open-play mentality. Even though I got four tries it was a team effort. As forwards, all eight of us play as loose forwards, and the only reason that can happen is that our backs are equally good at rucking. We can spread out and we don’t need the tight five doing all the powerhouse rucks. Everyone can hold his own in contact.”
As a result on his third try Wanigasekara was in the backline, saw the defense drifting out, cut his support line back inside and took a nice scissor pass that set him free for a 40-meter ramble to the tryline just as he was tackled.
On his fourth, he was at the end of the backline, took the corner, and scored.
“I guess I scored it like a wing because I hit the corner flag,” he joked.
It was a nice way to cap off a good day, and likely a good senior year for one of Central Washington’s smartest and most important players.
Sean Wanigasekara is our Rhino Rugby Player of the Week.