Taipei, Chinese Taipei, April 25, 2019 – Sri Lanka Ports Authority Sports Club demolished Australia’s Queensland Pirates in dramatic four-setter in the 5th-8th playoff match of the 2019 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship at the University of Taipei (Tianmu) Gymnasium on Thursday.

With the convincing 25-22 25-17 29-31 25-21 victory, the Sri Lankans now face the winning team between hosts Taichung Bank and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City the following day to battle for the 5th position in this topflight competition.

Lasindu Wasanthapriya chipped in with 24 points for Sri Lanka Ports Authority Sports Club including 23 attacks from 47 attempts, with Janitha Surath making good company to add 22 points including 18 kills from 38 attempts. William Mercer scored a match-high 32 points, but not enough to help Queensland Pirates win.

Both teams started strongly in the first set, with ace spiker Janitha Surath and powerful hitter Lasindu Wasanthapriya, two key players from the Sri Lanka national team, penetrating the Australian defence with their spectacular attacks to take a narrow 14-12 lead. As Jack Holland and Mark Nicolaidis produced solid blocks, allowing Sri Lankans difficulties attacking, Lasindu attacked to the back court, assisted by Janitha with his sharp cross-court spikes, to move ahead with a four-point clear at 24-20. Queensland Pirates saved two set points including a William Mercer’s fierce attack before going down 22-25 in the closely-contested set.

In the second set, the Sri Lankans still took command from the beginning, with Janitha making a storming start for the team with his fine attacks for the team’s commanding 18-13 lead. However, the 199cm-tall William Mercer, the major force of Queensland Pirates, attacked powerfully and Nicolaidis and Holland were defending brilliantly at the net, blocking solidly to narrow the margin 16-19. As Aussies came up with improved tactics, the Sri Lankans tightened their defence and went on exceptional attacks led by Janitha and Lasindu to win the set 25-17.

The third set was more thrilling as Queensland Pirates came out in full strength to lead from start, while the strong rivals gradually pulled their game together. Janitha remained on good form to attack from the mid-court and Lasindu unleashed powerful jump serves to fight neck and neck against the Australians. Leads changed hands for several times, but Queensland Pirates proved steadier to win two points in a row on home stretch for the set win 31-29 in the hotly-contested affair.

Both sides gave it all-out in the fourth set, but the Australians initially gained the upper hand to lead commandingly 19-14. However, they started to drop from their best, allowing the Sri Lankans attacking opportunities. Sri Lanka Ports Authority Sports Club scored eight consecutive points to surge ahead the Aussies with a three-point clear at 22-19. The Sri Lankans allowed Queensland Pirates two more points to capture the set 25-21 and match.

“We are lucky to win the match. I think the Australians’ form is not that stable. Sometimes they played bad and sometimes they played good. Actually, we initially expected to win this match in three sets, but the Australians just came back much strong in the third set. It is likely that we will play hosts Taichung Bank for the 5th place. My team set our initial target of a top eight finish and after that we did it and went on our good form to compete in the 5th-6th playoff match. So, we have to do our best to grab the 5th place in this tournament no matter how tough it will be in the Friday’s match.

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