Trinity, led by burly No 8 forward and Rugby Lion Ravi Balasuriya, took on Lock Forward Seyed Hashim’s Royalists in 1977, acutely conscious of its loss of the Bradby Shield in the two previous years, and more so, by the series record the previous year 1976 – /0-36 at Longden Place and 6-25.
The only scoring that Trinity did which was in the second leg at Bogambara was, when Centre Kemal Deen passed the ball inside the Trinity 25 yard line to winger Janaka Weerasinghe (also Cricket Captain that year) who wind sprinted over 70 metres taking the Royal defence by storm to dive over the left corner flag for No. 8 Ravi Balasuriya to convert.
So, with that in mind, Trinitians under Ravi Balasuriya took on Seyyed Hashim’s Royalists at Bogambara on July 2, 1977. Trinity to that day, was unbeaten giving won all five matches The scorecard of Balasuriya’s team till that game, thus read: Beat Thurstan 28-3; Wesley 35-3; beat Ananda -58-0; and beat Dharmarajah- 12-0. Royal had won four games till then, tied one and lost one. However, Royal, were firm favourites to win the game, with the Bradby in their bag and with the series record win, only the previous year under Hooker Manik Weerakumar’s all conquering XV which not only beat Trinity by the then series record, but also had the series record against Isipathana- 40-3, with a try at four points then. Trinity, though having performed well, were clearly the underdogs.
Trinity having won the toss, took the market end entrance of the Bogambara Stadium in the first half. Trinity dominated play in the first twenty minutes with fast open rugby and all play was within the Royal 25. Royal won a line out and the Trinity threes who exploited weak Royal Fullback Wimal Epararachchi ( later CR and FC) tackled him under full pressure, who just managed to clear the ball with a very feeble kick.
Trinity, Centre Kemal Ismail Deen ( Rugby Lionsman, Athletics Coloursman and Central Province first in order of merit for Peradeniya Medicine and now Professor of Surgery) collected the ball knocking down his Royal Counterpart Rohantha Peiris ( 1978 Bradby winning Royal Rugger Captain and now Managing Director of Aitken Spence Cargo) and also his under 17 co- Trinity winger Susantha Ratnayake (now Group Chairman John Keells Holdings PLC) was rewarded when he touched down yards left of the right corner flag near the Hospital end. Skipper Balasuriya made no mistake with the conversion. Trinity 6. Royal 0.
The Trinitians were over confident and they tended to relax with a clear six point lead which enabled Royal to bring play into the Trinity half.
Then, off a maul ten yards away from the Trinity goal line, Fullback Adumai ( fondly Saabu) Shahedeen cleared the ball with his booming kicks to touch and the ball was collected by Royal Fullback Epararachchi who passed onto Flanker and Vice Captain Ajit Gunawardene ( now Deputy Group Chairman of John Keells Holdings PLC) who in the meantime slipped out of the boundary line. Right at that time, there was the shrill of a whistle which later transpired had come from a spectator. All thirty players stopped playing and watched for the reaction of the referee- Colonel C.S. Fernando!! Gunewardene, then passed the ball on to ( the late) scrum half Raba Gunasekera ( 1979 captain) who collected the ball to score under the post at the market end!! That was in the 28th minute of play. Susantha Ratnayake converted. Trinity 6. Royal 6.
With this, half time was whistled which helped Trinity to organise.
Trinity, jolted and confused by this snap try, which was also the first occasion that season that the Trinity goal line was crossed.
In the second half, both sides were even with the possession withTrinity having 60% of the possession of the set scrums but only 30% in the lines out. But it was a game with the forwards with that being the ploy adopted by both sides. Sensing this, Trinity switched to play to its back division, adhering to its famous run and pass game. This ploy paid rich dividends and
When the Trinity threes were in motion, they were a constant threat to Royal. Then Trinity got a penalty in the 45 yards out of the Royal goal line and many wondered by skipper Balasuriya did not take the kick at goal, which was within reach. Then, off a short tap, scrum half Jan Tissera ( 1979n skipper amd Lion and later Director of the Hyatt chain of hotels, USA) passed the ball to elder brother Andre ( also Cricket Captain and Lion of 1978 and later Director Blue Diamonds) who passed to Kemal Deen and who in turn, passed to Centre Lalin Sourjah, who handed the ball over the Vice Captain Janaka Kiridena (1977 Lion and 1978 Captain and inaugural De Saram Shield winning captain) who bulldozed his way through with the Royal defenders on his back tic score by the corner flag. Balasuriya converted. Trinity 12. Royal 6.
The Royalists attacked then onwards but the Trinity defence held tight
The second leg, at Longden Place on July 16, 1977 was after the match in the interim in which Trinity beat Angelo Wickremaratne’s Peterites – 9-7 at Bambalapitiya;
The only change in the Trinity team was the replacement of the regular Hooker Kenneth Congreve (also 1977 Senior Prefect and Ryde Gold Medalist) with Kinsley Alagaratnam. The Royalists started attacking from the start itself and the game was at a ferocious pace The Trinitians slowed the pace hoping that Royal will crack under pressure. Royal played with their forwards but the Trinitians never panicked. Royal fluffed many penalties Royal dominated play in the entire first half.
In the 11th minute of play, Hooker Kinsley Alagaratnam hooked the ball so fast in a scrum ten yards out of the Trinity goal for scrum half Jan Tissera but Royal scrum half Raba Gunasekera was out on him in a flash to touch down. Hassan failed with the conversion from mid right. Trinity, through rattled by this kept on putting pressure. Half time, Trinity 0 Royal 4.
The second half saw Trinity increasing the speed sensing that the Royalists were tired after the first half. Alagaratnam the replacement Trinity hooker was out hooking Royal’s S.D. Peiris. Trinity forwards were feeding their threes with good ball in most of the second half
In the 47th minute of play, off a second phase move midway in the Royal 25, the ball moved from Trinity Centre Lalin Sourjah (also Athletics Lion) to skipper Balasuriya who drew away Royal Winger Susantha Ratnayake ( who played for Trinity in the 1975 second Bradby!) and gave Trinity flanker Y.C. Wing, a free passage over the line far right. The kicj at goal went stray. Trinity 4. Royal 4.
From then onwards, Trinitians were on that loose ball rucking and mauling with finesse and feeding their backs on almost every occasion. Then in the 58th minute off a move in the Royal 25, the Trinity forwards sent the ball to scrum half Jan Tissera who moved the ball down the line from brother and fly half Andre Tissera to Centre Kemal Deen who passed to Centre Lalin Sourjah who sprinted across drawing his Royal centre and winger as well and passed on to winger Mohan (MH) Bibile to score by the corner flag.
Vice Captain Janaka Kiridena wound up with a superb conversion to beat Seyed Hashim’s Royalists -10-4 at Longden Place to give Trinity the 33rd Bradby Shield, which was after a lapse of three years.
The following Saturday Trinity, Led by Balasuriya, beat Hooker Pat Jacob’s Thomians – 19-3 at Havelock Park, which was the last match of the season that year prior to emplaning for Bangkok in December for the Asian Schools Rugby Championships that year as Schools’ Rugby Champions for 1977. Jacob’s Thomians also participated in that tournament as the schools’ rugby runners up.
Rugby historians always compare the Trinity rugby teams of 1956 captained by David Frank which had a record eleven Sri Lanka jersey and two Sri Lanka captains, CY Ching ( Senior)’s 1974 team which had five Lions and three series records along with Tyrrell Rajapakse’s unbeaten Trinity team of 1987 which had a record 8 Lionsmen. However, due recognition has not been given to the 1977 team in terms of its achievements.
If the 1974 team had five Rugger Lions in Hooker Gamini Balasuriya, Lock Forward Rohan Perera ( also Cricket Captain in 1974 and 1975 and Cricket Lion in 1975), skipper and Centre Chan Ye Ching and co- centre Rohan Sourjah (1975 Captain), then 1977 had here Lions in skipper Ravi Balasuriya, Deputy Skipper Janaka Kiridena and Centre and athletics coloursman Kemal Deen.
If 1974 had basket ball captains in Flanker Niranjan Ranasinghe (1974) and Fly half Sudharman Ranasinghe (1975), then 1977 had Winger Suresh Vethanayagam as the 1978 basketball captain. If 1974 had Flanker Ifamy Rahiman as the Hockey Captain in 1973, then 1977 Fullback Adumai Shahedeen was Hockey Captain in 1976. If 1974 had winger GTA Samaranayake as Athletics Lion in 1973, then 1977 had Centre Lalin Sourjah as Athletics Lion in 1978. If 1974 had Lock Forward and Rugger Lion Rohan Perera as Cricket Captain in 1974 and 1975, then 1977 had Fly Half Andre Tissera as Cricket Captain in 1978 and Lock Forward Ravi Ratnayeke as Cricket Captain in 1980.
If 1974 had scrum half and 1975 Lion Chan Yu Ching ( also 1975 Ryde Gold Medalist) was the Central Province first in order of merit for Peradeniya Engineering, then, 1977 Centre and Lion Kemal Deen was the Central Province first in order of merit for Peradeniya Medicine. Both graduated with first class honours. Chan Yu is Canada’s Mc Master University’s Professor of Mechanical Engineering while Kemal is Kelaniya University Professor of Surgery and a award winning colorectal surgeon. If 1974 had No 8 forward Vishwanath Chandrasekeran as a Doctorate in Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering, then 1977 had Lock Forward Chula Ellepola as Doctorate in Civil Engineering.
If 1974 had the Ching brothers – Chan Ye and Chan Yu and the Ranasinghe brothers NA and SV, then 1977 had the Tissera brothers- Andre and Jan. If 1974 had fly half and 1976 captain S.V. Ranasinghe as the Oberoi Hotel School of Management, New Delhi batch top and Gold Medalist and now Food and Beverage Director of the seven star Conrad Hilton in Brisbane, then 1977 had scrum half and 1979 Captain and Lion Jan Tissera as the main Board Director of the Hyatt chain of hotels in USA, and now President of Travel Click International based in Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.
If the 1974 Trinity rugger team had three Senior Prefects in Hooker and Rugby Lion Gamini Balasuriya (later Colonel and Commander of the Armoured Brigade in the battle for Jaffna in 1996), Flanker Ifamy Rahiman and Centre Three Quarter G.T.A. Samaranayake ( also Athletics Lion after breaking the Public Schools 800 metres record, Hockey Captain and Ryde Gold Medalist of 1974) then 1977 had Senior Prefect and Ryde Gold Medalist in Hooker Kenneth Congreve.
Kenneth went a step further, while proposing the vote of thanks at the College prize day at which former Chief Justice NDM ( Neville) Samarakoon was the Chief Guest. Speaking of the then Chief Justice, he said: “Sir, it is a customary practice for the Chief Guest at the Trinity Prize day, the second Friday in February, to give a day’s holiday, the following Monday as a holiday, but when the Chief Guest is not only a distinguished old boy but the country’s Chief Justice as well, then, your Lordship, we want a fair ruling and a fair judgment! We want two days holidays! The country’s then fourth citizen, nodded his head in vehement agreement and granted it during his acceptance speech! A rare deviation from tradition!
Of Royalists who played against Trinity in 1977, skipper Seyyed Hashim is now a Senior Emirates Pilot and Captain. Royal centre three quarter that year, Susantha Chaminda Ratnayake, now Group Chairman of premier blue chip conglomerate John Keells Holdings PLC , was also the only the sportsman to play both cricket and rugby at both Trinity and Royal. He won his Trinity cricket colours in 1975 under Double Lion Rohan Perera and played the Peterite match and the second Bradby under Rohan Sourjah in 1975. Vice Captain and Flanker Ajit Damon Gunewardene, is now Deputy Group Chairman John Keells Holdings PLC. Ajit captained the Royal Under 17 against Trinity in 1974 and was the Vice Captain in 1977. Ajit has thus, equaled the feat of his mentor and preceding JKH Chairman Ken Balendra, who incidentally was not only Royal’s first Under 17 Rugger Captain in 1957, but also Vice Captain of the first XV to skipper Harendra De Silva in 1960, a fifth year coloursman. Harendra was the Chairman of the family owned business Shermans and Ken was JKH Chairman. Both ended as two of the most distinguished Chairmen of the umbrella private sector lobby group- the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. Interestingly, Susantha, will also follow in the same footsteps when he takes over the Ceylon Chamber as Chairman in August.
Written by Ravi Ladduwahetty
Published 6 years ago