The way Royal’s Captain Lakshman Kaluaaratchi led his team into Longden Place in 1962 wearing their Gold and Blue striped jerseys with the crowd exploding in cheers, it had all the signs of a Battle Royale. With a purposeful John Wayne cowboy gait and his hand ready for the draw, ‘Gunman Kalu’, as he is affectionately called, was ready for the rugby shoot out.
The Royalists had been warned by coach Mahes Rodrigo that when the Trinitians run into the field in their stunning Red, Yellow and Blue jerseys it will be so psychologically striking that opposing teams are already 5 points down! And Mahes would add: ‘You are the best, the game is in your hands and give it all you can.’
Never mind the Jersey, we shall do it was Kalu’s retort.
And that retort came in classic style. Royal had a really mobile pack and off a ruck there was a quick heel by Manik Jayakumar, 25 yards right of the posts in Trinity territory. Kalu slings a solid pass to fly-half Angus Cronin who collects on the dash, gains yardage in split seconds before the Trinity defense could get organized. Angus is just about to pass to center Ana Wimaladharma, when Ana in a refreshing breath of selflessness shouts ‘Gap, Gap, …Go, Go, you bugger, Go!’. And Angus slices through to score a match winning try. Ana, with his heritage of watch making precision, could have easily taken the pass and scored, but then the spirit of Royal rugby was such that the team’s interests overrode individual opportunism.
That star Royal team comprised: Majid Cader, Manik Jayakumar, Lucky Dissanayake, Rex Perera, S.T. Arulpragasam, Lakshman Hettiaaratchi, Michael Rosemale-Cocq, Keith Paul, U.L. Kaluaaratchi, Angus Cronin, Ana Wimaldharma, NK Fernando, SK Sabaratnam, N de Run and HA Karunasekera. Percy Perera refereed.
The Royal team had most of the season enjoyed the reputation of being unbeaten although they had a surprise when the St. Joseph’s held them to a draw.
Then there was Zahira, led by M.H.M Fasy, to contend with. The Zahirians had earned the sobriquet of ‘Zuicide Squad’ for their ability to give more than a good fight. The Zahirians lived up to that reputation when ‘Tanker’ Ibrahim Hamid, off a short tap from 25 yards out, crashed through the Royal defense to score and clinch a hard fought victory in a bruising match. Trinity too suffered defeat at the hands of Zahira when ex Trinitian M. Haris playing for Zahira scored the winning try. Thereafter, the outcome of the Bradby encounters in 1962 was wide open.
Upsets not unusual
Bradby encounters cannot be taken for granted. Each encounter is played on its own merits. Upsets are not unusual as a mystique surrounds the contest for the Shield.
And true to form, the return game at Bogambara 50 years ago had all the characteristics of that very mystique as Referee Miles Christofelsz blew the whistle for kick off. Whether it was the blinding impact of the Trinity Jersey at play or other factors is debatable.
But Noel Brohier’s Trinity team, coached by the charming gentleman Percy Madugalle who would not hurt a fly but would ironically advocate hard and neat tackling, and sweeping open play, was all revved up to avenge the defeat they suffered in the 1st Leg.
There was a plan of action to wrest the initiative from the very first whistle.
For how else can one explain that there were two quick tries scored in the first few minutes of the game. It was simply stunning! One recalls the try by E. T. Abeywardene in the 4th minute by the corner flag off a deep kick into Royal territory by Asoka Kehelpannala where ET collected the ball and stretched full length to touch down. And then in the 15th minute the trade-marked “Sahayam Special” magic where in quicksilver fashion he tricked his way through the Royal defence following a well placed pass by his reliable co-conspirator scrum half M.T.M. Zaruk.
The dash and dazzle displayed by Mohan Sahayam and his signature ‘ Specials’ prompted admirer Olive Goonethileke, wife of Harry Goonethileke, and mother of Malin and Sriyani, to throw in a bunch of red roses from the family to register her delight. She then popped a valium to cool her nerves!
The Trinity revival was undoubtedly engineered by skipper Noel Brohier one of the finest forwards in schools at that time, renowned for having the guts of a burglar and the skill of a diamond cutter. He went on to play for Sri Lanka.
At lemons, with 9 points up (following a penalty converted by Kehelpannala) and a lead that would give them the shield, the Trinitians were brimming with confidence. The Kandy crowd was bursting at the seams of the cordon on the touch lines. And your columnist along with his Prefects was trying hard to hold them back, when one spectator looked at my skinny, non muscular frame and remarked ‘Izay, get some Horlicks!’.
As Vitti the ground boy wheeled in lemons, the irrepressible Trinity Full Back Asoka Kehelpannala in loquacious vernacular says aloud to Vitti, ” Isay Vitti, Principalta Kiyanda Lion Lasthi karanda kiyala”–meaning: ‘Vitti, tell the Principal to prepare for the award on my Lion! .
The Lion is the Trinity insignia for Rugby excellence. As Vitti returns to the touch line he conveys this dutifully to coach Percy Madugalle who passes the presumptuous message from Kehel to Principal Cedric Oorloff and they break out into laughter!
The second half was a really engaging fight back by Royal where play remained most of the time in the Trinity half.
The match which was marred by injury had such casualties as HA Karunasekera and Sabaratnam with his shoulder more out than in. One memorable incident was when Trinity flanker Chulika de Silva got knocked out from a hard tackle.
He was virtually concussed and referee Miles Christofelz was about to rule that he is not fit to play. In those days substitutions were not allowed. The Royal captain walks up to Chulika in gunman style and says ‘get up Chukka, you can play you bugger!’ And Chulika rises to the gentlemanly call by the opposing captain.
Royal came very close to scoring in that half and all they needed was a goal but unfortunately over-enthusiasm got the better of the Royal players as they fumbled their chances.
That Trinity registered this upset win is a tribute to the team that comprised H.J. Fernando, Ronnie Munaweera, George Carson, Noel Brohier, Shelly Carroll, E.T Abeywardene, Nicko de Silva, Chulika de Silva, M.T.M. Zaruk, Mohan Sahayam, Ananda Piyasena, Lucky Karunathilleke, N.T Madugalle, Rodney Geddes and Asoka Kehelpannala.
When the Bradby Shield was presented to Noel Brohier, it was the Royal captain, who was first to down his armory and hug Brohier in a gesture of warm congratulations!
Such was the spirit in which the game was played where Guns and Roses paradoxically blended so well. A lesson for all times.
Article Written by Mohamed Muhsin
Published 328 days ago by Mohamed Muhsin