Survival Of The Fittest-68th Bradby Shield First Leg Preview

John Lennon wrote ‘I Am The Walrus’ as a mock tribute to the public who tried to discover meanings of his other works of art. It has a simple message. Trying to over-analyse things is akin to neglecting the heart of the matter. This evidence is ever-prevalent when it comes to the Bradby Shield.
When Royal College hosts their traditional rivals Trinity College at Royal Complex, Colombo today, the previous conduct will have small weight. Both teams are equally good and whoever lasts the distance with the least scars could prove to be the victors. The league title hinges considerably in the outcome of this match with both sides at loggerheads about the title after a long time. Royal can clinch their third league title in four years with a victory and a defeat to St.Peter’s while Trinity could lay claim to the prize that has eluded them for sometime if they win both remaining matches. The league would be the last name in the minds knowing the importance of Bradby, the players would volunteer for a short term memory loss.
Both sides are in supreme form as Royal are continuing their merry ways in the league having reached the 20th mile post against St.Peter’s and Trinity having just one reversal against the adversaries of Royal last week. This chain of 20 wins doesn’t include the torment of the last year’s second leg though where Murad Ramzeen’s side forged a remarkable fight back to regain the shield thus lengthening the series lead to 36-30.
This year Trinity is led by the center Kaneel Seneviratne while the additional cushion in leadership is provided by the other center Thisila Karunathilake who is also the place-kicker having an articulate radar. Their forwards consist of Dhuli Samarakoon, Anuradha Karunathilake and Mohammed Insaf who have been regular starters while powerful Randhika Alwis along with Tushan Dharmasena are the locks. Ryle Madena controls the set-pieces at No8 and Umesh Samarasekara and Mohammed Singhalakshana does the flanker duites. Wingers Dharshana Udalagama and Lochana Girihagama have had a direct impact in the rich vein of form Trinity is in and Haliq Wadood mans the last line of defence.
Coach Nilfer Ibrahim is thriving on the prospect of being the postman in delivering the goods. He’s looking to retain and add one more to the already impressive niche he has drawn at Trinity. He says “I think we have a great chance of winning not only the Bradby but the league as well. We just had one bad game against St.Peter’s and on that day their place-kicker was in top form. We may not have heavy forwards like Royal do but our lads have been on the button this season. Last year we won the President’s trophy as well so we are on the right path.”
And he reckons the rather unspoiled fact of their halves-pair-Sanjaya Somasiri and Tharinda Ratwatte-‘s performance on the day could be vital to their chances. “We have a set game plan and especially if the scrum half and flyhalf has a good game, no one can stop us.”
Royal on the other hand is celebrated in their forwards play which was in free exhibition last week. Two props Eroshan De Alwis and Lahiru Pavithra, Second-rowers Wasim Bawa and Yasoon Weerasooriya, two flankers Andrew Siriwardena and Sachin Vihanga all had a game to remember and hooker Shuayb Muthalip’s throws were accurate. Madusha Kularatne will wear the No8 jersey while captain Arshad Jamaldeen resumes the friendship with Ravishan Dassanayake who is on the middle of a consistent season.
“I am very confident that if all fifteen of our players play to their potential the result will be in our favour. The challenge is to maintain the standards.” says Royal coach Bilal Yusuf. There are doubts whether the tactics they adopted against St.Peter’s would have the desired results this week but Yusuf acknowledges the importance of trusting what has worked.
“It’s a matter of focussing on our strengths, rather than over analyse the opposition. What’s good for us, if that’s what works for us we’ll continue to do that. We’ll change our strategies if there’s a need but if the formula is working i don’t see a reason to alter it.”
Trinity has the edge in the three-quarter duties compared to the Royal but Yusuf reiterates that the wingers Ijaaz Bohoran and Nimshan Jayawardena and centers Rimze Jamaldeen and Damien Ratwatte have all stepped up when the push have come to the shove.
“Three-quarters have penetrated a lot this season. It’s more of a luxury than a disadvantage that we look for equal contributions from both sets. Some teams who have nippy three-quarters don’t have a proper forward line so are forced to run the line. Probably that’s where this misconception comes into play. Even if you take the try count, there’s justification of it. So we are not worried about that.”
Whoever jumps in joy at the final sound of day of referee Irshad Carder would know they had only won half of the battle.

Royal Squad: Arshad Jamaldeen (Captain), Eroshan De Alwis, Lahiru Pavithra, Shuayb Muthalip, Wasim Bawa, Yasoon Weerasooriya, Andrew Siriwardena, Sachin Vihanga, Madusha Kularatne, Ravishan Dassanayake, Rimze Jamaldeen, Damian Ratwatte, Ijaaz Bohoran, Nimshan Jayawardena, Banuka Gamage.
Reserves-Kaveen Perera, Malaka Ihalagedara, Dineth Karunaratne, Pasindu Perera, Shuaib Jabbar, Nevaan Perera, Sachin Unamboowe, Devin De Silva, Udesh Udawatte, Shahid Bahudeen.

Trinity Squad: Kanil Seneviratne (Captain), Thisila Karunathilake (Vice Captain), Dhuli Samarakoon, Anuradha Karunathilake, Mohammed Insaf, Thushan Dharmasena, Randhika Alwis, Umesh Samarasekara, Mohamed Singhalakshana, Ryle Madena, Sanjaya Somasiri, Tharinda Ratwatte, Dharshana Udalagama, Lochana Girihagama, Haliq Wadood.
Reserves-S. Krishanth, Sankha Ethulgama, Madura Hettiarachchi, Isuru Rangala, Mohamed Rasheed, Kanishka Yatawara, Dureka Aluwihare and Namitha Pethiyagoda, Sanchana Shiek.


Former Associates At Opposite Ends Of Bradby

The year was 2009. Sri Lanka junior national side was to tour Hong Kong for the junior rugby Asiad and with two months to go for the tournament, which was to be held in September, it was without a coach as Theo Serafim resigned. Kingswood College coach and then Navy SC player Nilfer Ibrahim was offered the job and to mingle with him, Royal College assistant coach Bilal Yusuf was choosen.

The team led by Isipathana College’s Niroshan Fernando went on create waves in the Asian region thumping Singapore and reached the zenith of their powers when they beat Korea in the third place play off for the first time in Sri Lanka’s history. Now Ibrahim and Yusuf who are recognized as young coaches with tactical acumen find themselves in the opposite corners of the Bradby rivals.

“I enjoyed coaching with Nilfer. He’s a very good coach. Actually we worked quite well during that three weeks and we beat Korea. Both of us gelled together well during that tour.” remembers Yusuf. Yusuf who holds the dual role of head coach and trainer at Royal is IRB level two certified and has a Strength and conditioning degree from Acceleration Australia.

Ibrahim who is taking Trinity to places after joining the setup in 2011 having won the Bradby and the President’s trophy already says coaching was in his blood. “I joined the Dharmaraja side in 2007 which was in the B division and we became champions and were sevens plate champions. Then my school Kingswood wanted me at the helm and under me they became the 2008 league champions, 2009 Sevens champions and league runner up in 2010.”

Unlike Nilfer, Yusuf’s transition to coaching was by accident when after leaving school he was invited to fill a void in the under-12 side in 2003. Incidentally that side’s captain was a young boy called Arshad Jamaldeen. “The first team i took over was the under-12 which was captained by Jamaldeen. So i have known these guys from the word go.”

Yusuf ascended to the under-16 side in 2004-2006 and to the under-18s from 2007-2008 and had the lucky charm of being the assistant to Serafim’s unbeaten side in 2009. He coached CR&FC and St.Joseph’s the following years and now has come back to his school. He says it is the ultimate job he could have dreamed of. “In my book, the highest i can get to in Sri Lanka is coaching Royal College. The passion for Rugby in schools is amazing compared to clubs. Personally i haven’t set any big targets, Royal is as highest as it can get.”

Johan Taylor, Laga are some well-known figures Ibrahim has worked with and to be the sevens coach of Sri Lanka is one of main priorities. “Its a cut and chop job but i want stay there for some time. Build a team for the future and take Sri Lanka to the top ten in the world.”

Ibrahim maintains they (him and Yusuf) still have a good friendship since the Asiad days and wishing each other before matches has been a common practice. It’s unlikely they’ll be wishing one another before the Bradby though.

Outstanding Royal Terminate Petes’s Spell Of Dominance With Gusto

It was slow motion for Royal and fast forward for St.Peter’s. Naturally slow motion was more stretchable. As hard as it was to watch and cogitate, the pre-match build up never disappointed.

One had to come to grief in their expedition to stay unbeaten and defending champions Royal College again portrayed their ability to step up to the plate when the stakes are high to paralyse a deadly on the counterattack St.Peter’s College outfit 25-21 to climb to the top of the league at Royal Complex, Colombo yesterday.

This wasn’t recommended for heart patients and let alone them even normal witnesses of one of the best school rugby classics in recent times found it hard to run the clock with constant visits to the watches a lasting feature as the score remained undisturbed since the 51 minute at 25-21.

It was the movie flick everybody expected with Royal relying on their familiar mauls and possession based grinding to great effect while Petes on the loose meant scoring was a principle of certainty. But Royal made sure the times which Peterites held the ball was minimal at best and it had a massive bearing on who’s letters were screamed at the end by the supporters.

Royal started the match which had an asterisk on everyone’s agenda by giving an early sign as to what was their menu of the day. Lahiru Pavithra rammed hard at Petes defence to shake it and Wasim Bawa put the finishing touches to land the lead. Rimze Jamaldeen fluffed the conversion but Royal continued to press forward with venom.

Then 8 minutes later referee Dilroy Fernando caught a peterite offside and Jamaldeen eased a 30 metre penalty to lengthen the lead to 8-0. Ravishan Dassanayake showed up and unders was his tactic of the day and it seemed to have rattled the petes who were flimsy on the high ball at times. Suddenly the tide changed dramatically as St.Peter’s found space to work with and the fast legs were of a different class.

Dilanka Perera’s swift pass to Dulaj Perera worked like a charm. With the form he’s in, Perera missing a kick at the uprights is an alien concept and St.Peter’s were back in it at 8-7. Then Royal worked overtime at the Pete’s line again and while the unrelenting visitors held on for nearly 20 phases the pass to that set Damien Ratwatte on the free at left was always going to increase the scores. Jamaldeen aimed right this time to let Royal infront 15-7 but within minutes it was back to hugging distance.

Banuka Peiris lost his marker expertly to run towards acres of space to land a scintillating try but Chathuranga Mendis minutes later was shown the yellow card by referee Fernando for repeated infringements on the ruck. From the line out Royal raised ahead as Bawa’s thrust was again too hot handle. Petes made a final attempt to wrestle the lead but a booming clearance from the dead by Ratwatte sent Royal in the lead 20-14 to the half time.

The resume was bit scratchy with both teams hovering around the other with no real collision but with 45 minutes gone a handling error near the line handed the ball to Royal and vice captain Eroshan De Alwis scored to read the scoreboard at 25-14.

The customary hit back from St.Peter’s resumed duties and Dilanka Perera scored a try under the post but that was to be final scoring of the day. From then on both sides contrived to forget bare essentials at inappropriate times and chances went begging. Royal took the way of eating a burger; slow, methodical and knowing too well a fast approach will only yield humiliation from the on lookers. On this instance a raucous packed house.

St.Peter’s made some crucial mistakes when they had windows to break the barrier. The sub plot before the match was the availability of the two captains Arshad Jamaldeen and Dhanushka Ranjan with coaches playing mind games. At the end visibly not 100% percent fit Jamaldeen played the full game and Ranjan never appeared apart from leading his side out.

Jamaldeen presence may had a lift on the Royal side as he is a vital component and they would be all too happy to see their league streak hit 20 when the sun set at Royal Complex.



Pix By Kamal Wanniarachchi

Royal Clear The Air At The Top Before Bradby

Defending champions Royal College by virtue of winning the crunch clash of the two unbeaten sides 25-21 against St.Peter’s College have placed themselves as the undisputed leaders of the Singer Inter-school under-20 Division I-Group A league before the Bradby first leg against Trinity next week.
The irony of it is, Trinity who are placed at third after their 30-24 defeat of Kingswood has a chance to overtake their traditional rivals with a bonus point victory since the first leg is counted for the league. Isipathana who had a calkwalk against St.Anthony’s on Friday remain at fourth and still with a considerable chance of the title for they are yet to play Royal and St.Peter’s.
Science close the gap to Vidyartha to three points with a thrilling 23-22 triumph in their mid table battle and St.Joseph’s again overtake Kingswood to 7th with a comprehensive 55-14 victory over D.S. They are safe from relegation with this outcome and St.Anthony’s look destined to go down.
D.S who are serving the basement still can realistically hope of a turnaround if they were to beat Kingswood.

St.Peter’s And Royal Exchange The Leader’s Hat Again

St. Peter’s College returned to the summit of the Singer Inter-school Under-20 Division-I Group ‘A’ league table after a week absence, owing to the previous torch-bearer, Royal College’s inability to score four tries in their 27-24 defeat of Kingswood College.

Both teams are tied on points but the free-flowing Petes have the advantage in the try count which hands the initiative to them. The toying at the top will be settled in a definitive way next week as these two teams face each other where a clear leader will emerge. Trinity College retain the 3rd position with a resounding 41-0 triumph over St. Joseph’s College and Isipathana College is hot on their heels after comfortably beating Science College 50-17.

Vidyartha College looks very likely to finish 5th and they consolidated the spot with the 32-19 victory over D. S. Senanayake College. A courageous comeback in the second half means Kingswood displace Joes from the 7th place and St. Anthony’s College, who gave Petes a run for their money before losing, pips DS to the 9th position on the ladder.

Calling The Shots-School Rugby Week 5 Review

When Alexander the Great had the measure of the world, he was unstoppable. Not only was he written in history pieces as probably one of the greatest military commanders of all time, but his tactics have their own folklore. His thirst for dominance never waned with time contrary to most facts of life of a conventional mortal and ruler of being one of the largest empires of the world constitutes what a brutal, ruthless and successful commander he was.

The key word here is successful. The merciless means of war brought him success. They may not have been so pronounced like the maverick of the chronicle, but considering the aisle of the top four teams in Group A this year they are vividly step above the rest. The disparity in the two halves of the tables can be apportioned to the lack of seniors, teams in a rebuilding phase, finding feet being not that leisurely or even hitting a bad patch at the wrong time, but what it certainly does is, it creates a simple formula for the title tussle, mid table and the relegation dog fight.

Alexander was so above others that sometimes he took hold of cities without killing a single person. Isipathana’s 111-10 shelling of D.S Senanayake may not have completely dismissed doubts whether this year’s side is championship material or not, but what it did was take them right back into the contention.

With matches against St.Peter’s and Royal still in the wings, it’s a tough call when you include the scan results of the Trinity game at Longden Place and the quality of their decision making in that match left a lot to be desired too but a peep at the table tells it’s still in their own hands. In Hirantha Perera, they possess one of the three form place kickers in the league and some fine tuning of the strings could turn out to be the windfall time when the two crunch fixtures against league leaders come calling.

Alexander was thwarted in India when his own army fell back on his plans but before his conquest of Persia he strolled through the Balkan campaign. Trinity ‘Lions’ was in a pickle after conceding the advantage to St.Peter’s in their own territory after a gripping match but the response has been in line with the reputation.

Isipathana match was an indicator of their ability to adjust where after a poor first half, their mauls and drives were in full flow in the second which subsequently allowed them to edge the match and the sorry state they plunged the bright spark of the season, Vidyartha (62-7) means they are getting their act together.

With Bradby two weeks away, they would be hungry for more prey and with two of the three obstacles out of the way; Trinity has the friendly lane to travel if they put their heart to it. They can’t control their destiny since St.Peter’s are still unbeaten and they have already passed that fixture.

Trinity’s immediate adversaries, St.Joseph’s would like to disagree with it though as they finally kicked into gear with a 41-26 win over Kingswood after weeks of misfortune. Joes skipper Yohan Keyser has been an unsung hero and his performances have hid behind the wiles of Josephian defeats, but four more tries of brute power to his already impressive total finally put to an end the winless streak. As superstitious as it maybe, it was the shift from No8 to his usual position as the prop forward that changed the pattern for them maybe.

This match had the unheard of sequence of play where Keyser executed a drop goal from 35 metres out to stun the crowd and let along 35 metres in a sphere where even 20 metre drop goals are hardly heard of in international rugby union even from a prop, the gathering at Pallekele should be thanking their lucky stars to have witnessed this rare occurrence of brilliance.

St.Anthony’s and D.S look forlorn at the bottom with St.Joseph’s vaulting themselves out of the company but in the absence of Joes, Kingswood has received the invitation to not leave the final two alone. They lie perilously close at 8th and the victory against ‘Eagles’ in the first match of the season could bail them out from the jail. D.S is still to combat Kingswood and that match where the lads of Kandy will be strong favourites could clear lot of fog from the window.

During his early days what Alexander did best was to consolidate power. He eliminated what he thought was his enemies and it paved way for him to venture into other lands with audacity. Royal and St.Peter’s continue to win and did so quite comprehensively too. St.Anthony’s bubble burst in the second half letting the defending champions off the hook to suffer a 38-7 defeat and leaders look efficient without of being outrageous.

They rested players envisaging bigger battles up ahead and they are 18 games unbeaten in the league and the three-quarter line has been working cohesively to drive forward the advantage given by the forwards. They haven’t encountered any of the big guns yet due to being the champions last year and that could spell two things. It lands the advantage of building up for the crunch matches without being heckled and gaining that winning spirit and on the other hand it can be an ambush because the step up in class in the final three games can signal a freefall. How things work out could be interesting see.

The biggest gain Petes would have from their 32-6 win over Science, of course apart from Dulaj Perera’s foot’s graceful punches, is the performance of the forwards identified by critics as their weak link. Putting a spanner to their stroll was not beyond Science which could make for a much more close game but cutting edge was elusive to them.

The quartet’s form means it’s anybody’s game and matches pitting each other will decide the title for one is to be triumphed one has to surrender. After all, Alexander’s death signalled the end of his kingdom and territories.


The Island Link-Calling The Shots

Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi