Pavilion Parade by M V Muhsin
June 14th, 2019 by Admin

Rt. Royal-Trinity Bradby Specials –1956-1965

His shoulder was dislocated, elbow smashed, nose broken and his Jaw popped out only to be jutted back again. And yet rugby and the Bradby was his life. That was Mike de Alwis the Trinity Scrum half of the 1956 team, who went on to Captain Sri Lanka. If Mike was a  ‘gutty’ player of the Trinity side, M. Odayar was the ‘celebrity. Wearing a hair net to keep his hair in place, and playing in soccer boots, he was so valiant in the Bradby that he dislocated his collarbone but continued to play; fielded the ball with the injured arm and dealt a ward-off with the other.  When there was a lightening food strike in the boarding dining hall days before the Bradby and all others walked out, Odayar tactically stayed back. And when waiter ‘Bittara’ Banda brought in the boiled eggs, Odayar smartly consumed a dozen or so to derive his energy for the game! There were heavyweights too in the side! Gamini ‘Bull’ Weerasinghe and Jinna Dias Desinghe, playing true to his double-barreled name, heaped “One Tonne” tackles on Royal forwards who out jumped Trinity.

Rugby at that time was fast, brutal, strategic, and colourful, and have I mentioned brutal? Tackling from head to toe was permissible!

If this line up seemed brutal then it was balanced by the finesse of the rest of the 1956 team whose line was not crossed once in school matches; winning the Bradby 15/nil & 11/nil; winning all upcountry games beating Uva, Dimbulla and Kandy; six of the players later played for Sri Lanka and two captained. In the team were also forwards Wilhelm Balthazaar, Rodney Frank, Raji de Sylva, and Frankly Jacob, Halves Feroze de Alwis, and Nimal Maralande; Ken de Joodt, Sena de Sylva, Sene Ettipola Vernon Boteju; besides of course Mike de Alwis, Jinna and Odayar. Leading from the front was David Frank acclaimed as the best captain Trinity has ever had in our generation and coached by the best Coach we’ve ever seen in Bertie Dias who later was National Coach.

The bonds between Trinity and Royal have always been strong and exemplary. In the 50’s both teams would spend time together before the Bradby’s– stay together, eat, relax and travel together to the match…walk together from Trinity to Bogambara; and from Reid Avenue to the Racecourse grounds.

If the teams in the 50’s demonstrated this spirit then even a better example was set in 1965 by the Schools’ enlightened leadership when a Royalist, Cedric Oorloff was the Principal of Trinity while Dudley de Silva was Royal’s head –both leading educationists and disciplinarians. A thoroughbred Royalist, Miles Christoffelsz was Trinity’s Coach; and a Trinitian MT Thambapillai ‘Gentleman of Class’ was Master -in -Charge of Royal Rugger. The Royal coach was the redoubtable Mahes Rodrigo. The referee in the Kandy encounter was Royalist Dr. Larry Foenander and that super Trinity Coach of the famous 1956 side, Bertie Dias, refereed in Colombo. What are the odds of such a cocktail of leaders being presented to rugby fans in these times!

To meet the expectations of these leaders, Athleticism and Adrenaline was often in full display by both teams.

It’s now called the Obolensky try. Named after the “flying Russian Prince”. In 1958 Royal had their own Prince, Lorenz Pereira. He scored one of the best ever tries in what was Bradby’s own Obolensky moment. Trinity, playing at Longden Place started to lose possession and then the Royal threes were heading towards a bunch of Trinity defenders and was eventually brought down. But right-winger Lorensz Pereira scored the try! He saw what was about to happen and in a flash sped right across the field, joined the line as an extra man to snap the loose pass and score. 

The return in Colombo had its own share of shock and awe. Lorensz had two brilliant interceptions and had fashioned a Royal win. In the dying minutes, the Trinity third row led by Rodney Frank began what remains a phenomenally highly skilled dribble covering 75 yards with perfect control at a sweeping speed to score. This brought back memories of the previous year in Kandy when Ken de Joodt’s seventy-five yard run and try electrified the match. 

Denzil Kobbekaduwe was the Trinity Captain in 1959 where his super leadership qualities were evident. As a Captain he had it in him not only to lead and inspire but to coach and mentor.

The early ‘60s had it’s own moments of a special kind of leadership.

The 1960 Trinity team, coached by Phillip ‘Feet Feet’ Buultjens, was captained by the famous all –rounder Eric Roles who, besides him, had three others playing for Sri Lanka in later years: CH Seneviratne, Jayantissa Ratwatte and Noel Brohier. In 1961, Noel Brohier was asked to captain the Trinity team.  But with characteristic humility he says to the Master-in-Charge Hilary Abeyratne “Sir, ‘Bull Dozer’ Jayanatha ‘Jaws’ Jayawardene is senior to me and I can’t match him and I will play under him’!” Such magnanimity was the selfless character of the ruggerites then. With such a code of conduct Trinity regained the Bradby in 1962 and retained it in 1963 under ‘Big Piya’ Piyasena who also was a Sri Lanka Cap.

It was in that year one recalls how Keith Paul left the field with a dislocated knee.  But got back as things were tight. In his own inimitable gutty style he goes in and scores a try!  In the dying minutes, Trinity was awarded a penalty.  Had it gone over, the match would have been drawn and the Bradby shared. But drama—and fate– unfolds.  The ball hits the upright and bounces back into the field, only to be pounced on by that brilliant Trinity winger Justin Labrooy who darts like a gazelle and scores to give Trinity victory!

Bradby’s never get won or lost till the last whistle calls!

The 1964 teams were ‘special ‘in many respects. Trinity came into the match with the reputation of the infallibility of the magic wand that was the ‘Sahayam Special’. Mahes Rodrigo was a good judge and had a sixth sense. He was a master tactician. He says to the team before they run in “ guys, remember Sahayam will score, but Royal will win!

Zaruk slings out a long pass to Sahayam. Aladdin’s lamp is rubbed and then the “magic” unfolds: Sahayam collects the ball, pretends to toss it in the air, then fakes a pass, and appears to recapture it. Time’s winged chariot seems to be at his back as he changes direction and makes a compelling move. He is fast and flashy as he darts with a disarming smile through 35 yards. And then the reality dawns: that the instantly classic signature of the “Sahayam Special” has been delivered. The Nittawela crowd bursts into a deafening victorious roar!

That Roar and merriment was however, short-lived.   Royal’s Lakdasa Dissanayake decides that to counter Trinity he has to count on aerial bombardment!  So he resorts to one of the most dramatic displays, several at that, of drop goal kicking that any school to this day has seen. His three penalties from forty yards out and his conversion from the touch line gave him a personal tally of 11 points in a 14/6 victory. Yes, his best kick was the only one he missed, from fifty yards out, middle right, and only just short. There were gasps and applause and jaw dropping disbelief that such a feat could have been accomplished to give Royal a well-deserved victory.

 Lakdasa was the Rt. Royal Hero of that day and for years to come. God’s will has its own designs. Being the hero he was, Dr. Lakdasa Dissanayake, a dear friend of this writer, lost his life in its prime while attempting to rescue a friend’s son who was drowning at sea.

Miles Christofelsz in 1965 took charge of coaching with refreshing advocacy of ‘open play so intensely committed the run and pass game and rarely to resort to kicking even in defence!  Trinity captain and scrum half MTM Zaruk and Glen Van Langenberg, the glamor boy of Trinity sports, made an art of this. Throughout the season rugby fans marveled at the unique ‘open’ playbook that Trinity played to. They came in throngs to see the Welsh –type of rugby. But at the Bradby, Royalists countered by spreading defense across the field.  And in tightly contested games Royal tactics got the better of Trinity.

The other star performer for Trinity was SamCanagasabai. He had a two pronged strategy as lock forward – thunder and brute force.’ Pack Leader Extraordinary.’  On the last day of school closing at Trinity there is a General Assembly where awards are given. For Trinitians, winning the Rugby Lion –the insignia of excellence –is a treasured accomplishment in life’s journey. The evening before, Vice Principal and disciplinarian GY Sahayam sees Sam in the corridor and the VP calls out to Sam in his nasal accent and says ” Hey Monkey! Make sure you come properly dressed to Assembly!” And at Assembly the roof was brought down when the Lion award was announced!  In our time no one deserved it more than this rugged and much admired ruggerite and leader.

( Published in Behind The Shield –the history, the heroes, the hearts of 75 years 1945-2019)

Author M.V. Muhsin