Pavilion Parade by M V Muhsin
June 3rd, 2012 by Admin

Rugby Carnivals in Washington and New York

RUGBY: When several rugby stars of yesteryear scrummed down in Washington DC for the inter school Rugby 7s last Sunday, it was a carnival atmosphere. Seventeen teams participated in the tournament organized by the Trinity Alumni Association of Washington. Some of the best known players in Sri Lanka Schools’ met at this Tag Rugby event.

It was preceded a fortnight earlier by a Rugby Festival played under floodlights against the stunning backdrop of the New York skyline. This event was organized by the Old Thomians in the New York region. In both events, the flagging talents of seniors were put to the test as well!

That Trinity emerged champions in both tournaments-beating reigning champions Royal (12-5) in the New York matches, and then beating S. Thomas’ in a hard fought final (19-12) in Washington- was impressive but in the overall scheme of things it seemed incidental.

What mattered was the camaraderie among players and the many families that gathered. Food (Kotthu included) and drinks and music, including Papare bands, made the events all the more entertaining.

Magnanimous gift by STC – NYCF

Even more significant was a trend setting and magnanimous gesture by the STC – New York City Foundation to make an education grant of Rs. 150,000 to be used towards sports related initiatives for under-privileged children in the winner’s Alma Mater, thanks to the leadership shown by the STC Trustees which included Mel Gunewardena, Thikshan Arulampalam and SL “Chingo Ching”. The award went to Trinity.

Trinity’s gift

The Trinity Alumni Association led by Rugby Lion Dasarath Kiridena, followed suit with a grant of Rs. 50,000 to be used by the school of the team in the Washington 7’s tournament that gave the ‘best fight’ – and this was won by STC. This new trend of using such sports events to give something back to the schools at home, specially focused on underprivileged children, has been warmly acclaimed. In a couple of weeks the St. Peter’s College Alumni will host a fund raising golf tournament and a fashion show.

St. Paul’s fun filled athletic meet

Not to be outdone the women’s lib movement in the form of the Alumni of St. Paul’s Milagiriya will conduct a fun filled fund raising Athletics Meet, led by Sharmini Azeez, where the young at heart – under cover of non disclosure agreements on ages-will compete, inter alia, in obstacle races and tugs-of-war as well! Male contestants can participate at a fee! The events evoked a flood of memories of ruggerites young and old. But first on a sombre note was the tribute paid to Thomian, Havies and Sri Lanka ruggerite Wasim Thajudeen who died under tragic circumstances in Colombo. Players wore black wrist bands in his memory and a minute’s silence was observed to honour him.

And now for the stars and memories:

Russel Cramer an Old Josephian was the Chief Referee in charge. He has played this role over 11 years since the tournament was begun in Washington. One recalls the time when Russ played as a center for the CR & FC under stand off Mohamed Azain, with Didacus de Almeda as the first center. In an encounter against the Army, Russ scored three tries which he acknowledges were all due to the play making and selfless ability of Didacus!

The 7’s final in Washington had more than a fair share of excitement as the STC side lead by Umanga Abeysekera caught Trinity flat footed as two tries were scored in the first three minutes. But the Trinitians fought back with the dashing trio in Himesh Goonethileke, Cheruka Weerakoon and Michael Wijesooriya (the fastest wing three quarter in Sri Lankan schools in 2001) helping Trinity to overcome the lead that STC had gained.

“Cheruka Weerakoon the dashing Trinty ruggerite was adjudged the Ruggerite of the Rugby 7s”.The match-winning Trinity team was captained by scrum half Kishan Ellepola. Playing alongside him were also Mahen Wickremasiri and Sean Wanigasekera Jr. – all renowned players. The Thomian side was led by Umanga Abeysekera who in his time at club rugby played for the CR & FC. It included Gerhard Munaweera, Ryan Jayatileke, Rushan Abayagunawardena, Asela Gunasekera, Dinuka Ranasinghe, Rajinda Gunasekera and Shariq Baba.

Trinity Masters win

Leading the winning Trinity Masters’ side (over 40’s) was Sumedha Ratwatte and it included Ravi Ponnampalam. In the year that Ravi played as Trinity’s full back in the Bradby he not only stunned the crowd by scoring, in the last minute, a match winning try by the corner flag, but also converting it from 25 meters out! It was great to see Isipathana’s Sudesh Abeysinghe the nimble stand off who also played for the CH& FC and for Sri Lanka for 5 long years. He was a terrific match winner in whatever side he played in: he architected the win against Trinity in 1985 for the Premadasa Trophy; there was that last minute drop goal against Kandy as was the case against the Havelocks as well. In the Isipathana 7’s side was another star Ifthikar Hamid, brother of the fabled ruggerite Sandy Hamid.

A good time for all

Leading the St Peters’ effort was Reshan Cooke who al so played for the CR & FC and for the Sri Lanka U 19 side. The Petereite team included Priyankara Katugampola who captained St. Peter’s in Soccer.

Rivals St Joseph’s was led by Stand-off Udaya Nilame who, in his time, led the Josephian school side in the Rugby 7s. He later played for the Army and served in the forces. The Joes had such well known players as Senaka Samaranayake, Roshantha Gunesekera, Nishan Fernando, Chaka Karalasinghan and scrum half Joshua Lawrence.

The Ananda team was led by Lakshan Wickremasinghe and included Dilan Abdeen who played for Sri Lanka and entered the Ananda XV at the age of 13; and Sanoos Cassim, Sawan Wanigasundera and Udesha Wanigasundera.

Last year’s champs Royal did not fare too well in the tournament, but had a star studded line up: Vinod Malwatte (son of Harin) Captain, and scrum half, Suvinda Lenaduwa (Royal Captain 2008), Naren Dhason (Captain and played in five Bradbys) and Harin Kaluaaratchi, Chintaka Abeysooriya (Captain 1993), Sachit Balage and Saif Fesal who was in the US Touch Rugby team.

Azad Junkeer the famous Zahira, CH (winning 3 championships in a row), and Sri Lanka wing forward was a star attraction given his delightful personality and fabled accomplishments in rugby. He plays for a top US rugby club. In the Zahira 7’s side were two brothers Mohamed and Adil Mowlana who I suspect, given their culinary talents and reputed hospitality, overfed the team at lunch! Such was also the case with my guest at home Thomian ruggerite Niroshan Samarasinghe, who after a Biriyani feed was too slow in chasing his two year old son Amrit when the kid, a budding Thomian wing three quarter, ran into the field when a match was in progress. The International schools banded themselves together and the team included a unique father, son, and son-in-law combination of Razeen and Tariq Mannan and James Webster.

The day ended with a social event where more stories were swapped and bonds strengthened with a pledge to give back more to Sri Lankan schools.