Pavilion Parade by M V Muhsin
May 22nd, 2015 by Admin

The Charm and Character of the Bradby



This is Bradby Week in Colombo. It’s a spiritual moment for all Trinitians and Royalists, and even for many a rugby fan of other affiliations. Many are highly spirited, others are literally spirited highly. Lemon juice or other spiked concoctions gives it the tang and tango that makes rugby spirits spark.

The Bradby has a a unique spirit with a charm and a character that has bonded the Trinity and Royal teams since they first played against each other 93 years ago of which 70 years in Bradby encounters .

Although hard fought with the best in breed of rugby standards there is a special charm and character — friendship and rivalry —as it is on opposite sides of the coin, but it’s one. Toss it any way and yet it reflects the best of tradition.

No wonder then that during Bradby Week, whether in Kandy or in Colombo, every excuse is made for celebration of anniversaries.

This will indeed be the case tonight when the 50th anniversary of the 1965 teams-led by Royal’s Upe Wickremasinghe and Trinity’s MTM Zaruk– is toasted at a celebration hosted by Ken Balendra, a renowned Royal ruggerite himself.

And so it’s a happy occasion when one can venture into the Library of Bradby thought and trivia and turn the pages dating back to fifty years ago and recount memories that still linger.

That was the year 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 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 the Colombo match was refereed by that super Trinity Coach of the famous 1956 side, Bertie Dias. What are the odds of such a cocktail of leaders being presented to rugby fans in these times?!

Miles Christoffelsz, a planter, had just returned from his furlough having spent time with one of the leading clubs, London Welsh. To them’ Open Play’ and free flowing rugby was religion. Miles had surely been sold on this or, more precisely, “Baptised”! With that evangelical spirit his dictum to the Trinity team was “run and pass the ball and let rugby flow” and he may well have added, it’s a sin to kick to touch!

Ah, for people like me and other sports writers who were on the rugby reporting circuit at that time, it was a feast and a temptation to break into poetry.

Throughout the season Trinity exhibited this pristine form of rugby.

Crowds thronged to the touch line to witness this sweeping play, wave after wave of the three-quarters moving the ball down the line, then changing direction, then being joined as needed by the third row in back up. Now here, then there with cascading movements—breathtaking!

As Royal Captain Upe Wickremasinghe now recounts, Trinity was ‘on form’ the side fancied to win. They had a solid set of forwards in Russel Tennekoon, David Ondaatje ,Lesley Jayasekera, Gavin Rode, Ajith Abeyratne, Dhathu Senanayake, Sam Canagasabey, and Iftikar Hamid.

And then of course the backs in the halves combination of MTM Zaruk and Glen Van Langenberg, insides Russel Geddes and Ian Geddes, and Henry Dullewe and Buth Jirasinghe in the wings, and Ana Wadugodapitiya at full back.

A formidable lineup, especially with a halves combination of Zaruk and Van Langenberg whose versatility brought expectations of lighter shades of the Zaruk-Mohan Sahayam stellar reputation of a year before.

Against the odds, the first leg in Kandy was hard fought and ended 6 -all with Royal scoring off two penalties and Trinity with a try and a penalty -under the old points system.

The return game in Colombo two weeks later was billed as a likely Trinity win. A week before Trinity had beaten St. Peters’ who had beaten Royal earlier. So as Royal faced off Trinity in the return the expectation, with the Open Play sensation that the Kandy team had created, was that Trinity will win the Bradby.

But as the team ran into the second-leg before a fuller than capacity crowd at Longden Place, the art and craft of Royal Coach Mahes Rodrigo could not be under-estimated.

Royal clearly had a towering set of forwards and a wily hooker in the scrum.

So the Royal strategy was get possession at all costs and kick to touch to neutralise the’ open play’. And what a terrific job did Royal do to put this strategy into effect. In the tight heads the front row forwards in Upe Wickremasinghe and S Jayawardene bound well with hooker Devakumar who invoked the “hooking genes” of the four ‘Kumar brothers and out hooked his opposite number.

The second rowers in Ali Ratnapala and Lloyd Pereira were there in strength, only to be outdone by the 3rd Row in Brian Baptist and flankers the late Norfel Zanoon, Jeremy Pereira.

The lines out were a “shocker” to the Trinitians when the combination of Ali Ratnapala and Llyod Pereira towered over everyone else and Kalupahana, who stood in for Frank Sirimanne in the 2nd leg, was there with a safe pair of hands to sling the ball to Ronnie Schockman who judiciously kicked to touch…line out again, Royal ball, kick to touch, gain yardage and the Royal threes in Nissanka Wadugodapitiya, Mousey Thurairatnam were there to move with the wind. And then there was ( Late) Nizam Jaimon in the wing and Brain Leiversz -a winged chariot himself- who scored the first try for Royal.

Leading this effort for Royal from within the scrum was Upe Wickremasinghe who locked horns with his opposite number in the scrum Rusty Tennekoon. Rusty in a self-effacing reminiscence says “I did not do much, was just a prop and opposite number to Upendra who was harder than Sigiriya! Year’s later I am still recovering! ”

While all this flash and fanfare was occurring there was one player in the Trinity side who especially stole the thunder— physically and metaphorically.

As team mate Rusty puts it : Sam Canagasabey had a two pronged strategy as lock forward – thunder and brute force.’ Pack Leader Extraordinary’ and boy did he lead!

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 and the trees lining the driveway to the Assembly Hall virtually bowed when Principal Oorloff announced the award of the coveted Lion to Sam. No one in decades deserved it more than this rugged and much admired ruggerite and leader. Generations of ruggerites will attest to his ebullient leadership.

And so , as Badrin Musafer and Sohan Pieris sing oldies this evening those gathered will toast two teams who have upheld the highest traditions of the Bradby and handed down its true spirit that still pulsates in the new generation, as we witnessed in the Ist leg played in Kandy.
M V Muhsin