Pavilion Parade by M V Muhsin
June 10th, 2019 by Admin

When Bradby’s last charges go thundering

A herd of humanity was hurtling down Independence Drive the main street of Lusaka. They were yelling in unison ‘Kavolala, Kavolala’ –“Thief, Thief” in the local dialect. Running ahead at thunderbolt speed to save his life was the subject of the attack.  It was the Bradby weekend in 1979, forty years ago. As  Bradby fever transcends global boundaries, we were in Zambia, doing our Saturday shopping but anxious to hear news on SLBC of the outcome of the game in Colombo.

We were about to witness ‘Instant Justice’ being administered in the streets of Lusaka.

And then the one- man rescue squad next to me darted forward with a rasping primal ‘Haka, Haka’ cry.  He dealt a bone crunching tackle and synchronized it by dragging the Kavolala into the shop nearby. The mob was stunned.  Frozen in their tracks.   Invectives were yelled at the rescuer for being a spoil sport. The shopkeeper closed the door with the rescuer,  me and the Kavolala pulled inside. A merciless beating, perhaps a killing, was averted!

So, I asked ‘Boga’ Harinda   Gunasekera, the rescuer in the story, what made him jump into the fray. With the Bradby at the back of his mind, he says,  showing off his boxer torso, “I tackled Maiya Gunasekera at the ’69 Bradby, and this was a piece of cake!”

As it turned out in later years, Maiya and Boga honoured the class of ’69 by playing for Sri Lanka.

This week as the teams of the Class of ’69 celebrate their 50th reunion, the Bradby Canvass in my mind’s eye is illustrated with such memories, and those related to the 75th Anniversary celebration of the Bradby series. It’s an emotional time for Bradby aficionados.

In the year before -1968- the ‘Bulla Team’ had bullied Trinity to a 19/0 thrashing and a 5/3 win in the return. Smarting over this loss it was Shafi Jainudeen’s Trinity team’s challenge   to avenge defeat. This the Trinity Captain accomplished with an 8/0 and a 9/3 win. It was a major upset against the odds.  As one scribe described it: ‘when the Trinity bus makes its way back to the Kandyan Hills, it will surely run on champagne’!

Yet, score lines are really a misnomer in Bradby Shield games. Both Royal and Trinity over the past 75 years have upheld and handed on some of the best traditions of the game exhibiting a repertoire of the finest qualities, on and off the field. They play for the love of winning and not for the fear of losing. And even when they do lose, they take it in a spirt that was best described by the late, and much loved, Bishop Rev. Lakshman Wickremasinghe :  Rugger, he wrote,  is and always will be to me the ‘Queen of Games” A good match is the thing of beauty, a satisfying aesthetic experience , and exhibition of skills, vitality and controlled power which fine specimens of manhood can display.

Bishop Lak continued: My old school is Royal, and nothing can break the ties that bind me to my alma mater. But Trinity for many reasons has been my ‘adopted school’ with which I have intimate ties. I must admit Trinitians, especially when they dominate play, have a quality which is uniquely their own. So much so, that when I watch the annual match, like St Paul, ‘I am torn two ways’ unable to decide which side I would like to see win the match.”

While partisanship is inevitable and adds to the colour of the Bradby, the overall yearning of the throngs of fans is to see rugby played at its best.

1969 was no exception. A relatively inexperienced Trinity side under the  Shafi Jainudeen was molded by Denzil Kobbekaduwe to win and regain the Bradby. Denzil was always strategic.  He prepared his team by reading the minds of the Royal’s  treble -barreled coaching outfit in Geoff Weinman, anchor Lakshman Kaluaaratchi and MT Thambapillai.  

Royal went out as favorites. But both teams dished out block- buster fare.  It stood to the credit of the Trinitians to have withstood

tremendous pressure and win both encounters.

Standing out in bold relief on my  ’69 canvass are many memories:

 Of Royal’s  versatile  Jagath Fernando,  their chief play maker, being  closely marked by Trinity’s own trump card in gutty  Sam Samarasekara; of how Royal’s scrum half Beverly Janz hounded  his counterpart the ubiquitous Tikiri Marambe resulting in   passes to Trinity’s darting gazelle of a fly half  Irwin Howie being put at odds with the expected sweeping movements of the Trinity line that included Fredrick  Prins, Nihal Marambe, and Cuda Wadugodapitiya; of how the stylish Harin Malwatte, the Royal Fly-half and captain, along with his insides were schooled to try beat  Trinity at their own art  in open play; of how Royal’s forwards Maiya Gunesekera and Fred Perera dominated the line-outs but  were matched by  capable Trinity counterparts in Anura Madawela , YS Ping , Mohan Samarakoon and Rohan  Tennekoon; of how the respective hookers  in  Dushy Perera  and Boga  Gunasekera engaged in Houdini type exploits to gain access in the scrums; of how  Ralph Roberts and Ranjith Panabokke ably commandeered by Izwan Omar  formed a stunning   Trinity back row ; and of how Izwan was at his best in cover-defence while architecting,  with tactical finesse, several good moves.

The canvass of memories further shows the Royal line  in motion in the Trinity’s ‘ 25 and a crafty Harin Malwatte dummy selling   two defenders, sending a pass over to  Senaka Abeyaratne who sent  Dilanjan  de  Soysa sprinting over for an unconverted try; of how  both Royal’s  wing-threes  in Dimitri Gunasekera and  Prasanna Kannangara  tactically backing the move to guarantee a precious try; of how this move gave  Soysa the distinction of being the first player to cross the unbeaten Trinity line that season.

And the canvass shows in bold relief Shafi Jainudeen the exemplary leader firing  across two penalties—the first a beauty from thirty yards out and mid right; and the second from 15 yards out of the posts; and of   a peach of a move – the piece de resistance—with   Trinity winning  the ball in midfield,  Irvin Howie ‘s well timed pass to Sam Samarasekera who,  with a sizzling run,  hotly pursued by Royal defenders,   dives over near the corner flag for an unconverted try.  `

 Both teams had solid bench strength that gave coaches the tactical flexibility to substitute with such payers for Royal as SDR Arulpragasam, RCA Ponnaswamy and T Lazarus ; and for Trinity in Romesh  Nugawela.

The Trinity win against the odds was characterized by Royal’s MT Thambapillai, an old Trinitian himself,  who  wrote : Trinity wielded on me both as a scholar and a sportsman a great influence, and you can count on them to live up to the lines of the school song ‘ When the last charge goes thundering towards the twilight goal’ to do the unexpected.

Over the years, especially in recent times, Royal’s rugby has taken a remarkable with a stunning forwards display in mauls and scrums, equaling the ‘open play’ that Trinity three-quarters captured the hearts of all fans. This is a happy augury for higher standards in school rugby. 

 As I leave the ’69 canvass to posterity one sees dedicated coaches and teachers of the caliber of Denzil and Thambapillai. And in a tribute to Coach Denzil, his Captain Shafi recalled to me,  a few weeks before Shafi’s  untimely passing,  how Denzil taught him the elements of leadership on how to work the players, to coordinate and play together, to display commitment and to win, but more importantly to abide by the rules of the game and uphold the spirit of rugby.

Thankfully the Bradby tradition over the past 75 years is still upheld by Trinity and Royal with the finest quality and spirit of rugby in the country.

Author M V Muhsin