Police won Clifford Cup in 1972 cliffhanger
Hafiz Marikar in Kandy

Police Sports Club who entered the ‘A’ Division in 1967 under the leadership of S. ‘Siva’ Sivandran a top class hooker, entered the Clifford Cup finals in their very first year of ‘A’ division rugby. In that year they met the strong Havelocks Sports Club and lost the cup by 11 points to 3. They beat Dickoya MCC in the quarter-final and CR & FC in the semi-final.

Their second Cup final was in 1970 under the leadership of Abdul Majeed, which ended in a 6 all draw and the cup was shared. They entered the final by beating the League Champions Dimbulla A & CC in the semifinal.

It was in the year 1972 that the Policemen led by Anton Benedict won the coveted Clifford Cup outright by beating the strong CH & FC led by Y. C. Chang by 12 points to 9.

A kick on the stroke of time fulfilled a lifetime’s dream for Policemen as Nizam Hajireen put over a 25 yard penalty kick at goal to ensure Police SC of the Clifford Cup. In normal circumstances the kick that Hajireen goaled would have been kid stuff but under the prevailing tension, the atmosphere was electric and only successful completion to it would have given police SC the cup. No sooner the ball sailed over referee Malcolm Wright sounded full-time to signal the saga of Police guts and determination.

This cup final was played on the 23rd of September 1972, at Longden Place, in front of a massive crowd of rugby lovers. The game turned out to be exciting with both teams matching each other in every department. The contest was so keen that the outcome was decided on penalties.

The Cops who had featured only in two cup finals in 1967 and 1970, both against Havelock’s Sports Club, took the field with a lot of confidence, and the knowledgeable skipper Anton Benedict who had played in both the Cup finals earlier, knew his players like the palm of his hand. His forwards were Ibrahim Hameed and E. K. R. Wijewardene props with T. Morseth hooker. K. Banda and Kandy product J. Kularathne were the two second row forwards, the third row was made of Kandy’s Daya Jayasundara, Juragen Savangham and skipper Anton Benedict.

Vidyartha College’s Sunil Perera was the scrum half with Nimal Abeysinghe as the outside half, Abdul Majeed played as the first center and the other was S. L. Samaraweera. Bandula Wijesinghe and Kandy’s R. M. Laffir were the wingers, and match winner Nizam Hajireen fullback.

CH & FC who were led by Y. C. Chang had played in two cup finals, one for Havelock’s in 1961 and in 1969 for Kandy Sports Club.

Burly Y. C. Chang and R. Hutchison were the props with Harendra Gunasekera as hooker. M. Nizar and Kumar Bastianpillai were the two second rowers. The third row comprised Brian Baptist and Lanil Tennekoon as flankers and Noel Brohier No. 8.

Upali Vithanage was the scrum half and paired off with Lorensz Pereira, Rodney Patternot and Horace Perera, Michael Hauck, Hamish Patternot and Tony Amith as full back.

The game was kicked off at 5 p.m. at Longden Place, in front of a capacity crowd. This game was a nail biting one with CH & FC badly shaken up. They never got a chance or the space to use their three-quarters as a scoring unit. The hard, close tackling of every Cop snuffed out the methods of Hamish Patternot or the loop passes of Lorensz Pereira as they were grounded time after time mostly in the second half. The cold but harsh fact that CH & FC secured all their points through penalty kicks at goal by Lanil Tennakoon bear testimony to the unyielding Police SC defence as CH & FC players ran into the thick blanket of dark blue.

The Cops defence worked like a Geiger counter by spotting all hidden threats of CH & FC as Noel Brohier and Brian Baptist broke out on their own and when confronted with the thick blue blanket spun out a variety of sorties. Even these attempts which left one flank open for the dagger-thrust saw the ball carriers being tackled by swift Policemen.

It was the Cops who drew the first blood when outside half Nimal Abeysinghe fired a penalty at goal when Brian Baptist was nabbed off-side. By the 15th minute the Cops were 6 points ahead `D1 this time Nizam Hajireen made good a 30 yard penalty kick at goal.

Then came the fireworks from CH & FC, Y. C. Chang got the team together and they made their first raid into the Cops 25 in the 28th minute and Lanil Teunakoon put over two penalties to give them six points which made the score 6 each at half time.

During the breather Y. C. Chang was seen giving the team the much needed boost and after the restart with Chang, Gunasekara, Nizar, Baptist and Bastianpillai doing all the ground work to ensure CH & FC of 90 percent possession. But Police forwards though conceding ‘good ball’ were made of sterner stuff Hameed, Moerseth, Kularathne, Wijewardene, Banda, Jayasundara, Benedict put every ounce of energy into the fight and squeezed CH’s mobility and sharpness.

Lanil Tennakoon took CH into a 9-6 lead with another 25 yard penalty kick at goal and CH gave the impression of playing safe. That was the biggest mistake they made against a side that was throwing everything they had into the game. Nothing came of Chang’s kicks as three other penalties were fluffed.

With the time ticking to full time Police altered the entire complexion of the game as Nimal Abeyasinghe fired a 50 yard penalty, using his football skills, kicked the ball dead on target, to give the Cops the equalizer.

Now came a thirty yard scrum down and Police won the ball and skipper Benedict shrewdly held the ball in the third row while scrum half Sunil Perera dummied his opposite number Upali Vithanage by faking a pass without the ball which gave the Policemen another penalty, with only few seconds left. Benedict took the ball and handed over to Hajireen to take the kick at goal. Hajireen obliged with perfect accuracy and the match ended with Police being outright winners of the Clifford Cup for the first time.


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