Sports

Reminiscing Royal - Thomian annual rugby clash
by Rukshan Razak

Royal - Thomian encounters have always generated enthusiasm among many qurters of the public and their annul rugby clash for the Michael Gunaratne Trophy first came on offer in 1962 for competition between traditional rivals, Royal College, Colombo, and St. Thomasí College, Mt. Lavinia.

Going down memory lane in picking up the vital moments, it should be worth mentioning the names of two distinguished old boys and top class rugby players of the olden days, Branu Raheem of Royal and Sanka De Livera of S. Thomasí, for their valuable contributions.

The inaugural trophy match ended in a fitting nil-all draw with the Royal team being captained by Lakshman Kaluarachchi and St. Thomasí by the late Tony Sirimanne.

Forty four matches have since been played and Royal lead the tally with 22 wins to 17 by St. Thomasí with five matches were drawn. In 1979, the match was not played due to a dispute for fixing dates for the match.

Among the many memorable games in the Royal-Thomian series, Michael Mullerís 1973 Royal team registering the then highest score of the series with a 34-0 win stands high. Royal won the following year, but the Thomians regained the trophy in 1975 with centre P.L. Munasinghe scoring two spectacular tries to give them a 8-3 victory. A 6-all draw in 1976 ensured the trophy stayed at Mount Lavinia.

From then onwards the trophy has been swaying back and forth between Reid Avenue and Mount Lavinia.

The Thomiansí biggest win came in 1991 when Charya de Saram led them to a 22-0 victory at the Sugathadasa Stadium. The 1992 match saw Royal regain the trophy with a 10-6 win. In the following year, the Thomians led by Ajantha Cooray beat Royal 10-5 with the skipper scoring the winning try.

The most interesting game in the past decade was the 1997 match which turned out to be a kicking duel between Rananjaya Gonaduwa of Royal and Thomian Arshad Rahman, with each firing across three penalties. The match was drawn 9-all, but Royal retained the Gunaratne Trophy by virtue of being holders with their 15-10 win in 1996. In another close game in 1998, an injury time try by centre Kishan Samarasinghe gave Royal a 20-13 win and in 1999 they retained the trophy under Dinesh Rahim with a convincing 26-14 victory.

The Thomians ended a four-year wait in 2000 with a 14-11 win with the Gunatilake twins, Jeevan and Jayan, scoring a try each. But 2001 saw the Royalists scoring a great 30-nil victory and this was followed by Zulki Hamidís 2002 team establishing a new series record with a smashing 38-3 win. Royal won again in 2003 and 2004, but St. Thomasí, led by Namal Rajapakse regained the trophy with a 20-15 win in 2005. The year 2006 saw the biggest disappointment for St. Thomasí when Royal defeated a hapless Thomian outfit, skippered by Namalís brother Yoshitha, 35-0 scoring seven tries in the process. This is not only the largest number of tries scored by any Royal team against St. Thomasí, but also by any school team against the Thomians.

 

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