Clifford Cup
by Ruchira Mendis

Clifford Cup, the most prestigious Trophy on offer in local rugby, has a proud history of over 50 years. It was originally played between the Ceylonese United Service of the lower country and upper country players before its inception as the official knockout league encounter between the top rugby clubs in 1950.

The inaugural championship was won by Havelocks SC in 1950. The Havies went on to dominate local rugby in the 1960s and the 1970s before the Park players lost its grasp on rugby supremacy here gradually. The rugby clubs those days, unlike today, were equally matched in all departments as none of the teams were able to dictate terms on the others.

The name ‘Clifford’ was derived from the name of a Governor called Sir Hugh Clifford who was the Governor of Ceylon in the early 1900s. Originally, it was called ‘Lady Clifford Cup.’ From 1911 to 1950, the Clifford Cup rugby was an unofficial demeanour basically between Ceylonese United Services and Upper country players. This routine was broken in 1950 as Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union decided to have an official league tournament among the leading clubs in the island. Hence, the officials keeping to the original name ‘Clifford’ in 1950, inaugurated the Knockout League Tournament for the Clifford Cup.

Over the years from its inception, Havelocks SC, CR & FC, CH & FC and Police SC have fought their hearts out as if they have treasured the procession of the Clifford Cup. From its inaugural championship until the late 1980s, Clifford Cup was a close battle among these four giant clubs.

Then came Kandy Sports Club, during 1990s, which tormented the Colombo clubs since their arrival switching the domination towards hell capital. Kandy SC, the powerhouse of local rugby since early ’90s kept on pumping the fringe players as it strode from strength to strength with the service of a foreign coach, Johan Taylor, a South African, of late. They had a tremendous run of seven consecutive victories while remaining undefeated Champions from 1999 to 2006.

CR & FC, the defending champions this year, had to wait 17 long years in wilderness to win the Clifford Cup as their last victory was made way back in 1989. Subsequently, CR & FC had won the prestigious Clifford Cup on 13 times while Havelocks SC also coming closer to them with 12 victories achieved in different years. Kandy SC, who started to dominate rugby here, had taken the Clifford Cup home on 12 different years. CH & FC had won it seven times and Police SC six times.

Clifford Cup past


CR & FC - 1952, 1954 to 1956, 1958, 1965, 1966, 1969, 1971, 1987 to 1989, 2006

Kandy SC - 1992, 1993, 1995 to 1997, 1999 to 2005

Havelocks - 1950, 1951, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1967, 1968, 1974, 1976 to 1978, 1981

CH & FC - 1957, 1960, 1962, 1982, 1983, 1990, 1994

Police SC - 1972, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1991

Army SC - 1975

Air Force - 1986

Dimbula - 1953

Joint Champions

CR & FC and Dimbula - 1959

Havelocks and Police SC - 1970

Police SC and Army - 1973


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