Royal firm favourites to win Milo title
By Shamseer Jaleel
Royal College Colombo will be all out to win the Milo 'A' division league this year with two national players as well as one youth player in their side. They are privileged to have the services of six senior players out of which four are coloursmen. They started the season by beating the Rajans in Kandy by 45 points to nil. This game was played in Kandy and it was a good warm up for the boys.

They will face the real test when they take on the defending Milo league champs, St. Peter's at their Sports Complex grounds today. St. Peter's who were held to a 20 points to all draw by the Trinity "Lions" last week. In this game the Peterites were under severe pressure. The "Lions" forwards gave an excellent account of themselves in this encounter. Both Royal and St. Peter's strength lie in their speedy three-quarters with Royal having a slight edge with two of their players having represented the senior national team. But the Peterites are no pushovers with the best winger in schools Rugby Mohamed Rinaz playing for them.

Royal College has contributed a lot to Sri Lankan rugby specially in last 20 years with lot of players going on to represent the motherland with much pride. Hiran Muttiah, Sriyan Cooray, Lasita Gunaratne, Anura Dhammika, Alfred Hensmen, Dushantha Lewke, Asanga Rodrigo, Pavithra Fernando, Naufer Rahim, Rajitha Jayasundera, Lakshman Dissanayake are few of them. The speedy centre Rajitha Jayasundera who comes from a sporty family will lead the side this year.

His father Daya Jayasundera played for Kandy SC (1966-68) and Police SC as a flanker, captained the Law and Forces team in 1974. He played for Ceylon in 1971 against the touring England team. Daya was also a top class referee who was the only person to referee in five Bradly Shield encounters from 1987-91. He was appointed as the Manager of the National team for the Asiad in 1990 and 1992. Presently he is the chairman of Police Rugby.

Rajitha Jayasundera who is playing in his third year has the honour of playing against the Arabian Gulf and the Asian giants Japan in the IRB/ARFU tournament. Earlier he was selected for the Asian Games tour of Busan in South Korea and the Asiad held in Thailand. Young Rajitha captained the Youth team at the Asiad 2003 held in Hong Kong early this year. He was only 15 years when he was selected for the 2000 Asiad held in Colombo and took part in all the games.

His deputy this year is the star winger Lakshman Dissanayake who is in his third year toured with the Senior national team for the Asian Games in Busan, Korea. In addition to this they will have the services of the youth cap Varun Wijewardena who toured Hong Kong early this year. Varun also toured Taipei with the under 16 team. There will be three seniors to assist the newcomers to the side. They are Awaiz Rasheed, Shihab Baudeen and Prabath Udugampola.

Two brothers Ravindra and Bashana Abeywickrama will bind down in the front row. Bimal Herath who is an excellent loose player will be the Hooker of the side. The line out jumpers of the side are lanky Ruwaiz Jiffrey and Danushka Rajapakse. The two speedy flankers are Awaiz Rasheed and Palinda Wickramasinghe. Prabath Udugampola who will add power to the pack by playing at Number 8.

Nirmal Siriwardena will operate from the base of the scrum will pair off with Varun Wijewardena. Royal College's main strength this season will be their speedy three-quarters who are very good tacklers. With skipper Rajitha Jayasundera and Kasun Wijesekera will be the centres with National player Lakshman Dissanayake and Ravith Amarasinghe are the wingers. The last line of defence will be manned by cool-headed Shihab Bahudeen who is an excellent player under pressure.

Last year Royal remained unbeaten in the league and won the President’s Trophy beating Wesley by 20 points to six in the final. They completed the season last year in grand style by outclassing Trinity in the 1st and the 2nd legs of the Bradby Shield. They won the first one by 39 points to nil and the second one by 44 points to nil. Royal will be all out to retain the Bradby Shield for the 3rd consecutive year. The Brdby tally is with Royal 25 wins to Trinity's 32 with one game ending in a tie. This took place in the year 1992.

The Royal College team is coached by one of the old boys and former CR & FC and Sri Lankan nippy scrum half C.P Abeygoonawardena. He has lot of experience in coaching skills where he took the star studded Kandy SC to become the Triple Champs winning the Caltex league, Clifford Cup and the Club 7s. He was in the 1984 Hong Kong 7 s side under Hisham Abdeen which won the Bowl.

This side comprised some top names such as Hishan Abdeen, Chandrishan Perera and the present Secretary of the SLRFU Nalin De Sliva are few of them. This is the only occasion the National team has won a 7s trophy. He will be assisted by the "Officer and Gentlemen" Nizam Jamaldeen who played for Isipathana in 1984-85 and represented the Police SC as a Fly half. During his playing days he was a superb place kicker. Jamaldeen who went on to done the National Jersey took up refereeing with much success. He is one of the International Rugby Board rated referees respected by all for his fair decisions without any fear.

With the Principal and all the old boys giving all support they are all out to give their best. Prop-forward - Ravindra Abeywickrema, Bashana Abeywickrema; Hooker - Bimal Herath; 2nd Row - Ruwaiz Jiffrey, Danushka Rajapakse; Flankers - Awaiz Rasheed, Palinda Wickramasinghe; No 8 - Prabath Udugampola; Scrum Half - Nirmal Siriwardena; Fly Half - Varun Wijewardena; Centres - Rajitha Jayasundera, Kasun Wijesekera; Wingers - Lakshman Dissanayake, Ravithi Amarasinghe; Full Back - Shihab Bahudeen. Also in the squad are Fayaz Fazal, Azver Mansoo, Sabry Akram, Sandauwn, Sivalingam, Eranga Ramawickrema and Mahendra de Silva.

Rest of the fixtures:Vs St. Peters -Royal Sports Complex Today; Vs St Anthony's-Royal Sports Complex 21-6-2003; Vs Wesley-Royal Sports Complex 28-6-2003; Vs Isipathana-Royal Sports Complex 5-7-2003; Vs Trinity (1st Leg) Bogambara Stadium 19-7-2003; Vs Trinity (2nd Leg)-Royal Sports Complex 2-8-2003; Vs S.Thomas' Date to be announced.

Planters rugby match at Dickoya
It was the foreign planting fraternity during colonial times, who introduced rugby to Sri Lanka as a social get-together. The Dimbula-Dickoya game was one of the much looked forward to events in their sports calendar.

It was foreign teams drawn from Nuwara Eliya, Uva and Kelani Valley with a handful of locals joining the scrum that held sway. They were tough, strong and burly unlike at present where two foreigners (professionals) are allowed to join the scrum.

The annual Dickoya-Dimbula match took pride of place. They had some outstanding local players in the past who played at the national level the likes of Gamini Tennakoon, Raji De Sylva, Saliya Atapattu, Lalin Tennakoon, Lionel Almeida, S.B. Pilapitiya just to name on a few. With some of the estates being taken over by the State, the foreign planters, too went in search of greener pastures (other countries). Rugby, too lost its usual flair and sports too suffered in general.

The SLRFU in their endeavour to revive the game in the Hill Country through their Rugby Development Committee headed by Arjun Dharmadasa is striving to bring back the game to the surface once again.

There is a 'C' Division district tournament with four teams in the scrum. Dimbula D.CA., Dickoya Nuwara Eliya and Matale. -BW

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