Minister Malik Samarawickrama was in Washington a few days before the 1st Leg of the Bradby, co-chairing the US- Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Council meeting.  The Minster seemed uncharacteristically nervous and on edge darting in and out of the meeting room with his mobile phone glued to his ear. When I asked about his [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Bradby reminiscences of 50 years ago


Royal hooker Ajmeer Fajudeen touches down to score his second try which sealed the match for Royal 22-17 - Pix by Amila Gamage

Minister Malik Samarawickrama was in Washington a few days before the 1st Leg of the Bradby, co-chairing the US- Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Council meeting.  The Minster seemed uncharacteristically nervous and on edge darting in and out of the meeting room with his mobile phone glued to his ear. When I asked about his anxiety he smiled as said, “I was trying desperately to change my flights to get to Colombo before the match and attend the 50th year re-union. And Mousey has come all the way and I want to be there for my Captain!”

The Bradby is where Matters of Rugby take precedence over Matters of State! It’s where reminiscences transcend generations. It’s when the storied history of this premier encounter is recounted and embellished with yarns and puns over the choicest of spirits as spirits run high.  The Bradby Spirit is priceless, no symphony can overtake the emotion that it evokes, and it’s a gift to Sri Lanka Rugby.

No surprise then that old Trinitians and Royalists locally, and those resident abroad, make this their annual get-together and engage in revelry and reminiscences.

Brian  in Australia, who holds the record along with Papa DWL Lieversz,  for   the only Father-Son duo who scored  the opening tries in Trinity – Royal encounters,   says of  Mousey  Thurairatnam that “Mousey was one of the best Insides I have played beside, the hardest ‘crash’ tackler I have seen…glad I was on his side and not playing against him!”

Then from Australia, again,  here is a ‘Special’  as  Mohan Sahayam recalls the 1966 game.  Trinity coached in the earlier year by Miles Christofelsz and then by Percy Madugalle, was adopting the Open Rugby (No kicking) Policy.  Royal coach Mahes Rodrigo a master tactician could read the game and the opponents play better than anyone in coaching circles. Trinity moved the ball in defence and in attack. The Master tactician planned his game to upset the free flowing Trinitians.

Glen Van Langenberg the Trinity Captain, who was so well known for his booming kicks,   had per plan to keep his line in motion all the time.

Spectator-wise the Trinity Team was a beauty to watch.  But Trinity was going nowhere and Glen was getting frustrated until he ignored his coach’s orders not to kick and resorted to using his feet.  His biggest strength was that he could kick with both feet pointing inwards. The change of direction came naturally to him confusing the opposition– now here. Then there! This countered Royal’s strategy and gave Trinity victory in the 2nd leg to clinch the shield when Alex Lazarus scored the first try in Kandy with a “photo finish” ending that later sent Papa Lazarus into cloud nine. He took umbrage over Alex not being awarded the Trinity Rugger Lion.  However youngsters of our time were so selfless and upstanding that Alex said to Principal Cedric Oorloff ”Sir, I know my Dad is upset, but I really do not deserve the Lion!”

Glen was a glamour boy in our time adept also in Cricket (Lion) and in Hockey.  I recall Eustace Rulach once wrote of Glen defying Mama’s instructions to have a haircut and kicking himself to glory pushing back a tuft of hair with every booming kick.

Trinity that year boasted, besides Glen and Jupana Jayawardene,  that crack third row of Ajith Abeyratne, Gogi Tillekeratne  and  Mark Sundaralingam who made a name for themselves in first class rugby.

In those days as now, nicknames defined the players of both teams. Gogi had the DNA of magician Gogia Pasha and would pull off tricks from the base of the scrum that dazzled even the referees.  On the day of the 1st Leg, two weeks ago, he was on a train in Spain (no pun intended) bound to Madrid when his internet connection to watch the match failed. He decides to call his third row mate Mark Sundaralingam in Germany and ask him to relay the commentary as play progressed. Commentator  Mark was mixing  up his English, Tamil  and German metaphors so much that prompted Gogi to seek divine help…and  the with a flick of his fingers the TV commentary, magically if not by  divine intervention, was restored to the Gogia Pasha.

Then there was ‘Bulla’   C.R de Silva in the Royal ’66 side –whose early passing we all will mourn for years to come. He earned his alias by the swagger and force with which he walked and the booming voice he used to command the stage– be it on the playing fields at Royal or in the Supreme Courts in the country. Shafi Jainudeen, the Trinity full back of ’66 and later Captain,  who also sadly passed away two years ago recalled in a interview with me how he—Shafi—was a  marked man in the year that Bulla captained Royal ( 1968) . Shafi was grounded when someone had accidentally kicked him on the head and was partly concussed. This prompted Shafi’s Mom,  Mamma Marliya, to run to the touch line and ask “who kicked my son on the head.” In later life Shafi would ask Bulla, Malik Samarawickrama and Gehan de Silva each, the same question: who kicked me? Bulla would point at Malik and Malik would point at Gehan and the round robin would continue to the amusement of all.

Shafi said to this writer, I thought of suing Bulla for brutality when he was Attorney General, but then I found out that my claim would have been “Statute Barred!” So Bulla was given a reprieve!

As the Bradby contest now moves to Kandy, history recognizes that this  is a encounter that defies the form books as it did in 1964 when Lakdasda Dissanayake drop-goaled Royal into a stunning victory over the fancied Sahayam Special side; or  in 1970 when Sam Samarasekera the Trinity skipper risked abandoning his three-quarters thrice in succession , with no replacement in the line, to form  a ninth man in the pack  and makes absolutely sure of possession, then tear back to take the reverse pass and create the overlaps for the wingers to score.  The tables were turned on the Royalists who had a comfortable lead almost to the end!

And true to unpredictability of fortunes, this year  there was that surprise  try-scoring interception within the first minute in the 1st Leg that brought lumps to our throats as we saw  Royal’s Janidu Dilshan, the opportunist,  in action.

No doubt that as the encounter moves to Kandy much is in store.  And it’s not safe to place any bets. But one thing is certain: The Bradby remains a gift to Sri Lankan Rugby.

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