Royal People

A dedication to those wonderful people who served Royal Primary School & Royal College, in Sri Lanka, since 1835, and, who will be remembered for their committment, sincerety and unselfishness.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Royal Rugby in Melbourne

Royal ruggerites excel in Melbourne
Daily News, Friday, Nov 22, 2002

The author of the article is David Kreltszheim himself an old Royalist, now an eminent lawyer domiciled in Melbourne. David was in the 1982 Royal College first XV squad having represented the under-17 and 2nd XV teams earlier.

"I'm feeling a bit flat, Machan" said Hiran Muttiah, rugby captain of Royal in 1982 Kandy CR&FC and Sri Lanka player of the 1980s. His six words reflected the feelings of many of us old boys in Melbourne, on the day after the Royal College First XV Rugby Team left for Sydney after completing its six days in the Melbourne Spring of 2002. We had just lived through six full, pleasant and memorable days in which the "old school" ceased to be an abstraction nestling in our memories of another time in another place.

The old school had come alive as we had school boys in our midst, wearing the blue and gold jerseys that we know so well, many of us having ourselves worn them - or longed to have worn them - five, fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or even sixty-plus years ago. Boys from our school were here in Melbourne to lock horns with rugby players from a short-list of illustrious Victorian schools including St. Kevin's Scotch, Geelong Grammar, Trinity Grammar and Marcellin.

And lock horns they did, with distinction. It is fair to say that outside of their Island, Sri Lankans are better known for cricketing rather than rugby prowess. This will continue to be so. But after Royal's visit, more rugby-following Melburnians than before are aware of a shared heritage in which a well executed rolling maul or a deft cut-out pass excites at least as much admiration as a delicate late cut or a well-flighted googly. But some things never change.

Two of the well-known Aldons brothers (Dr. Harry and Hugh), were among the onlookers at Royal's first game on 2 November - against the St. Kevin's XV - and for both of them Royal's first try no doubt brought back memories of their own exploits in the back line for Royal, the Havelocks and All-Ceylon in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

The try was the result of a classic three-quarter move, which saw the ball transferred swiftly from hand to hand to Lakshman Dissanayake on the right wing to take advantage of an overlap. Not a hand was laid on him as he sprinted some forty metres to the right corner flag, before looping around to score under the posts. Ishan Perera converted the try and Royal had posted its first score on Australian soil to lead 7-0, about fifteen minutes into the first half.

Until that first try, Royal had been forced to defend grimly in its own half as the jet-lagged players sized up the terrain, the opposition and the referee's interpretation of the rules. Having scored, and scored well, Royal began to play with more composure, even panache, and showed the onlookers why this team is, according to the record books, one of the best ever produced by Royal. The line-outs and scrums were strong and well-drilled, and the forwards and even the backs won more than their share of the hotly-contested rucks and mauls. Over time, Royal gained the ascendancy over what appeared to be a relatively inexperienced St. Kevin's XV scoring on several more occasions to end up winners with a score of 41-0.

Time and again the Royal side showed us the dogged, even brutal, mindset that had led the side to crush their opponent so decisively in the 2002 season. Seeing the team play, we could well understand how it had amassed record scores against St. Thomas' and Trinity earlier this year.

In one memorable sequence of play, upon being awarded a succession of penalties, midfield when Royal was comfortably ahead on the scoreboard, Royal's mercurial captain Zulkarnain Hamid scorned the safety of along punt into touch to gain field position and the privilege of the throw-in to the ensuing line-out, in favour of a succession of short taps that saw his forwards charging repeatedly into the back-pedalling boys of St. Kevin's. The territorial gains were modest. The psychological gains were immeasurable.

True it was a friendly game in a foreign clime, but Royal had a demonstrable hunger to win by six tries rather than three.

In the finest traditions of the game, the captains and the management of the St. Kevin's and Royal teams exchanged good wishes and mementoes at full time. The chief guest at the game was Ashroff Cader who captained the famous Royal XV of 1948 which was the first Royal team to win the Bradby Shield from Trinity after the two schools started playing for this trophy in 1945. Ashey Cader went onto play with distinction for the CR&FC, Low Country and All-Ceylon sides for many years, so it was fitting that he presented the award for the best Royal player to Rajith Jayasundara who, at the age of seventeen has already represented Sri Lanka in rugby at the 2002 Asian games held in South Korea.
It is also fitting that a member of the selection panel for the best Royal player was Dr. Larry Foenander who played in the Royal XV that beat Trinity for the very first time in 1941 after twenty one successive defeats since the two schools first started playing each other in 1920. As his prize, Rajith Jayasundara received a Wallaby jumper signed by David Campese donated by Dr. Senan Nagaratnam. Matthew Curnow received the award for the best St. Kevin's player on the day. The other rugby identities on the best player selection panel were Dr. Harry Aldons, Lorenz Pereira and Stuart Roland.

On 3 November - the very next day - Royal took to the field against a Victorian Combined Schools XV. As in the case of the first game, the pitch was hard and unyielding. Victoria is in the throes of a drought.

Unlike the first game - which was largely played in overcast conditions - the afternoon was bright and sunny, as was the crowd of assembled well-wishers. News of Royal's performance the day before had spread through the Sri Lankan community in Melbourne and the predominantly Sri Lankan crowd was eagerly anticipating a close game. And they were not disappointed.

The Combined Schools started strongly with a series of forays into Royal's half. In the ninth minute the ball reached Jarrod Magee of Trinity Grammar on the left wing, who made a blistering rundown the left touch line to score by the corner flag. Tom McColl of Scotch College converted the try with an excellent kick and the Combined Schools led 7-0.

For most of the first half, Royal was forced to defend its try line, which it did with fortitude. The Combined schools had several good platforms from which to launch their attacks numerous five-yard scrums to which they had the put-in, as well as a number of line-outs to which they had the throw-in, tantalisingly close to the Royal try-line. But Royal's defence held, as it repulsed wave after wave of the marauding emerald green jerseys of the Combined Schools. Finally in the thirtieth minute of the first half when awarded a penalty in Royal's twenty-two, the Combined Schools eschewed a line-out close to Royal's try in favour of a penalty kick. The penalty kick was successful and the Combined Schools led 10-0 at the break.

In the first half there had been some glimpses of what Royal could do in attack. There had been some promising three-quarter moves and there was one rousing moment when, to the roar of the crowd, the Royal forwards shoved a maul forward by as much as twenty metres, only to lose the put-in to the ensuing scrum for failing to recycle the ball promptly. In the second half, Royal set about realising the promise that it had showed in the first half. Two penetrating three-quarter moves on the right flank were only just stopped by the Combined Schools' defence.

The sustained pressure led to Royal being awarded a penalty in the Combined Schools' twenty-two. Royal opted for a kick which entered touch some fifteen metres out from the Combined Schools try-line. On Royal's throw-in to the ensuing line-out the ball was caught cleanly and Royal's forwards bound together and drove powerfully over the line to score a long-awaited try, some ten minutes in to the second half. The conversion was unsuccessful and the score stood at 10-5 in favour of the Combined Schools.

Somewhat against the run of play, Jason Burgan of the Chisolm Secondary TAFE College scored a good try for the Combined Schools about twenty minutes into the second half which was not converted. 15-5 in favour of the Combined Schools.

The players in Royal responded to the Combined Schools' second try with redoubled intensity, perhaps being conscious that this was the last twenty minuets that their great team would ever play together. Several sustained attacks were mounted on the Combined Schools' try-line. At one point the Royal forwards made it over the try-line but the ruling was that the ball was held up.

At another point the Royal backs were in full flight some fifteen metres from the try-line, only for play to be halted by a shrill whistle awarding Royal a penalty in front of the posts. Royal took a short tap and failed to score from the ensuing movement, and one felt that it would have been better served had there been a more expansive interpretation of the advantage rule by the referee.

Finally wing three quarter Awaiz Rasheed scored for Royal on the left flank. Unfortunately for Royal, the conversion attempt by Ishan Perera hit the right upright and bounced away from the crossbars 15-10. And this is how the scoreline stood when the full time whistle was blown Royal had lost but not disgraced itself against a relatively young but good Combined Schools XV.


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