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Old Zahirians SC pull out from President's Trophy rugby tourney

RUGBY: The minnows of 'A' Division rugby Old Zahirians SC have pulled out from the President's Trophy knock-out Rugby Tournament which will be worked off from September 14 to 23, 2007.

Dimbulla have replaced the Old Zahirians and will confront the mighty Kandy SC in the second quarter-final on September 15 at Nittawela while on the same day runners up of the 'A' Division League and Clifford Cup knock-out Tournament CR and FC will take on Army at Longden Place in the third quarter-final .

The tournament will kick off on September 14 with the formidable CH and FC locking horns with Police at Longden Place while on September 16 Havelocks will confront Air Force in the last quarter-final at Longden Place.

The semi-final will be played on September 19 and 20 at Longden Place with the final scheduled for September 23 at the same venue. This prestigious tournament which has been revived after nine years will be sponsored by Chevron Lubricants Lanka Limited.

Kandy Sports Club which has already clinched the Rugby Double by emerging unbeaten Caltex 'A' Division League Champions and having bagged the Clifford Cup will go all out to clinch the Rugby Triple by winning the President's Trophy which they won three years in a row by overcoming CR and FC by 12-7 (1995), 6-5 (1996) and 16-8 (1997) before surrendering the trophy to the Red Shirts in 1998 losing by 26-30 in the final - when the tournament was last held.

The President's Trophy was inaugurated in 1977 when CR and FC led by Shiraz Fernando won the trophy with a convincing 22-6 win over Sri Lanka Army. In the following year Havelocks under the captaincy of Anton Benedict snatched the trophy with a hard fought 10-4 win over Kandy SC while in 1979 Army captained by Daya Ratnayake bagged the trophy with a smashing 18-0 win over Havelocks in the final.

The Park Club regained the trophy in 1980 by overcoming arch rivals CR and SC by 12-7 in the final and made it two in a row by edging out Police by 8-6 in the 1981 final. In 1982 Army under the leadership of John Senaweera bagged the President's Trophy with a sensational 13-3 win over league champions CH and FC in the final, but surrendered the trophy to CR and FC in the following year by going down fighting by 9-12 in the final.

The match turned out to be a kicking duel between Hafeel Marso (who turned out for CR with the Police withdrawing from the tournament) and Army's S.P. de Silva with Marso firing across four penalties and S.P. de Silva putting over three penalties.

In 1984 Havelocks clinched the President's Trophy helped by an injury time try by Beverly de Kauwe with skipper M.P.F. Sallay making a spectacular conversion from near the corner flag which gave them a 12-6 win over Police in the final. In the same year the SLRFU conducted the Premadasa Trophy knock-out Rugby Tournament in honour of then Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa and CR and FC bagged the trophy with a thrilling 16-13 win over CH and FC in the final.

In 1985 the Rugby Union decided to rename the President's Trophy as the Premadasa Trophy Knock-out Tournament and CH and FC helped by the heroics of Englishman Simon Hunter who fired across six penalties clinched the trophy with a smashing 28-9 win over Army in the final and made it two in-a row by edging out Police by 7-4 in the 1986 final.

The Policemen bagged the Premadasa Trophy for the first time with a resounding 31-12 win over Havelocks in the 1987 final propelled by a hat-trick of tries by No.8 Hector Gunatilleke but surrendered the trophy to CH and FC in 1988 by going down fighting 4-7 in the final. In 1989 Hafeel Marso's Policemen regained the Premadasa Trophy by overcoming CR by 12-4 in the final.

CH and FC reigned supreme from 1990 to 1994 by clinching the trophy for five consecutive years. In 1990 Imran Sallay's team won the Premadasa Trophy by beating CR and FC by 12-3 in the final and made it five-in-a row with a resounding 31-16 win over Havelocks in the 1994 final having registered a 16-0 win in the 1993 final against the formidable Kandy SC.

The period 1990 to 1994 can be considered as the Golden era of CH and FC's rugby during which they clinched the 'A' Division League Title thrice - 1990, 1992 and 1993 and the Rugby Sevens Title for four successive years (1991 to 1994) - a remarkable achievement indeed.

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