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Clifford Cup trophy now 100 years

With the conclusion of the "Caltex Rugby League Tournament 2011" the defending champions Kandy Sports Club will again have the trophy in their silverware cabinet for yet another year at Nittawella.

Next comes the country's oldest rugby tournament the Clifford Cup that will kick off in the first week of September and end by mid month.

The defending champions Kandy Sports Club and last year's runners-up Navy Sports Club who are the current League champions and runners up will again compete for honours, together with Havelock SC and CR & FC competing and have a go for this prestigious trophy, the plate participants Army SC, Air Force SC, Police SC and CH & FC too will be seen in action in this competition.

Birthday

Originally, the Clifford Cup, which was donated by Lady Clifford, wife of the then British Governor of Ceylon Sir Hugh Clifford, for a match on her birthday, August 26 to be awarded to the winners of the game between All Ceylon and United Services.

And that was as far back as 1911. But it was on August 26, that the game took place a week after the donation of the cup, that was on September 2. The reason for overlooking the birthday request of the donor in the inaugural year was that the venue, Colombo Race Course was reserved for another sporting event.

After 15 years in 1926 the tournament was converted to a quadrangular with four teams, Low Country, Up Country, the Ceylonese and United Services fighting for supremacy.

In the first outing United Services Kandy beat All Ceylon by 25 points to 0. In the following year 1912 on September 2 All Ceylon beat United Services Kandy by 8 points to nil. In 1913 Kandy United Services again beat All Ceylon 3-0.

Suspended

The Clifford Cup game was suspended during the 1st World War and not restarted until 1926, when the Ceylonese first came into it. In 1926 Low Country beat Kandy United Services 14-3, 1927 Up-Country beat Ceylonese 11-8, 1928 Up-Country beat Ceylonese 15-1, 1929 Low Country beat United Services 23-3, 1930 Low Country beat Ceylonese 14-3, 1931 Low Country beat Ceylonese 27-6, 1932 Up-Country beat United Services 14-10, `1933 Up-Country beat Kandy United Services 20-3, 1934 Low Country beat Ceylonese 17-0, 1935 Up-Country beat Kandy United services 11-0, 1936 Low Country beat Kandy United Services 9-3, 1937 Up-Country beat Kandy United Services 25-0, 1938 Up-Country beat Ceylonese 10-0, 1939 match was cancelled with the start of he 2nd World War, from 1939 to 1950.

A new strategy was planned and worked out in the Island's one and only rugby tournament, the Clifford Cup Rugby tournament, which was the Blue Riband of the country's rugby and was introduced to clubs, for the first ever inter club championship in 1950.

Thereafter year after year it created a tremendous enthusiasm among the spectators, bringing surging crowds to watch the action and also thus creating healthy rivalry among the top contenders.

First winners

The honour of being the first to win the Clifford Cup goes to those gallant set of rugerites from Havelock town, Havelock SC, led by Ian Labrooy. They went through the tournament without having their try line crossed, similarly the Dimbulla A & CC comprising some of the top players in the country, maintained an unbeaten record at their home grounds, Radella, until the game against Havelocks SC. It is said that it was the best match ever to be witnessed at Radella. By virtue of their 13 points, two goals and a try to nil victory over the Dimbulla A & CC and Havelocks SC became the first inter club league champions and lifted Clifford Cup.

Seven outings

At the end Havelocks SC gained 14 points, in seven outings, two points ahead of the nearest CH & FC.

Dimbulla in 1953 defeated the holders of the Cup, the CR & FC at Radella by 6 points (2 tries) to nil in the finals and became the first club from Up-Country to win the Clifford Cup.

In the inaugural year the tournament kicked off as a league competition. The first game was played on April 29 and the competition ended on July 29. The curtain raiser was between CR & FC and Dickoya MCC.

This game was kicked off at Darawella grounds. Dickoya led by D.A.

Cook beat CR & FC led by Archibald Perera, which game was refereed by J.M. Stewart.

In the inaugural year, CH & FC had the distinction of totalling the highest score of the season when they beat Dimbulla ACC by 41 points to nil in Colombo.

The final placing - of the league -(1) Havelocks SC Played 7, Won 7, Points for 100 against 6, (2) CH & FC played 7, won 6 lost 1, scored 123 points for and against 11, (3) CR & FC, (4) Dimbulla A & CC, (5) Kandy SC, (6) Uva, (7) Dickoya MCC, (8) Uva, (9) KV.

Havies team

The champion Havelock SC - comprised players like - Ian Labrooy (Capt), B.S. Hanricus, H. Aldons, F. Aldons, H.E.V. Metzelling, E. Aldons, S.B Pilapitiya, V. Kelly, A. Drienberg, R. Sourjah E. Mathaysz, I. Batholamues, L.Ephraums, D. Ernest, D.K. Goonawardene.

Almost a little over four decades since that auspicious initiative in 1950 is history now, and what kind of changes we have seen in the tournament.

Who could forget the day that the Air Force team led by Jeff Ratnam stormed into the final in 1965, the Army team entered the final in 1962, the Police team's dramatic entry in 1967 or the Navy SC sensational step-in in 1976, after being promoted to the big league only in the previous year.

In 1985 Sri Lanka's premier league tournament was renamed and the SLRFU decided to award the Clifford Cup to the winners of a separate Knock-out tournament conducted amongst the 'A' Division Clubs, at the end of the season.

Thereafter, in 1992, for the first time, the entire tournament was worked out off outside Colombo and the venue was Nittawela in Kandy.

That year Kandy SC emerged winners of the Clifford Cup for the first time in the history, when it registered a historic 22 points to 9 points victory over the Police SC in the finals, which was the first major cup final to be played outside Colombo since 1957.

Outside Colombo

Incidentally, the honour of being the only Up-Country club to win the Clifford Cup outright remained with DACC for almost four decades, thereafter, uninterruptedly till Kandy SC had their first touch on the Cup in 1992.

Clifford Cup has a long history, with Kandy Sports Club winning it for the most number of times- 17 times, CR & FC 13 times including a tie with Dimbulla ACC, Havelock SC 12 times including a tie with Police SC, Police SC 8 times with a ties with Havelocks SC and Army SC, CH & FC 6 times, Dimbulla A & CC twice including a tie with CR & FC, Army twice with a tie with Police, Air Force once.

This year 2011 would be the 100th year of the Clifford Cup Rugby tournament dating back to 1911, September 2.

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