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69th Bradby Shield first leg at Pallekele Stadium today:

Trinity have slight edge over Royal

Trinity College, Kandy should have a slight edge over Royal College, Colombo when they scrum down in the first leg of the 69th Bradby Shield rugby encounter to be played at Pallekele Stadium, Kandy this evening. The junior game for the C. E. Simitharachchi trophy will be played prior to the first XV match.

Shahim Singhalaxana (Trinity) and Rimzi Jamaldeen (Royal)

Both teams look almost even on paper but Trinity has a thin edge as they play before the home crowd. Nevertheless, Royal too will make every effort to beat the Lions in their own den. The team that takes control of the game within the first 20 minutes should hold the key to the much looked forward event.

The outcome of the first leg would mainly depend on how the Trinity threes will make use of the good ball. Trinity has always enjoyed the luxury of speedy and penetrative set of three quarters and there is no exception this time too. If the Trinity forwards could secure the good ball and feed their three quarter line more often, then Royal will face a tough task.

Nevertheless, Royal has its own strength to give Lions a testing time as they could boast of a heavy and a mobile pack as usual. When one talks about the success of Royal forwards, my mind goes back to that invincible side Royal produced exactly 25 years ago!

Royal had its best pack in 1988 when burly prop forward Lasitha Gunaratne, now the Vice President of the SLRFU, led the Reid Avenue boys with distinction. He later went on to captain CR & FC and Sri Lanka as one of the best forwards. Coached by Dr. Fred Perera, who captained the Reid Avenue school in 1971, Royal produced a champion unbeaten side in 1988.

Similarly, Trinity had their best team in recent times in the previous year as the Lions remained unbeaten under Tyrell Rajapakse in 1987. The forte of Gunaratne's 1988 side was their match-winning set of forwards led by none other than ‘Captain Bonza'. In contrast, Rajapakse's undisputed team had a speedy back division that injected superpower to 1987 Trinity outfit.

Leading Trinity in the 2013 Bradby first leg will be flanker Shahim Singhalaxana , who succeeds their regular captain Halique Wadood, who mans the last line of defence. Wadood who is nursing an injury sustained in their match against St. Anthony's, Katugastota will have to watch the first leg from the bench.

Experienced fly half Rimzl Jamaldeen will captain Royal which will make every effort to humble Lions in their own den and return to Colombo with a sizeable lead. But much will depend on how Royal forwards play today.

Royal has enjoyed mixed fortunes this season having won three matches against Kingswood (13-7), Wesley (31-12) and St. Joseph's (14-7) and lost an equal number of games - against Science College (19-36), St.Peter's (19-31) and St. Anthony's (22-24).

Royal's key match against Isipatana was marred by poor refereeing and extremely unruly behaviour by Isipatana players. When the Royal players had been subjected to obvious assault by Isipatana players with the referee showing a complete blind eye, they had no option but to leave the field with the scores tied 20-all. In the absence of Royal players, Isipatana played a lone game to score a try and convert as the controversial referee awarded the match to Isipatana 20-27.

But Royal will make that bitter experience a thing of the past as they will be playing a much disciplined team in the Bradby Sheild encounter. Hence, Royal need not worry about such intended punching as in the game against Isipatana a fortnight ago.

Trinity has a slightly better record this season, though they too have failed to remain unbeaten. Trinity has five wins to their credit under Science College (18-11), Kingswood (38-23), St. Peter's (35-25), Wesley (22-19) and St. Anthony's (22-14). Trinity held Dharmaraja to a 34-all draw but could not prevent spoiling St.Joseph's spoiling their unbeaten record after a keenly contested tussle 15-16.

Trinity also lost to their traditional rivals in cricket - S.Thomas’ 15-29 in a non-tournament match.

The Bradby Shield encounter is considered the most prestigious match in school rugby, even surpassing any of the tournament matches. It has a rich history which is second to none. The series is played in honour of former Royal principal, the late E.L. Bradby, since 1945. However, the Royal-Trinity inter-school rugby series had begun way back in 1920, long before the Bradby Shield was introduced and turned out to be a ‘two-leg’ affair.

The first ever inter-school rugby match between the two teams in 1920 was won by Trinity, crushing Royal 26 points to nil. The first leg of the inaugural Bradby Shield encounter in 1945 was won by Royal 3-0 but their joy was short lived as Trinity won the second leg 6-0 and with it became the first holders of the ‘Bradby’, awarded on aggregate of points after two matches in Colombo and Kandy.

Trinity are the current custodians of the coveted Bradby Shield, thrashing much fancied Royal by convincing margins last year. None expected Trinity to spring such a big surprise as they completed the rout of Royal by winning the second leg with a handsome margin of 36 points to 20 at Pallekele Stadium.

Though Trinity went as underdogs, they shocked Royal with a 34-11 win in the first leg in Colombo and proved that it was not a fluke with another giant-killing performance in the second leg to win the shield with an aggregate of 70-13 last year - their best performance in the seven-decade-long Bradby history.

Of the 68 encounters since then, Trinity takes the lead with 37 wins to Royal’s 30. The only tie in the series was witnessed in 1992 (three-all and nil-all).

Officiating today's big ‘un at Pallekele will be world-renowned South African and International Rugby Board referee Jonathan Kaplan. He, who has announced plans to keep aide his whistle by the end of this year after refereeing after 21 years, accounts for the record appearances for 68 Rugby Union Tests and 99 Super Rugby matches, including four Rugby World Cup tournaments.

Rohan Sourjah, the captain of Trinity's rugby team in 1975, now domiciled in Australia, will be the chief guest at today's first leg. His father Robert Sourjah captained Trinity to victory in the inaugural Bradby Shield encounter in 1945. Robert and Rohan Sourjah are the only father and son combination to captain Trinity in ‘Bradby'. The Royal-Trinity rugby series will mark its centenary in seven years time. Over the years, it has produced many top Sri Lanka players and traditions that could only be witnessed at the ‘Bradby'.

It is much more than a rugby match, an annual meeting place for Royalists and Trinitians young and old and their supporters, to go down memory lane and recall all those memorable and cherished past memories. Most importantly, the true spirit in which the game is played in a highly exemplary manner.

Whatever the outcome of the game may me, one guaranteed factor is that the thousands of rugby fans who will fill the Nittawela grounds to capacity are assured of a great treat of fast and open rugby.

The teams:

Trinity:

Anuradha Karunatillake, Nathen Chang, Sanka Etulugama, Umesh Samarasekara, Isuru Rangala, Shahim Singhalaxana (Captain), Sachin Thalgahagoda, Ashan Perera, Naresh Perera and Tharinda Ratwatte, Lochana Girihagama, Shihan Perera, Dureka Aluvihare, Lakwin Gunasekara, Sanchana Sheik

Royal:

Kaveen Perera, Shuaib Jabbar, Thiwanka Perera or Shahid Haniffa, Dineth Karunaratne of Shuayb Muthaliph, Yasun Weerasuriya, Keshan Peiris, Manusha Abeykoon, Pasindu Perera, Nevaan Perera and Rimzy Jamaldeen (Captan), Udesh Ranaweera, Azman Khan, Devin de Silva, Akash Iddawela, Nimshan Jayawardena. Referee: Jonathan Kaplan

 

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