Published: 14 March 2013
When the World was watching the Papal conclave where the most reverend 115 Roman Catholic Cardinals gathered to select the new pope at Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica where the ceiling, painted by Michelangelo, a cornerstone work of High Renaissance art, two leading Catholic Institutions in Sri Lanka are coming together in a Rugby Field to play some High Octane Rugby and to celebrate two inspirational Catholic priests who contributed immensely towards their respective Colleges and promote Christianity and it’s values across couple of generations of students. In fact with these celebrations the two schools, St. Peter’s College and St. Anthony’s College are also kick starting their 2013 Schools Rugby season.
At the time of writing, it was reported the fumata bianca – the white smoke signalling that marks the successful conclusion of a papal conclave arrived after five ballots on the second day of voting. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was elected Pope Francis I. May the new papal with God’s strength and guidance lead the Roman Catholics successfully in challenging times. Same time, some gray clouds and dark smoke which covered the commencement of the 2013 schools rugby league too is slowly disappearing here in Sri Lanka paving way for an open and exciting tournament ahead. Perterites also named their 1st XV Rugby Captain for 2013, Shan Weerakody who will be assisted by Vice Captain Shenal Abeysekera under the guidance of Collin Dinesh as Senior Coach.
By now, if what I wrote may sound like ‘Latin’ for you, let me put it in simple perspective. Peterites will kick off their 1st XV Rugby Season for year 2013 on this Friday, 15th March with their Division 1 Group A league encounter against Anthonian Eagles at Air Force Grounds Ratmalana for the Rectors’ Trophy. Kick off scheduled at 4.30p.m with junior games to start from 2.00p.m onwards. ‘The Rectors’ Trophy donated by The Rugby Foundation of St. Peter’s College and Old Antonian Rugby Football Club in 2009 is in memory of Very. Rev. Fr. Joe. E. Wickramasinghe (Rector St. Peter’s College 1978-1992) and Rev. Fr. Dom. Aidan De Silva OSB (Rector of St. Anthony's College 1967-1978).
This year’s Schools Rugby season is not short of any actions or does not lack any drama which is a norm by now and that too even before the commencement of the matches, like in the past 2-3 years. The speculations were rife that League may not go ahead. However organizer’s and sponsor Singer confirmed their intentions to go ahead with the matches as scheduled after some uncertainties due to an ongoing legal battle between SLSRA and Vidyartha College. Vidyartha College which challenged the ruling by the governing body on their demotion to Division 2 and the suspension handed out for playing an ineligible player during the 2012 season seems to be eyeing for a compromised relegation. Hope they do not set any precedence or not let other schools to pay for their sins. Nevertheless hope sanity will prevail.
Coming back to the much significant match; St. Peter’s having retained the trophy last year after a nail biting game, a 29-22 win at Nittawela which was also marred by poor spectator behaviour, will be stepping out with full of confidence owing to the fact they notched the Schools 7’s Championship few weeks back. Anthonians, on the other hand nearly avoided relegation in 2012 after a dismal performance, is coming out to show their flying colours under a new coach, Theo Serafim who is not a new name to Sri Lanka Schools Rugby and backing of their rugby wing with Priyantha Ekanayake who is a Legend of Sri Lankan Rugby.
Head to head since the 1959 where the first ever friendly match between these two schools was played, St. Peter’s are heading the tally by distance. The first official 1st XV match was played in 1962 where St. Peter’s were captained by Jeyer Rodriguez had the better of Anthonians captained by Win Chu Wei by 6-3. Anthonians recorded their maiden win against Peterites in 1968 under H.M.Kuthdoos by 9-8 in a closely contested game. In that year for the first time, Anthonians held the much fancied Trinitians to a 3 all draw and during that season St Anthony's won 6 matches beating much fancied teams like Royal, St. Peter's and S. Thomas'.
However in the modern era, since 1980’s it’s been a close tussle for supremacy with Peterites recording 13 wins against 12 losses and 01 draw in 26 encounters to date. Anthonians had a clear domination over Petes in 1990’s, in fact since 1988 where they under the captaincy of Leroy Fonseka beat Peterites under Shadwell De Silva 16-10 and went on to become runners-up to Royal in the schools rugby League Championship. Antonians remained unbeaten, winning nine out of ten matches and drawing the other. St. Peter’s broke the win less streak in 1998 under Rajeev Perera by winning 8-5 against Anthonians lead by Iranga Dissanayake. In between Peterites and Anthonians featured in some closely contested games in 1990,1994, 1995 and 1996 with 1995 game a 8 all draw at Nittawela could be termed one of the best games ever where Champion Peterite side lead by Sanjeewa Abeygoonewardeena featured in a blockbuster game at a full house against Malith Silva’s Anthonians. Since 1998 Peterites are enjoying a clear dominance on this encounter with consecutive wins since 2010.
Though St. Anthony’s College was hailing since 1854 they were relatively new to the game of Rugby as only in 1955 SACK took this sport up when Brother Columban Macky introduced it to the boys. Early stages and the records are bit blurred since St. Anthony’s didn’t take part in competitive schools rugby where they were confined to play friendlies against the second string sides of the schools who were leading Rugby during that era. On record the first ever Rugby Team of the Eagles was captained by Bruce Winter in 1956 and only in 1959 their full strength 1st XV team finally stepped out under Andre Titus to play against leading 1st XV teams of other schools. Since then St. Anthony’s College have produced many rugby stalwarts’ likes of Tuan Dole, Lakshman Ekanayake, Leroy Fonseka, Lasantha Wijesuriya, Sameera Silva, A Kuthdoos, D H Rajaguru, Tikiri Dissanayake, Sanjay Amunugama, Nimal Malagamuwa, Pradeep Liyanage, Eranga Swaranatilleke, Chang Faa Ching, Dr. D. Makuloluwa, Jude Pillai and Imran Bisthamin of which Priyantha Ekanayake stands tall as one of the best rugby players ever produced in the country.
In contrast St. Peter’s College relatively young but was quick to grasp the Rugby ball and have made strides to become one of the leading Rugby playing schools in the country since they took the sport up in 1932. To name a few from early era of Archibald Perera, Percy Perera, Ago Paiva, Didacus De Almeida, Darrel Wimalaratne, Jeff De Jong, Frank Hubert, Roshan Deen, Angelo Wickramaratne, Rowen Gunasekera to modern eras of Ranuka Jayasinghe, Keith Gurusinghe and Danushka Ranjans Peterites have produced brilliant teams and players of high calibre. However both teams have played highly entertaining and thrilling rugby when it comes to this encounter. They know how to keep their supporters enthralled. This year’s Pete-Antho rugby encounter could be expected to produce an exciting game with both teams vying for honors to become the holder of The Rectors’ Trophy for yet another season and also to start their 2013 campaign on a high.
Meanwhile the Under 16 game between the two sides will be played for Darrel Wimalaratne Memorial Trophy donated by Mr. Ronnie Guneratne, Former captain (1968) and former President of Peterite Rugby Foundation. Darrel was an excellent Peterite sportsman, a cricketer and a ruggerite and led St. Peter’s College in both sports for Championships in 1965.
While welcoming all to celebrate the new season, hoping to see you all on this Friday afternoon at the Airforce Grounds Ratmalana .
Let the season begin, and as Rugby Fanatics let us see the best of rugby from both schools being played in right spirit.
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