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PETERITE RUGBY …… and the Saga Continues

Posted on 18 March 2014 by admin



Joe-Pete Rugby

The name of the new school had changed from St. Joseph's Colombo South to St. Peter's College in 1927 and Fr. Nicholas Perera's title had also been changed from Manager to Rector. No, it was not the new title but his foresight that made him give thought to another game other than Cricket for the Peterite boys to engage in and that game was Rugby.

Rugby had been introduced to schools in Ceylon (as the country was known then), by the then Principal of Kingswood in 1891 with the first inter collegiate rugby match been played in 1906 when Kingswood played against another school from Kandy, Trinity and the match ending in a tie.

Having set his mind on introducing rugby to St. Peter's, Fr. Nicholas Perera set the wheels in motion in 1932 when he entrusted the task to Mr. Herbert Wittachchy, a brilliant sportsman and rugby player, to mould a team and guide the rugby fortunes at St. Peter's. His dedication and commitment to the task paid off when in the same year (1932) St. Peter's played their first competitive match against Royal. The Peterite team of freshers led by Lim Bilimoria lost that first match which was played in their home grounds in Bambalapitiya but impressed many with their style of play and amply displayed the rugby sense and skill that they are now renowned for. Thus they had announced their entry into the schools' rugby arena as the 4th school to take up this sport in this country's rugby history.

Not too long thereafter, in 2 years to be more precise, in 1934 the Peterites first tasted success when they beat the same opposition at the same venue 5-0 (remember a goal then was worth only 5 points – 3 for a try and 2 for the conversion), under the captaincy of Shirley Illesinghe, another brilliant sportsman produced by St. Peter's. It took only one more year for the Peterites under the captaincy of Fred Keller to beat the more experienced Trinitians for the first time. The happiness of the Peterites knew no bounds that year as they together with the Trinitians, were declared Joint Schools' Champions that year.

The Peterites had the distinction of being the Schools' Rugby Champions for 5 consecutive years thereafter, a rare feat indeed for a school that had entered the arena only a few years before that. and what is more in the years 1936 and 1938 they were unbeaten, under the leadership of Archibald Perera, a legend in his time and Percy Perera, respectively. They both went on to represent the country with distinction.

The Petes had to temporarily put a halt to sports in 1942 after the 2nd World War had broken out and the College buildings were taken over by the British army and resumed rugby only in 1948 under Harold de Silva. It took some years after this resumption for the Peterites to achieve the success levels it did in the 1930s.

In 1956 Archibald Perera took over the coaching of rugby at his beloved old school and guided the sport and his charges until he passed away in 1982. During his tenure as Coach he produced champion sides and many a side that was runner up in the schools' unofficial tournaments. The Peterites were unofficial champions in 1965 under Darrel Wimalaratne, in 1966 under Hamzi Hameed, in 1972 under Jeffery de Jong and again in 1973 under the captaincy of Rohan Wiratunga.

The Peterites achieved a long unrealised dream in 1985 (a cherished dream of that beloved Peterite Coach of yesteryear, Archibald Perera, which unfortunately was not a reality in his lifetime), when under the captaincy of Ranjith Abeygoonawardena they beat Trinity after 44 years. Many times since 1941 had the Peterites tied with the Trinitians and many times had they lost at the last minute or by the slimmest of margins, but this win in 1985 had broken a hoodoo for the Peterites.

Courtesy: Algi Wijewickrema Hony. Editor (SPC – OBU)

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The coaching duties in the 1980s was taken over by Frank Hubert a student who had learned the rudiments of rugby under Archibald Perera and this win in 1985 would have been special coach Hubert as he was also in a team that narrowly missed defeating Trinity in those hoodoo years. T


here were many successes thereafter with teams beating the top rugby playing schools like Trinity, Royal, St. Thomas' and Isipathana but the 2002 team under Dilanka Wijesekera created history for the Peterites when they became official A Division Champions in the Schools' Rugby tournament. Thereafter under Harendra Ariyawardena in 2006, the Peterites became double champions becoming the A Division Champions and the Milo President's Trophy (knock out tournament) winners.

In the year that the Peterites celebrated 75 glorious years of rugby, 2007, the 1st XV rugby team gave the best gift possible to their Alma Mater, when under the leadership of Ranuka Jayasinghe, they became the first Peterite team to be unbeaten Schools' Rugby Champions. The 2010 team went even further and deserves getting special mention for that unbeaten team skippered by Keith Gurusinghe won the triple crown of being the Schools' 7 champions, League Champions and the President's Trophy Champions (knockout championship) despite many obstacles placed on their path.

Needless to say, in the past 81 years St. Peter's has produced many famous rugby players who donned the Sri Lankan jersey with distinction where some had earned the praises of foreign teams that visited Sri Lanka in the past. The Rectors down the years starting from the first, Rev. Fr. Nicholas Perera to Fr. Travis Gabriel have encouraged and supported rugby at St. Peter's and no doubt, the present Rector, Fr. Trevor Martin, who is himself a sportsman from St. Benedict's, will continue this tradition and be a source of encouragement and support to produce champion rugby teams.


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