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1984 Peterite Rugby Team included Toronto based Viraj Fernando & Crofton Joseph

Posted on 21 February 2015 by admin

Peterite Rugby Team 1984

Thirty Years of Reminiscing the Peterite Rugby Side of 1984 – Courtesy: Marlon Dale Ferreira.

The schools rugby season may have ended and with it the Peterites can certainly hold their heads high after a splendid performance this year. But the celebrations of the Peterites took a different twist commencing last weekend when after 30 long years the rugby side of 1984 gathered to reminisce the golden era where they donned the blue, white and gold jersey with aplomb. This is the very same side that almost pulled off a stunning win against Trinity in Kandy itself, to end a barren run of 44 years only to lose 9/4 at the stroke of full time. Some quarters to date claim that referee Tony Amit stole the thunder off these amazing players that day, when he played many minutes of extra time which eventually resulted in Trinity scoring a face saving try at the end to win.

Team members of that brilliant side have gathered together in Colombo to regroup and bring back nostalgic memories with a series of “get togethers” commencing 20th June. Players of that team who reside as far as Canada, the Unites States of America, Australia and New Zealand have congregated as one and even travelled together to Kandy to witness that famous encounter thirty years later. The result this year around would certainly have brought back many a memory.

Back in ‘84 the side was led by Viraj Fernando and was coached by the evergreen Frank Hubert who was in his second year in the role replacing the late Archibald Perera. Hubert, who in former years Captained St Peter’s, Havelocks and Sri Lanka, was ably assisted by Orville Fernando, the Peterite, Havies and Sri Lanka forward as well as Shanaka Abeywickrema. The late Austin Fernando was the Master in Charge of the team.

Many players of that side continue to say even today, that they simply attended school just to play rugby as it was their first love and combined with some solid friendships within their team mates that continue till today. Frank Hubert motivated this side in such a manner that he was able to get the optimum out of each player. His sound teachings on Peterite rugby history, culture, and heritage were of immense value and being a reputed referee at that time, imparted the rules of the game meticulously. The strict paces that the team went through with some rigid road runs past the bambalapitiya flats and down Lauries Road passed the famous “De Silva’s residence” were just part of a fitness programme that eventually had them absolutely super fit throughout the season.

The first fifteen squad was made up of Props, Illanguwan Dharmalingam and Bhagwan Mohinani. Stewart Schneider-Loos was their amiable hooker who switched to the role of prop when needed. Mohamed Misverdeen who later went on to represent Sri Lanka at the under 24 level ended up captaining the University of Colombo and also represented the CH&FC and Sampath Gomez played as second row.  The back row was manned by the crack “crash tackler” Chrishan Fernando, Balkan Rayen, the brother of famous Sri Lanka forward Hubert and Dave Croon. Niranjan “Kitty” Wimalasena, the younger brother of “Pusa” Prasanna Wimalasena also vied for the hookers berth. The young Kevin Rasquinho was was contending for the third row berth. Some quarters confirm that the versatile and robust tackler Rasquinho went onto skipper the Jamaican 7’s side in the early 90’s. Nilantha Silva who was a reserve came on during games and always created an impression with his brilliant play. Ramsey Decker was the replacement number 8 and Nilantha Pullenayagam played as a very strong wing forward.

~~The scrumhalf position was shared during the season by Colin Franke, and the talented, nippy, late Rowan Gunasekera. Skipper Viraj Fernando was their dynamic fly half and played as center from time to time. Rohan Paiva another talented player, also manned the position of fly half.  Jerome Brohier was the inside center (the try score scorer against Trinity) and Graham Raux the outside center who ended up playing for Sri Lanka. Tyronne Fernando was a handy outside and also ran on for his school.

The wingers’ positions were held by Royce Buultjens, better known for his cricketing heroics, and Rajith Abeygunawardena the eventual captain of the record breaking side of 1985. Crofton Joseph manned the last line of defense and was their ever reliable place kicker whilst Ravi Dirckze completed the squad and also occupied the position of full back and chipped in as winger when needed.

The ever famous grade 12 English Commerce class room at school was located directly above the chapel and was considered the “first fifteen rugby room” where many gathered during the day to discuss how the team was progressing and plan out strategies and game plans for their eagerly awaited next encounter.

During that year the Peterites received stiff opposition from some of the other prominent school teams. S. Thomas’ fielded Jeremy John and Asanga Seneviratne, Royal had Sampath Agalawatte, Janaka Lenaduwa, Ajith Weeratunga, Chiro Nanayakkara, Ajith Gunasekera & Feroze Suhaib. Isipathana fielded Nizam Jamaldeen, Shabeen Siddik and Sanath Martis whilst Trinity provided Sivaji Subramanium, Ikram Odayar, Dilakshan Ratwatte, Manoj Jayatissa, Roger Halangoda & Ravi Pillai. St Anthony’s completed the line up with Priyantha Ekanayake whilst St Joseph’s had Michael Perera.

Two league games that were of importance during the season were the games against the Thomians and the Trinitians. The game against the Thomians was played for the second year around for the coveted Archibald Perera trophy that the Peterites had lost the previous year. Regaining that trophy was also of utmost importance and the “Bamba Boys” were unfortunately held to a 7 all draw against the “Mount Lads” to hand back the trophy to the mount school for yet another year.

The second and all important game was against Trinity at Bogambara where the Peterites had lost that encounter for 44 straight years on the trot. The Trinitians were a star-studded side, while the Petes were a confident team after their draw against S. Thomas’s the previous week. The Peterites drew first blood when off a move set up by scrum half Rowan Gunasekara who passed on to skipper Fernando who eventually off loaded a pass for Jerome Brohier to score an unconverted try. With the score of a try then being four points, the Petes led 4 nil at the breather.

The Peterites with eight minutes to go for full time were still holding on to their lead when Chrishan Fernando had to leave the field due to an injury. Trinity reduced the deficit to a single digit when they were awarded a penalty which was put over with ease. Trinity then unleashed many a move to thwart the Peterites from taking this game away from them with minutes remaining on the clock. Nevertheless referee Amit kept the game flowing when it appeared that the game had ended long before and he himself had forgotten to blow the long whistle. Trinitian Sivaji Subramanaiam barged over to score a try in semi darkness which was eventually converted to give the Trinitians an amazing come back from behind to win in this game 9/4.

~~Frank Hubert, who was distraught with referee Tony Amit’s handling of the game, threw in the towel as a reputed referee himself after this game. Hubert himself being a Peterite holds this encounter close to his heart. Way back in 1973 his kick at goal hit the cross bar and with it the Petes were prevented from beating the lions. His decision to quit refereeing eventually deprived him from blowing in the “Rugby Asiad” later on. Players of that team still hold Hubert in high regard to date and it is also a known fact that Hubert does not regret his decision.

Later on during the season, St. Peter’s had the honour of ending up as runners up in the school rugby 7’s tournament losing to the far superior Royal College side on the day. The Peterites trounced a gallant Thomian outfit in the Quarter Final and beat Trinity College in the semifinal which they considered as sweet revenge for their earlier league game loss.

In 1984, the team also featured in a famous friendly game against a star studded Old Peterites side of yesteryear. The game was played to commemorate the 2nd death Anniversary of the late Archibald Perera and also to bid adieu to another Peterite legend, Rodney Patternot who was immigrating to Australia. Fittingly it was Mrs. Archibald Perera who was invited as the chief guest in the game that was blown by B.K. Ramachandran.

The side had the honour of having four players namely Rajith Abeygunawardena, Illanguwan Dharmalingam, Royce Buultjens and Stewart Schneider-Loos selected to represent Colombo Schools against the Outstation Schools at the conclusion of the season for the Gratien Cup which was refereed by the late Jeffrey De Jong. In the junior encounter Rohan Paiva was selected to lead the Colombo Schools side which also included Rowan Gunasekara and Ramsay Dakkar.

Chrishan Fernando the dynamic flanker of the ‘84 who witnessed many of the Peterite games this season said “the Petes should have played sans the selfish and unfit No. 10, Shamri Burah in the match against Trinity at Pallakele last Saturday. They should have taken a cue from the Pathana match when after Burah limped off the field the team gelled well under the leadership of the stand-in captain. The ball travelled down the line almost running the opposition off their feet making the hitherto unbeaten Pathanians look a mediocre and jaded side .  Had a few more committed tackles been made, especially on the Pathana No. 8, the Peterites would have pulled off a stunning victory that day.  However, against all odds, they drew the game and could have easily emulated the same against Trinity to pull off a victory.  This is a view accepted by my team mate Rajitha Abeygoonawardena the captain of the SPC ’85 side.  However, the performance against the top sides the Petes played were draws against Kingswood and Isipathana and two losses to Trinity 29/22 and Royal 18/5. These losses could easily have been turned into victories had commitment and character been shown to make the right changes at the right time, as this game demands. Fernando added that the late Peterite stalwart, Coach Archibald Perera gave Rugger the acronym “Rugged, Ugly, Double Guts (Guts, Guts), Entertainment, Recreation” to describe what this sport is all about and all rugby enthusiasts probably should take a cue from this to play the game in the true spirit.


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