High riding Thomians out to regain Michael Gunaratne Trophy
S Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia will be looking to regain the Michael Gunaratne Trophy after a lapse of two years when they take on arch rivals Royal College Colombo in their annual inter-school rugby encounter at the Royal Sports Complex, Reid Avenue commencing 4.30 pm today.
The Thomians have not tasted success since 2013 when they triumphed 29-20 at Havelock Park under the leadership of fly half Devin Jayasinghe.
This time they seem to have a great chance of regaining the trophy after being unbeaten having won both their previous games played for the season against St. Joseph’s College Colombo and D.S. Senanayake College at Longden Place.
S Thomas’ are currently enjoying one of their finest seasons in the ongoing Singer division one league tournament under experienced Samoan coach Tevita Tulagaese, affectionately called ” Laga” by all his fans in Sri Lanka. Their best effort probably came earlier in the season when they won the inter-school rugby Sevens trophy under Laga after a lapse of more than one and half decade. In the final they beat the favourites for the title Isipathana to clinch the trophy at Havelock Park.
Last week they scored their second successive victory thrashing D.S. Senanayaka College by 40 points to 6 to go along with their 32-3 win over a hapless St. Joseph side in their first outing.
The Thomians are led by their hardy hooker Pandula de Silva.
Royal of course will be hoping to produce an improved performance after their close call against Wesley College which they narrowly won 17-14 at Longden Place.
Last year Royal under the leadership of Bhanuka Gamage and head coach Sanath Martis had a great season where they emerged the undisputed kings of schools rugby clinching the coveted Singer League trophy after four years. To go along with this they rewrote Royal-Thomian rugby history when they demolished S Thomas’ 52-0 at Havelock Park which is todate the highest score by a team in this traditional encounter. The previous best was 39-3 in 2002 by Royal under Zulki Hameed. The Thomians’ biggest victory in the series is 22-0 under Charya de Saram in 1991. Incidentally last year’s Royal College unsung hero and the highest try scorer in the league tournament, number eight Supun Warnakulasuriya emerged the first and only rugby player from both schools to score a hat-trick of tries. He touched down on four occasions to enable Royal achieve that record 52-0 win.
This season Royal are trying their very best to carry out the same winning momentum even though they are playing with only four coloursmen and 11 freshers. They won their first match of the season against D.S. Senanayake College Colombo 36-10 before being rattled by Wesley.
The Royal College outfit is captained this year by that experienced dashing number eight and Sri Lanka national under 19 prop forward Nikila Gunadeera with another experienced player scrum half Ashok Wijeykumar as his deputy. Royal is coached by Sanath Martis, one of the best known school coaches who is also the head coach of the Sri Lanka under 19 rugby team. Ex-national rugby captain Dushanth Lewke will be his assistant.
T.A. Silva former Army and Sri Lanka national full back will be the kicking coach. This traditional encounter was inaugurated in 1962 and the first match ended in a draw.
Present tally stands at 28 wins to Royal College and 18 to S. Thomas’ College with five ending in draws.
In 1979 this match was not played due to a dispute regarding the date for the encounter.