Royal Champion of Champions
Vision: To be the most successful team in the 2009 School’s season
and take Royal rugby to the next level.
Mission: To win the Bradby Shield and all other trophies on offer
during the season, remain unbeaten by winning every game and ending up
as league champions.
This virtually sums up the commitment of the 2009 Royal College First
XV rugby team. The song that immortalised our World Cup winning 1996
cricket team, ‘We are the champions’ must surely be reverberating in the
ears of this wonderful rugby team who lived true to their aspirations.
But more importantly, it is 21 years after Lasitha Bonsa Guneratne’s
all-conquering Royal team of 1988 that yet another lineup has emerged
equal to the task. The 2009 side is not only unbeaten, but have also won
every game played this season.
This year’s team took Royal rugby to great heights and the matches
played saw champagne rugby being dished out, which sometimes depicted
poetry in motion. Although no records were broken in their quest for
superiority, they will remain as one of the finest rugby sides to emerge
from Royal College.
The season started off with a bang when Royal took on the Thomians
and defeated them 37-33. A close game indeed, but from then onwards, the
team improved with every match. Came the first Bradby, Royal unleashed a
brand of rugby which only they were capable of in bearding the Lions in
their own den with a convincing 24-12 victory.
The second leg encounter played in Colombo was indeed a treat to
watch when the Royalists tied the Trinity team in knots and ran circles
around their famed three-quarters. The score-line of 31-15 in favour of
Royal did not do justice to the superlative brand of rugby played by the
Reid Avenue boys in regaining the Bradby Shield with an aggregate score
of 53 points to 27.
Next it was the turn of Kingswood to feel the fury of a Royal team
coming to avenge last year’s defeat. It was a stupendous performance
which would have put even club rugby to shame. The score of 43-15 by no
means reflected the fantastic play of the Royal team.
The coup-de-grace was a move initiated almost from the Royal
goal-line with the ball changing hands among the entire three-quarter
line covering the distance of nearly 100 meters before the skipper
himself was on hand to take a pass and score the try of the season!
It was Isipathana’s turn next and there was speculation that Royal
was going to meet their waterloo. After a close 5-3 first half lead, the
Royalists clawed their way to plant another three tries, one of which
was converted, while not allowing the Pathans from adding to their 3
points and also preventing them from crossing the Royal line. The blue
and gold jerseyed boys wrapped up the season with a smashing win in
their final outing with St. Joseph’s College.
The wonderful performance of the 2009 Royal rugby team may well evoke
the persistent issue of comparisons as to which team from which era was
the best Royal side. Let us take the performance of this team during the
season into consideration. In winning all their matches, Royal defeated
St. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia 37-33; trounced St. Anthony’s Kandy
39-6; thumped St. Peter’s 30-10; drubbed Mahanama 54-13; whizzed past
Trinity in the Bradby first leg in Kandy 22-12; rolled over Dharmarajah
Kandy 30-3, overpowered Trinity in the second leg in Colombo 31-15;
thrashed Kingswood 43-17; dumped Isipathana 22-3 and hammered St.
Joseph’s 49-7. In the process they won all silverware on offer - the
Bradby Shield, the Michael Gunaratne Trophy in the game with St. Thomas’
and the Milroy Fernando trophy against Isipathana.
Finally the team crowned themselves as unbeaten 2009 President’s
League champions in an era where stiff opposition was the order of the
day with only the top rugby playing schools figuring in Division 1 Group
A with such inclusions based on the previous year’s performance and
ranking together with promotions from Group B and demotions from Group
A. So, here was a champion of teams, a team of champions.
Statistically, the team won all 10 matches played and scored a total
of 357 points for and had 119 points against them. While averaging 35.7
points per game, Royal triumphed over all other schools with scores of
over 20 points while only St. Thomas’ was able to score more than 20
points against them despite ending on the losing side! With such an
array of accomplishments, make no mistake that the 2009 time is the best
side I have seen in action in the past decade and a shade better than
the unbeaten 2002 team led by Zulqar Hamid.
I say this as an old boy who has played rugby for the alma mater and
being passionately involved in the game at Royal College for the past 20
years and more - firstly as a parent of two rugby-playing children, then
as a member of the Royal Rugby Management Committee with close links to
the unbeaten year 2001 and 2002 teams and now as a member of the Rugby
Matches Organising Committee.
The success of the team this year can be attributed to a relentless
pursuit of excellence coupled with dedication and team-spirit. Although
teamwork was the key to their unfolding achievements, there is one
player who deserves to be singled out whose contribution to the team was
It is none other than skipper Naren Dhason who led from the front. He
appeared omnipresent at all times and in addition to his mercurial play
in the pivotal fly-half position, his cover defence too was par
excellence saving many certain try-scoring opportunities of opposing
teams with his ferocious tackles. Also, he had a personal tally of 7
tries, only surpassed by two other team-mates who had an additional try
apiece. An extraordinary feat indeed.
The man behind the Royal team’s success is that unassuming New
Zealander Theo Serafim. As head coach, we observed a paradigm shift in
his methods to instill the winning ways into the boys.
He was ably supported by his deputy, Old Royalist rugby player Bilal
Yusuf who also figured in the unbeaten 2002 team. Together, the duo has
done wonders with the team, transforming them into an unbeatable
combination with special attention to detail and imparting of
Theo, who agreed to come down to Sri Lanka to coach this Royal
College side did so more out of a love for the sport than any monetary
consideration. In his own words, he also came here ‘to prove a point’
which he has accomplished beyond doubt.
Also, it was certainly nice to see players being re-cycled. But then,
with a great winning side and an average score of 35.7 points per match,
who wouldn’t? Well done Naren Dhason and the 2009 team!