Invincible ’87

Invincible ‘87 

By Sujith Silva


Tyrrell Jason Rajapakse and Trinity’s 1st XV of 1987, a name and a team written in Golden letters in the Rugby annals of Trinity College Kandy.

Tyrrell known as ‘Tikka’ a Rugby Lionsman,  an outstanding rugby player was also an inspirational leader who marshalled his equally talented lion hearted team of players to become their last Invincible 1st XV Rugby side. That was in 1987, precisely 29 years ago. Since then, many sides came close yet remarkably none could achieve that feat. The 1987 1st XV of Trinityis regarded as one – if not the best, XV produced by hill capital College. This is purely for the clean sheet they maintained against formidable sides, for the brand of rugby they dished out and for the abundance of talent they possessed. Many Trinitians and those passionate sports lovers who followed rugby speaks of Trinity’s 1st XV sides of 56’, 67’, 74’, 77’ and 87’ as the best ever with little or no room to separate each other. Late Ken de Joodt who was part of Quadrangle team, who also played in 1956 under David Frank had high praise when he shared his memories of the talent and skills of ‘David and his lionhearts’ yet he did not dare to compare teams. Late Sharm de Alwis, that colourful sports columnist who had his roots at Trinity College and later at Wesley Collegehad a different opinion. He preferred to do draw parallels or comparisons of 56’, 74’ and 87’ and will look to open up a debate about ‘Who’s the best’ from the ‘best school of all’. Very exciting, interesting and mouth-watering topic – yet it’s like a Japanese Fugu dish which can only be served by a qualified masterly Fugu chefs and only for those who dare to sit down for a deadly dining experience. Both will know the repercussions of a wrong cut or an overdose. In this instance, in the absence of Sharm and Ken, I prefer to take the safer path and let the debateroll on.

So in search of the heroics of Tyrrell and his merry men, rather Lionsmen, I reached out to the captain marvel himself who is now domiciled in Waterloo, Ontario (Canada). Well settled down with his wife and son, living in a picturesque lakeside cottage, more like a mansion, surrounded by endless lakes and wilderness Tyrrell continues to enjoy his life with excitement and adventure like a game of rugby. Running his own company and marshalling more than 100 men instead of 15 players he still finds time to follow schools rugby from that end and his love and passion for Trinity Rugby has not waned though he is more than 10,000 miles away. I also got the assistance of his team mate, prop forward Dilshan Senanayake now living in England to fill in the gaps. He in fact filled more than what I expected as he has been keeping a record of all the action from ‘87 and much tuned to Trinity’s Rugby performances and history. This story is well documented, rewritten by many senior sports writers yet there’s plenty more to share and is fascinating enough to inspire the next generation of not only Trinitians but all sports lovers.

Tyrrell went down memory lane at the outset “We began our training during the Schools Cricket season (1stterm, 1987) by then we have been playing together for a while, at under 15 and at under 17 levels. Our coach at that time was Alex Lazarus. He was our Under 17 coach as well. We were unbeaten in Under 17 and all of us made it straight into the 1st XV squad in 86’ where Senani Gunaratne was the captain and he played in ‘87 too. So we had the experience and talent. As a captain I wanted to lead an unbeaten side, to have an unbeaten season. I told the squad during our pre-season training we must go for an ‘Unbeaten Season’”

Trinity had ten senior players of whom eight were coloursmen, two of them including Tyrrell had the experience of playing for Sri Lanka Under 20 in Taiwan (now Chinese Taipei) in 1986. Senani was playing his fourth year with Tyrrellin his third year at 1st XV.

Dilshan felt the team bonding was at its peak “The TCK under 11 team of ’79 had 7 future ’87 1st XV players. The ‘TCK under 13 team of ’81 where I was the captain had 12 future ’87 1st XV players and TCK under 15 of ’83 again I captained and we had 12 future ’87 1st XV players. The familiarity of playing with each other, camaraderie, and togetherness and in no small measure of honed skill through age group rugby all help create ’87.

Tyrrell recalls “Our preparations involved team building and physical strengthening exercise. We spent lot of time together on and off the field. It’s not easy as we had a bigger squad and to keep them together is a task. We used to run a tuck-shop during Cricket matches at Asgiriya and get involved in College activities as a team. All these helped us to bind the squad together, build better understanding so the team spirit was at high. At the same time, I was strict on discipline. No late nights, no partying, all need to attend training on time. Regular training was a must. I had to become a dictator and took decisions irrespective of the seniority as my priority was discipline first. I had the support from my senior players and all respected and adhered to the rules. I believe when we are united and disciplined it is easy to build a strong team. Alex Lazarus, another Legend and Trinity Lion, introduced a strict training and fitness method now we call it ‘physical strengthening & conditioning’ schedule. This included weight lifting too. I was into Body Building along with few of my team mates like Dilshan Senanayake and Lohan Ratwatte. We even used to participate in body building competitions like Mr. Kandy. We took this seriously. In fact the entire squad followed weight lifting and all wanted to build muscles and be strong. Our schedule included three days of the week rugby training at Asgiriya and three days at the gym in between we did road runs and hiking together as a team. By then we were the only schools rugby team or perhaps the first school to do proper physical training. This helped the entire squad to be really strong and physically fit. Those days we didn’t have body armour to protect us. So we needed to be physically strong to last the season. We were assisted by Dr. Halpe and Mr. Chandra Seneviratne. They regularly looked after us and our fitness”.

Dilshan had this to say about the training “While formal practices started early in the school term followed by the customary three week residential camp – which is the camp from hell and most of us were on individual training schedules from well before the turn of the year. My personal preparations for ’87 including gym and road work started in Oct ’86 and so was half the squad as Tikka fully well knows. I must mention that helping us with our gym work was also the individual considered the father of Sri Lankan iron game the legendary late Mr. Pakeer Ali.”

“I think we had everything going right for us, we laid a solid foundation pre-season. Good team spirit, physically and mentally we were really strong and prepared to face any challenge. To become unbeaten. Coach Alex was a good tactician and his training, knowledge and experiences helped us. We also had a talented squad. We had speedsters like Nilantha Ratnayake, Senani Gunaratne and Imthie Marikkar, a strongly built set of forwards like Dilshan Senanayake, Lohan Ratwatte, Dasarath Kiridena, Janinda Dunuwille, Takshila Hettiarchchi, Prasad Dissanayake and Nishantha Abeysinghe then the backs with good kicking and of course sublime ball handling skills to go with it like scrum half Rohan Ranaraja and my vice-captain Shah Doole at fly-half  who was outstanding and so was Bindu Dandeniya, Upul Gunaratne and Rajive Bandaranayake. Not only the 1st XV; our 2nd XV called ‘Colts’ were equally strong. So we had replacement for each of the players, an equally good player coming from the bench or to be drafted from 2nd XV. It was so competitive with many of the talented and really good 2nd XV players giving a run to the 1st XV players.”

“This depth, talent and having the luxury of physically strong players enabled us to play through a long season, and to remain unbeaten. We had many fixtures, schools and clubs matches before the main tournament. We tested our bench and gave opportunities to the young ones too. We beat Kandy Sports Club, Dimbulla & Dickoya in preseason games. We couldn’t play in the 7’s that year as I got injured just before the tournament and Alex felt it’s better to pull out. We were confident of winning that too had we played, but with our main goal to remain unbeaten in the 15s games in front of us I think we took the right decision”.

Dilshan narrated the story behind the pull-out “We were set to field two incredibly talented sides for the 7s. In the first training session itself Tikka hyper-extended his knee & hobbled to the side, but as full contact practice continued, testy to say the least, Shah Doole got injured and Alex Lazarus immediately halted practices and said “that’s it, the captain is out, vice-captain is out, soon I will have nobody, we are not going” that was on day one of full contact”.


The Fixture – Trinity College 1st XV 1987


10th April  ‘Sevens’


16th, Saturday            Vs               Thurstan M.V                                Bogambara

23rd, Saturday            Vs               Isipathana M.V                             Bogambara

29th, Friday                  Vs               Ananda College                            Bogambara


6th, Saturday               Vs               St. Anthony’s College                 Bogambara

13th, Saturday            Vs               St. Joseph’s College                      Bogambara

20th, Saturday            Vs               S. Thomas’ College                      Colombo

26th, Friday                  Vs               St. Peter’s College                       Colombo

(Sugathadasa Stadium)


4th, Saturday               Vs               Royal College                                 Bogambara

18th, Saturday            Vs               Royal College                                 Colombo (Sugathadasa Stadium)


Captain                         T. J. Rajapakse

V. Captain                   A.S. Doole

Coach                            Alex Lazarus Esq

Master-in-charge S.Ariyasingam Esq

Under 17

Captain                         P.Y.D.Wijetilleke

Coach                            C.H. Seneviratne Esq

Master-in-charge     S.J.Madugalle Esq


Prefect of Games    R.R.Herathge Esq


[Cite your source here.]

Talking about the all-important season,

Tyrrell reminisces ‘We took every game seriously. All were committed to defend our goal line, we told ourselves let no one cross the line. In fact if anyone comes to our 22 it is do or die. Our line was crossed only once during the entire season and that by Isipathana”.

Trinity opened their season with a convincing win over Thurstan M.V. by 34-0 at Nittawela.


Then it was a showdown of heavyweights. Defending Premadasa trophy champions Isipathana M.V. travelled to Kandy after convincingly beating the Anandians (29-9) in their season opener. Isipathana had a star studded side led by Nilantha Lakshmiwewa. Tyrrel recalls “It was our first major hurdle. Isipathana was one of the top sides and had players like Nilantha Lakshmiwewa, Pradeep Lakshantha, Chanka Jayaweera, Abeysinghe brothers (Mahesh & Sudesh) and Daham Sampath. I think about four to five players from this side went on to represent Sri Lanka later on. It was expected to be a tough game and a close one”.

Take on Isipathana at Bogambara Stadium

Trinity have the edge



Everything at stake for Trinity and Isipathana(Sun, 23rd May 1987)

“To say that this year’s Trinity team is a strong one would be like ‘gilding the lily’. Trinitians are usually born of rugby stock and nurtured in a rugby atmosphere from ‘tender years’ consequently the Trinity team, even at its worst, is a competent one”


On that battle at Bogambara, for Trinity, scrum half Rohan Ranaraja opened scoring by pounced on a loose ball inside the Isipathan goal line, Doole missed the conversion. “We were leading by 4-0 after the first try and Isipathana came back strongly into our half. We were put under tremendous pressure. Off a quick tap, before even we started to back paddle, Pradeep Lakshantha ran through us and scored near the posts and they were in the lead by 6-4. We were caught off guard and needless to say a bit upset too as our goal line was crossed for the first time. The team rallied around and I told the boys to take the game to Isipathana. I told them let’s get into their 22 and I will somehow score a try. In the 2nd half I swapped places, from 2nd row to No.8. Off a 5 yard scrum I scored a try and we were back in the lead 8-6. After that Doole converted a penalty and we sealed the game during the last stages when Kiridena scored a try”.

Dilshan shared his memories, the only try scored by an opponent “it was off a quick tap taken by Pradeep Lakshantha for a penalty in our 5 yard (awarded for a shoulder tackle by Dunuville). Pradeep dived almost untouched as we were slow to react. 30 secs longer and Pathana would’ve never crossed our line. In joint practices with KandySC we used to practice defending 5m penalties repeatedly and Kandy never crossed our line even in practice”.

The final score was 15-6 in favour of Trinity College. This game was marred by unruly crowd behaviours, especially during the final stages of the game.

Lions invincible in their own den (WEEKEND, 24th May 1987)

“In a rousing Rugby match at the Bogambara Stadium where fortunes swung from side to side where one side was dominant at one moment only to be defending for all their worth the next, the Trinitians pulled off a 15 to 6 win over Isipathana. In doing so Lions kept their unbeaten record against Isipathana at home.”


Grand win for Trinity (Island, 26th May 1987)

Isipathana won the set scrums time and again but failed to make much headway due to the hard tackling of the Trinity flankers. It must be stated Isipathana’s Hooker Sanjaya Fernando completely out hooked Trinity’s Janitha Dunuwille in the set scrums while Trinity had a bigger share of the ball from the line outs due to the efforts of Lohan Ratwatte and Anurudha Abeywickrema. Trinity’s skipper Tyrrell Rajapakse excelled in the loose playing like a Trojan. But the cynosure of all eyes was Trinity’s full back Imthie Marikkar who enjoyed a grand game.”


The next to visit Bogambara was by Ananda College, Colombo. The boys from Maradana were gaining recognition for their fierce  tackling and their nimble running and they were a force to be reckoned with. Much was expected from Ananda when they met Trinity at Bogambara as leading up this game, they had given a scare to Royal College when they went down fighting by 3 points to 7. Anandians lived up to the expectations but couldn’t withstand the Trinity attack for  long as they fell apart during the last stages of the game. Trinity recorded a hard fought 14 points – 3 victory. Shah Doole scored a long distance drop goal on the run and Tyrrell Rajapakse and Nilantha Ratnayake scored a try each. Also Senani Gunaratne, Bindu Dandeniya, and Imthie Marikkar played well for Trinity.

Late revival by the Lions

On 6th June Trinity hosted their Big Match rivals, St. Anthony’s College at Bogambara. The Antonians were led by Senaka Kaluarachchi and they were coming into this game aftera nil all draw against St. Joseph’s College at Havelocks Park. They had also recorded two wins (Vidyartha and Dharmaraja) and a loss against Kingswood. Under Sanjaya Amunugama, in 1986 the Antonians beat the Trinitians 6-0. Trinity wanted to make amends for this and they did it in style by winning 47 points to nil. Trinity winger Bindu Dandeniya scored four tries as he was simply unstoppable and centres Rajive Bandaranayake and Senani Gunaratne, scrum half Rohan Ranaraja, fly half Shah Doole, flanker Nishantha Abeysinghe and Prop Dilshan Senanayake all scored a try each.

An all backs game

Trinity rout St. Anthony’s with a try splurge (Sun, 8th June 1987)

From one Saint to the other, it was the turn of St. Joseph’s College Colombo to visit the den. The Josephians under Shamim Perera was not enjoying a good season and odds were pretty much against them to beat Trinity, which they couldn’t since 1956. They came quite close in 1986 to record a win under dynamic No.8 Nalin Perera where Joes were leading till the final minutes of the game at CH & FC grounds but to be denied by Trinitians who fought gallantly to force a nail biting 13 all draw. This time Tyrrell and his boys put the matter beyond doubt with a thumping 56-0 score line as the Trinitians enjoyed a try fest at Bogambara.

Trinity bombard Joes

Another rampage as Lions triumph 56-0 (Sun, 15th June 1987)

After enjoying a clean sweep at home, Trinity College 1st XV travelled down to Colombo for the first time in 1987 to take on S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia in their traditional encounter for the Canon R. S. De Saram trophy at the CR & FC Grounds. The Trinitians were holders of this trophy since 1980 with seven successive wins and they were determined to extend it to eight years in a row setting a record in the series which they did achieved without a fuss. Tyrrell recalls “Thomians had some big made players but we felt they lacked the stamina to last the duration of the game as we were much stronger and fitter. We were not challenged and as predicted we found they were struggling to keep up to the pace we were playing”. S. Thomas’ were annihilated with a 52-0 score, the consecutive fifty plus score for Trinitians.

Trinity – smashing win (Sunday Observer, 21st June 1987)

“The Lions were on the rampage again. This time they proved an encounter in Colombo does not make a big difference in their try appetite when they went on to drub a bewildered Thomian outfit by 52 points (6 goals, 4 tries) to nil at Longden Place”

“Trinity three quarter line working with clock-work precision moved on with such cohesion that almost every move that they started ended up in tries. Also very prominent was full back Imthisham Marikkar who overlapped at every opportunity, making more room for the wingers to run down the flanks”

LIONS GOBBLE S.T.C Trinity continue their rampages (Sun, 22nd June 1987)

Following this grand win, The Trinitians returned to Colombo once again to take on St. Peter’s College at Sugathadasa Stadium. This was the final appearance for Trinity College before their all-important 1st leg of the Bradby encounter against Royal College at Bogambara. The Peterites were enjoying a good season under Rohan Ekanayake with seven wins until they met Isipathana leading up to this encounter where they tasted defeat for the first time with a 20-0 drubbing. However, against Trinity a traditional encounter played between these two sides since 1933, they managed to turn their fortunes in 1985 after a 44 year winless draught, under Rajith Abeygoonewardena when they beat Trinity 8-0 in Colombo after a near loss in 84’  4-9 in Bogambara under Viraj Fernando. Then in ‘86 under late Rowen Gunasekera the Peterites featured in a blockbuster 4 all draw against Trinity led by Senani Gunaratne in Bogambara. So the game was evenly poised but Trinity had the edge with their unblemished record intact.

High riding Trinitians meet wounded Peterites (Sun, 27th June 1987)

Peterites can down Trinity (Daily News, 27th June 1987)

Trinitians go out favourites today (Island, 27th June 1987. By Hafiz Marikkar)

“The Trinitians are in peak from this season and the fact that they have not beaten Peterites for three years will make them even more determined to score a resounding win over the Peterites to avenge the defeat suffered in Colombo in 1985.

The forte of the Trinitians have been their powerful three quarters. Their halves combination of Rohan Ranarajah and Shah Doole have hit it off smoothly while (Rajive) Bandaranayake, (Senani) Gunaratne, (Nishantha) Ratnayake and (Bindu) Dandeniya are powerful runners who should be able to breach the Peterite defence. Full back Imthie Marikkar has been an asset to the side”

“The Peterites will prefer to keep play among their forwards. In Robin Goonetilleka, Lenox Peter, Allan Lamb, Harendra Wijesena, Malik Lenora and skipper Rohan Ekanayake the Peterites have some excellent forwards who are capable of matching up to their counterparts in the loose.”

Talking about this game, Tyrrell recalls “It was a close game as we expected but we managed to beat the Peterites with a good performance from our three quarters”. St. Peter’s put up a gallant show against the formidable Trinitians. Trinity managed to pull off a close win 11-03 with Prasad Dissanayake and Nishantha Ratnayake scoring tries and Shah Doole converting a penalty.

Close call for ‘Lions’ (Sunday Observer, 28th June 1987. By S.R. Pathiravithana)

“The marauding ‘Lions’ from Kandy encountered their closest call for the season when they had to overcome a stiff challenge from St. Peter’s to register a close 11 points (two tries and a penalty) to 3 points (a penalty) win at the Sugathadasa Stadium yesterday. At half time Trinity led by 4 points to 3. Though the ultimate score sheet indicates a difference of 8 points in favour of Trinity, the run of play was another story.”

“During the entire first half St. Peter’s had camped in the Trinity territory scoring through a penalty put over by their winger Chinthaka Perera”

“For the Peterites scrum half Rowen Gunasekera played an outstanding game.He was equally good in attack as well as in defence”

“Trinity on their part played a well calculated game. Knowing that they were beaten in the loose, they waited patiently for the openings to come their way.”

“However the match winner for Trinity was their full back Imthisham Marikkar who had a big hand in both tries scored by them.”

Fighting Petes restrict Trinity to 11-03 victory

Close shave for Lions on eve of Bradby (Sun, 29th June 1987)

Trinity went into 1st leg of Bradby under Tyrrell Rajapakseas clear favourites with an unbeaten record and having won the prized Shield for two years in a row, ‘85 under Manoj Jayatissa and ‘86 under Senani Gunaratne. Whereas Royal College under Suren Madanayake had mixed fortune during the ‘87 season. Royal lost to St. Peter’s (9/10) but managed to hold strong Isipathana to a 13 all draw and recorded six wins including the win against S. Thomas’ by 30-0 to retain the Michael Gunaratne trophy for the 5th consecutive year. Royal won the Bradby last under Sampath Agalawatte in 1984 and prior to which they won it under Sujantha Kumara in 1980 when he completed the hat trick of Bradby wins for Royal which began under Rohantha Peiris in 1978.


Royal will miss Druvi and Kuruneru

Trinity go out favourites today (Island, 4th July 1987. By Allaam Ousman)

“The awe inspiring Trinitians are poised to bring back the majestic splendor of Bradby Shield in real rugby, sense, when the ‘First Leg’ of the 43rd encounter kicks-off at the Bogambara Stadium this evening. Royal face a stiff proposition today in containing the rampaging ‘Lions’ who are in a class of their own”.

“Royal have an equally good if not better pack. They are not a rugged bunch, but make up for it due to some outstanding individual play. Number 08 Janoda Thoradeniya is their sole ball winner in the line outs while Imtiaz Sahalam is in striking form in the set scrums. Burly Lasitha Gunaratne cannot hope to crash through without rallying his team mates round, while flanker Roshan Gunaratne has lacked a bit of sting but is a hard working player in the loose along with Udith Karunatilleke”.

“Fly half Anura Dhammika has improved reasonably well in the absence of talented Druvi Perera, who is on the injured list. Skipper Suren Madanayake, is returning after missing the last two games through injury is the man to watch on the Royal wing, while centre Sudath Karunaratne is nimble footed”.  


Royal: Lasitha Gunaratne, Imtiaz Sahalam, Romesh Abhayaratne, Thilina Balasuriya, Ruwan Jayasuriya, Udith Karunatilleke, Roshan Gunaratne, Janoda Thoradeniya, Rajeev de Silva and Anura Dhammika, Shamal Jayasinghe, Sudath Karunaratne, Lal Perera, Suren  Madanayake (Captain), Chanaka Seneviratne.

Coach: Dr. Fred Pereira and Uddaka Tennakoon

Trinity: Lohan Ratwatte, Janinda Dunuwille, Dilshan Senanayake, Tyrrel Rajapakse (Captain), Takshila Hettiarachchi, Prasad Dissanayake, Nishantha Abeysinghe, DasarathKiridena, Rohan Ranarajah and Shah Doole, Nilantha Rathnayake, Senani Gunaratne, Rajiv Bandaranayake, Upul Gunaratne or Shammi Upendra, Imthisham Marikkar

Coach: Alex Lazarus

Referee: Anton Benedict

Tyrrell recalls the memories of the 1st leg of Bradby “We knew Royal had a heavier pack, and they will have the advantage in scrums and line outs. They had the height advantage too. Especially with Lasitha Gunaratne and Janoda Thoradeniya. Lasitha ‘Bonsa’ was one of the leading try scorers for Royal and he is good at crashing througha defence. So, we thought to block and not let their forwards run and make use of our three quarters who were much fasters to gain ground for us. It was a really physical battle. Royal were tactful at line outs. Their jumpers used to get a higher elevation or a lift with long throws and Lasitha waiting to crash through. A master plan by their coaches Dr. Fred Pereiraand Mr. Uddaka Tennakoon. This took us off guard and we couldn’t counter it. But we somehow didn’t let ‘Bonsa’ (Lasitha) to run and we had to do some hard tackling. Especially during the last stages. It was a closer game than we expected but we somehow managed to win it.”

Dilshan shared his thoughts “That was the hardest game I played as we lost the battle up front. Struggled to secure clean scrum ball and line outs. Lifting of players in line outs were not allowed back in 1987. But Royal jumpers easily outjumped ours.”

Trinity scored first when Doole put over a 35-yard penalty and soon after Royal equalized through a 30-yard penalty by Lal Perera. Trinity scored the match wining try in the mid second half off a move initiated by Rajiv Bandaranayake. Though there was tremendous fight back from Royal, especially through their forwards, Trinity defence stood strong to secure the 1st leg 7-3. Trinity juniors also won the 1st leg for the Simitharachchi trophy by 8-7.

A clean well fought game            Scores were 3 all then ….

Spectacular try and Trinity win 7-3

(Sunday Island, 5th July 1987. By Jiffrey Abdeen)

“Trinity edged out a ‘fighting’ Royal outfit by 7 points (1 try, 1 penalty) to 3 points (1 penalty) after the scored stood level at 3 all at half time in the first leg of the 43rd Bradby Shield confrontation at the Bogambara Stadium which was packed to capacity.”

“The Trinitians never bargained for this tremendous play by Royal, who for the first time this season looked a better side that could have beaten the ‘Lions’. They played an excellent game through their forwards where burly Lasitha Gunaratne (prop) and No.08 Janoda Thoradeniya were outstanding. Rajeev de Siva at the base of the scrum and fly-half Anura Dhammika too did well with Dhammika gaining a lot of ground through his clever punts. Royal had a major share of possession in the scrums and loose while Trinitians had the edge in the line outs.”

“The Trinitians were starved of possession and their reputed backs were not given an opportunity of displaying their talents. Their defence was very good and fly-half Shah Doole, who was a doubtful starter, had a brilliant game. Among the forwards, the two second rowers; skipper Tyrrell Rajapakse and Thakshila Hettiarachchi were outstanding along with No.08 Dasarath Kiridena.”

“Trinity won possession from a line out in the half way mark. Fly-half Shah Doole passed the ball out to centre Rajiv Bandaranayake who ‘sold’ a dummy/scissor pass to fox the Royal defence. He was looking for his winger to pass the ball, when Imthisham Marikkar the fullback was there for the collection to run over 30 yards, slipping tackle after tackle on the left flank to touch down near the left corner flag amidst jubilation from the Trinity players and their supporters.”

Bradby bombshell at Bogambara

Lions hang on grimly against roaring Royalists

(Sun, 5th July 1987)

After a close shave, Trinitians regrouped and strategized their plans for the second leg of Bradby which was to be worked off at Sugathadasa Stadium on 18th July. Dilshan reminisces the plans and what went behind the scene. “Alex’s moment of genius, to counter royal’s tactics at line outs. We practiced quick two man line outs. To counter Royal power at Scrums, for two weeks we trained scrummaging against 12 forwards not the usual 8 man forwards. He employing a technique of engage, lock & hold. Simultaneously, armed with Photographic evidence, Trinity College lodged a complaint with SLSRFA of Royal College’s line-out lifting tactic which was upheld (as it was deemed illegal back in 1987) and acknowledged as an error by the referee”.

Then President (late) Hon. J.R. Jayawardena was the chief guest and another capacity crowd was expected with a blockbuster match on the cards. Both, Royal and Trinity were confident of securing the Bradby though Trinity had a 04 points margin. Trinity went ahead with the same side while relying on their superior three quarters to come off well. Bindu Dandeniya who missed the 1st leg due to injury could not recover on time and was out for the 2nd leg too. Royal made few changes with Sukantha Kuruneru coming back after missing the 1st leg due to injury and skipper Suren Madanayake was a doubtful starter due to an injury he sustained in the 1st leg. Referee for this encounter was Daya Jayasundara.





(Sun, 18th July 1987)


Kuruneru back for 2nd leg encounter

Royal’s power against Trinity’s speed

(The Island, 18th July 1987. By AllaamOusman)

“Pundits will prophesise, climates will change but only performances will tell the tale on this day. The Bradby Shield is for the taking by whoever turns out the best effort in the latest rugby turf – The Sugathadasa Stadium this evening.”

Talking about the 2nd leg of Bradby, Tyrrell had this to say “We learnt our lessons, and with Coach Alex Lazarus we came up with a plan to outsmart Royal at the line outs. This is where we lost our possession in the 1st leg. This time, we opted to go for two man lineouts when it’s our turn to throw in. I went with Lohan which got Royal camp confused and they couldn’t compete. Quick throws, and forwards lined up to crash in and suck their defence and once the ball was cleared, our three quarters had more space to run. I think this ploy rattled them. We expected Royal to come really hard but they couldn’t and we managed to score without much of a challenge.”


Trinity retain Bradby with a 19-3 stunner

(The Sunday Times, 19th July 1987. By Mike Andree)

“The Marauding “Lions’ ran through the Royalists as Trinity retained the ‘Bradby Shield’ with a stunning 19 points (2 goals, 1 try, 1 penalty) to 3 (1 penalty) victory over Royal in their second leg rugby match played at the Sugathadasa Stadium yesterday.

What stunned the massive crowd of spectators was the manner in which Trinity achieved their goal. This pride of ‘Lions’ almost caged by the Royalists in their own den in the hills fortnight ago and they had to fight themselves out from a corner. This made many to expect a royal victory yesterday.

The performances of Royalists was far below that of the first leg. They played not as a team but as individuals. They played into the paws of the Lions by using a two man line-out for their throw-in, such as the ‘Lions’ were doing.”


Trinity in smashing win-take Bradby again

(Sunday Observer, 19th July 1987)



Stadium roars in victory lap

(Sun, 19th July 1987)


22 carat Rugby at the ‘Bradby’

(Daily News, 22nd July 1987)


Dilshan recollects “The very first Royal College line-out was blown ‘for lifting’ by referee Daya Jayasundara. At that moment I knew we had the Royal College exactly where we wanted them. Thereafter conversely we were winning 100% of our two man and three man line outs between Tyrell, Lohan, Hetti (and myself as the line out thrower). When it came to scrums; by the middle of the first half Royal’s scrum power was neutralized and by the second half we were pushing Bonsa, Thora & Co even off of their own ball”.

Trinity College won the second leg convincingly by 19-3 after leading 15-0 at half time. Trinity therefore won the Bradby for the 3rd consecutive year with an aggregate of 26-6 in front of a capacity crowd which was estimated to be more than 20,000 people in attendance at Sugathadasa Stadium, Colombo.

Tyrrell Rajapakse received the Bradby shield from President J.R. Jayawardena flanked by Minister Gamini Dissanayake and principals of two schools. For Trinity their captain Tyrrell Rajapakse and winger Upul Gunaratne scored a try each in the first half which were converted by Shah Doole. Doole also put over a penalty. In the second half for Royal their place kicker Lal Perera put over a penalty and like in the first leg they fought back through their forwards No.08 Janoda Thoradeniya and Lasitha Gunaratne  made some daring attempts but were unable to score any points. Also Royalists were hampered when their star player and acting Captain Roshan Gunaratne left the field early in the game due a shoulder injury. A late try by Senani Gunaratne for Trinity put the matter beyond any doubt. The Trinitians also won the Simitharachchi Trophy after their Under 17 team was held to a 6 all draw by Royalists in the second leg. Trinity won the first leg encounter 8-7.

With this win Trinity ended their 1987 fixtures (the tournament matches) unbeaten with 255 points  and just 18 points against with a single try being scored against them in 9 matches. They were crowned as Schools Rugby Champions. They still had one hurdle to clear, that was the Premadasa Trophy, Under 19 Schools Knockout tournament. Trinity was drawn to play previous year’s runners up Royal College in the quarter finals and the other quarter finals were defending champions Isipathana MV Vs St. Peter’s College, Kingswood College Vs Science College, Zahira College Vs Lumbini MV.



Royal Trinity clash for the third time


(Sun, 30th August 1987)

It was another fascinating contest, Trinity and Royal met for the 3rd time and that too back to back within a span of two months. The Trinitians were tested to the fullest with Royal giving their best to topple the Bradby Champions one last time. However in the process they managed to miss no less than five penalties yet keep the scores 6 all and then dragged the game in to extra time. Here, Trinity No.08 Dasarath Kiridena, scored off a 5 yard scrum to give Trinity a close win by 10-6 points against a spirited Royal attack which yet again failed to breach the Trifinity defence at the Sugathadasa Stadium.

Trinity thro’ to Semis (Daily News, 1st September 1987)

Premadasa Trophy

A battle Royal but Trinity win (Island, 1st September 1987)

Dilshan had this to say about the 3rd encounter against Royal. “I think Uddaka and Fred made required adjustments in Royal’s set pieces when it came to the 3rd leg, negating our advantages in line outs and scrums. The only reason we won was because of our bloody mindedness, refusal to lose and a moment of magic by Kiri”.

Trinity advanced to the semi-finals and met their home town rivals, Kingswood College who managed to beat Science College in the quarter finals. In the flood-lit Semi Finals played at Sugathadasa Stadium, Trinity pulled off a hard fought win against a determined Kingswood team by 11 points (2 tries and a 1 penalty) to 6 (1 drop goal and 1 penalty) and made it to their first ever Finals of the Premadasa tournament. Imthie Marikkar scored two tries for Trinity while Shah Doole put over a penalty. For Kingswood, Ronnie Ibrahim did the scoring with a drop goal and a penalty.


Premadasa Trophy Schools Rugby Finals

Will Isipathana tame the Lions?

Isipathana wants a hat trick ….and Trinity an unbeaten record

In the much looked forward to finals between the defending Premadasa Trophy Champions Isipathana and the Schools Rugby Champions of ‘87 Trinity College, Trinitians managed to pull off a memorable win under a carnival atmosphere at Sugathadasa Stadium by 12 points (a goal and 2 penalties) to 3 (a drop goal) and win the Premadasa Trophy. Isipathana was leading at half time 3-0 with a drop goal by Sudesh Abeysinghe. For Trinity Nilantha Ratnayake scored the solitary try while Doole converted it and two penalties. With this win Tyrrell and his Lionsmen ended their campaign for 1987 as Unbeaten Schools Rugby Champions.

Lions crush Isipathana in schools rugby showdown

Trinity’s Glory Thursday (Sun, 11th September 1987)


LIONS ATTACK, NO SURVIVORS (Weekend, 20th September 1987)


Trinitians recorded 288 points whilst giving away 30 points in 12 matches in this season. Tyrrell Rajapakse was picked to lead the Outstation Schools team which also included nine Trinitians in the traditional Gratiaen Cup match against the Colombo Schools.

An extract from “The men who tanned the hide of us” Bradby Magazine 2013. ‘The training, fitness and skill regimes of Alex Lazarus’s ‘87 were so cutting edge that the Sri Lanka National squad worked with Trinity’s scrimmaging machine prior to the Asiad, while Colombo schools such as STC and RC rushed to sign up their squads for systematic pre-season weight training in plush Colombo gyms. Alex’s skills training regime and six minute run regime were directly borrowed from the Welsh and modified to fit purpose. In an era when no game tapes of opponents were around we had weekly extensive game review and breakdown sessions of old international matches -during school hours! Alex was also an excellent game week coach. His introduction of inter changing jumpers –before the Bradby 2nd leg- who would move up and down the line just prior to throw in, common today but never seen or done legally before was a coup d’état of established practice

When asked about their key to success, Tyrrell had this to say “We were united, disciplined and played for a single cause; to be the unbeaten team during the season. What we did during pre-season helped us. Team bonding exercises went a long way, to-date we are good buddies. We had a fantastic coach Alex Lazarus and then I was leading from the front being a leader to them while keeping the team together. I also got the support from the team. We all trained hard, gave our fullest and we were dedicated. The three things that would stand out for me is leadership, a talented group of players and most importantly unity among the team. So when these things comes together, success bound to come your way.”

Dilshan had this to say “On our key to success, I agree with Tikka. I like to expand the three things mentioned by him.
1. Leadership. In Tikka (Tyrrell) we had a maniacal captain who led from the front, but supporting him was a core group of leaders around the park, who not only brought in to his attitude and vision but enhanced it with their own strengths.

  1. Core skills– While the team’s overall level of core skills was high simply due to the fact most had been coached since the ages of 8 or 9, we were exceptionally gifted in the skill positions (down the spine) no. 8 down through to fullback with some rare talent and outstanding rugby brains. I have by design not mentioned our hooker, Dunu (Dunuwila), an excellent player in the loose, as he didn’t make the line out calls or throws which I did (this is except when Tikka called the long ball if he spotted something in the defense).
  2. Team spirit/Unity– The entire leadership group were of the same age group, in fact the entire starting 15, bar 2 players were all of the same age, growing up together from kindergarten, played in the intervals together, most of the parents knew each other socially and moved in the same social circles (Kandy is a small town, and in 1987 it was even smaller), most played rugby through the age groups together and simply hung out together all the time. Therefore unity came almost naturally which helped us win. At the same time winning helped tighten this bond even further, soon it became a cycle feeding on itself and that was unstoppable.

“The coach and captain under stood each other perfectly. The team reflected the captain and in many ways the captain mirrored the team, uncompromising and bloody minded but this team importantly was generously blessed with genuine footballers. Intelligent and smart 11 of the starting 15 went onto higher education earning bachelors and masters degrees, so it was not only brawn but plenty of brain was at play as well. One of the big things for me about 1987 was that we, in a manner of speaking, ‘revolutionized’ the game and how other teams ‘approached’ the game after 1987. Also as you had alluded to, the sheer length some of these boys had been playing rugby together continuously through age groups was impressive. 8-9 years of growing up playing rugby together, you cannot replicate it. So there was a lot of little ducks that had lined up along the way which helped us deliver that unbeaten year.”

Success never comes easy and it’s much harder to produce Unbeaten Teams. Tyrrell an exemplary leader and his able Lionsmen did come up with what is arguably the best season recorded in Trinity’s rugby annals that was 29 years ago. No short cuts, no individual brilliance but with unity, their skills and with discipline they achieved what every school boy ruggerite dreams of to be ‘Invincible’. May this be an inspiration for generations to follow…



About Sujith Silva

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