Two brother schools, Wesley College Colombo and Kingswood College Kandy, are yet again set to showcase their prowess in rugby, when they scrum down on 22 April at the Bogambara Grounds Kandy, for the coveted ‘L.E. Blaze Trophy’.
This series, which was inaugurated in 1986, witnesses the coming together of two eminent, rugby-enthusiastic cousins of Methodist origin, fostering good relations between the two School communities, and strengthening their roots of yore. This year the Wesley XV will be led by Stand Off Denister Lomu, while his opposite number, Heshan Jansen, will lead the Kingswoodians. The fixture, which will be played in Kandy, will kicked off at the Bogambora Grounds. Wesley are the current title defenders, and favourites on paper, after their cruising 57-7 win in 2016. However the Kingswoodians are an unbeaten side.
With distinct Methodist and Wesleyan relations, Kingswood and Wesley are still acknowledged as “brother schools”. Wesley College, Colombo founded on 2 March 1874, by Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira, with Rev. Samuel Rose Wilkin as its founder principal, is an educational institution which boasts a rich heritage of values and traditions. Wesley College bears a proud history with great contributions to the nation, having produced men of honour, grit and industry. There are great statesmen, sportsmen, and prominent personalities who are the products of this great institution.
Wesley commenced rugby in 1955, with the first captain being Eddie Buell.
The cultural ties between the two schools are more readily acknowledged in the field of sports, where the “Rugby Big Match” of the school calendar is the annual fixture between Wesley and Kingswood.
Founded by Sir L.E. Blaze on 4 May 1891, Kingswood College Kandy is an educational institution of excellence with a history of great traditions providing contributions to the Sri Lankan society through many facets. But to the rugby loving public, Kingwood College is known as the school which introduced rugby to Sri Lanka. Kingswood started playing rugby from the year it was founded in 1891. In 1906 the first ever schools rugby match in Sri Lanka was played between Kingswood and Trinity College.
In honour of this great gentleman, brother schools Kingwood College Kandy and Wesley College Colombo set out to play an annual encounter of rugby. The first L.E. Blaze Trophy encounter was played on 17 July 1986. The game was won by Kingswood College. The trophy was donated by Roy De Silva, a prominent product of Kingswood and former Chairman of the Asian Olympic Committee.
On paper Wesley are the favourites coming into the game as a result of the promise their rugby has showcased over the past three years. In the ongoing season, they have so far recorded a 5-1 winning streak. Head coach Paul Toia supported by Dulanjana Wijesinghe and Mohamed Sherif have been moving the team from strength to strength. Yet, they will also take a leaf from history which has ample indicators to prove that Kingswood, as an underdog, has a long list of laurels to show. In particular, under young coach Dinesh Gamage, the Kingswoodians have shown discipline and application, that indicates they have long buried the ghosts of that abysmal season of 2016, and has started afresh. Contesting in Division B, they have so far an unbeaten record in five outings, out of which on four occasions they have managed to cross the 50-point mark.
For Kingswood’s “comeback” among the giants, the Blaze encounter will be an eagerly-awaited acid test, which will only add to the motivation of a school that takes its rugby seriously. Juxtaposed with Kingswood’s try-fest, playing in the superior Division A, Wesley has had a purple run this season, and their effective coordination and balance of play has won the admiration of the game’s closest followers. In particular, their Number Eight Shashika Ashan and the agile Scrum Half cum Vice captain Avishka Lee have been inspirational throughout Wesley’s play this year.
Kingswood is traditionally known for fast, open rugby, and if the season’s performance so far is an indicator, they might resort to a game plan with much confidence in their backs. As such, the play of their Fly half Lakshitha Peiris, the impactful Number Eight Weligampola, and their playmaker and Scrum Half Heshan Jansen will be key factors of their fortunes.
The Blaze Trophy was inaugurated in 1986, when Wesley was led by Sumedha Kuruppu, and Kingswood by Ronnie Ibrahim, and has been followed up as an annual fixture since then, except for the period between 2006 and 2012, when the series was interrupted. However during that period both schools, and their old boys had agreed to accept the fixtured tournament match as the BLAZE, and this year this year it will be the 32nd encounter.
The series having been restored, in the past five years has produced not only reinvigorated spectator interest, but has also rekindled a spirit of brotherhood between the present and past boys of both schools, which is an investment both for the game, and the school cultures.
Adding to the flair (and perhaps, to Kandy’s traffic congestion as well), the teams have organised a vehicle parade to coincide with the event. But, the more daring engagement will be on the field as both teams stride out with much to prove – Wesley, to extend their season’s superiority; and Kingswood, to bring back home lost glory.