Unless you were stuck under a rock, the excitement of one of school Rugby’s most anticipated games would have engulfed you. The game is so full of tradition that a large number of old boys pencil it in their diaries months ahead so that meetings and overseas trips are carefully avoided. The traditional Bradby Express chugged off from the Fort Railway station and the atmosphere was set right at the crack of dawn despite the inclement weather in Colombo.
The venue as usual was a cacophony of colour, liter
ally and otherwise, as the movers and shakers of Colombo and Kandy had to be present and claim that “I was there”. It was great to see the chief guest, after many years, a Trinity stalwart and maybe one of the best third rowers during his time.
On paper RC appeared to have the upper hand as they had played some quality rugby during the season, feasting on a rich Thora diet just weeks before this game. TCK on the other hand had overcome an exuberant Science outfit at Mount Lavinia not providing any of their fans with the level of comfort that they were clamouring for before a Bradby encounter.
TCK have been quite invincible in Kandy as is the case with most Kandy-based teams at home; maybe it’s the altitude and the crowd support that lends a helping hand. RC had come up to Kandy with a point to prove, having been the bridesmaid for a number of years, and actually did so by a single point.
The rugby on display would not have warmed the heart of a rugby purist but for the many that watched the game live and on the idiot box, or the Internet, nothing else mattered. The majority of the tries scored on the day were due to individual brilliance as opposed to team work. On-field decision making is an important part of the game, and the corporate world these days and TCK missed many a trick in this context. I cannot fathom the decision of teams to go for all out glory, unless you are so far behind, when three easy points are on offer. One of the rudiments of the game is that if you make it to the opposition 22, you must have points on the board to reflect that effort, if not, you have only been a squatter. Both teams were guilty of this as they dropped the ball at crucial junctures, mainly on contact, permitting turnover ball.
In the first half, RC permitted TCK to dictate the pace of the game and TCK made full use of the same. What was said at halftime is understandable as RC came out with all guns blazing and TCK conceded a soft try. Thereafter, it was a case of catch up for TCK as they valiantly tried to break through the RC defence. The last ten minutes were nerve-wracking for both teams. RC were on the verge of breaking a hoodoo, whilst TCK wanted to retain dominance at the venue, and eventually the RC defence was impregnable.
The referee on the day, handling one of the plum jobs in the school rugby circuit, had an ordinary day in the office as some glaring infringements at the set pieces went unnoticed. Time and again we see the local referees making a mess of the advantage rule and the Bradby game was no exception. There must be a clear line of definition on what is considered an appropriate advantage and the period of time that is permitted. At the end of it, there must be a clear call that the ‘advantage is over’. As we witness the current Super Rugby games, we observe these calls and the advantage rule are administered with a great degree of consistency. It’s about time that we got our act together in this context as there were too many stops and starts which hamper a good game. The crowds throng the venues to witness the teams battle it out and do not expect the referee to take centre stage.
The return clash is in two weeks and anyone willing to predict the outcome will be very brave indeed.