Wednesday, 25 March 2015 00:00
By Shamseer Jaleel
The Clifford Cup knockout rugby tournament will reach its semi-final stage today, with league champions Kandy locking horns with CR&FC at the Nittawela rugby stadium and Police battling Air Force at the race course rugby grounds.
Both games will kick off today at 4.15 p.m.
The Clifford Cup was offered by Lady Clifford in 1911 to mark her birthday on August 26. The trophy was kept within the Central Province Rugby Football Union until 1950 before they opened up the competition to all the clubs in the country. In the competition’s early years CR&FC and Havelocks dominated proceedings.
Over the last three decades the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU), with a view to promote rugby in outstation areas, conducted the tournament in Kandy. Over the last three years an arrangement has been made to play one year in Colombo and the other in Kandy (in case Kandy reaches the final).
Kandy, who won the inter-club league tournament this year after a lapse of two years, will go all out to secure their second trophy for this year. Sean Wijesinghe, who last led Kandy to a triple in 2009, will look to his speedy three quarters to deliver killer runs.
He is blessed with a talented set of sprinters such as Fazil Marija, Koto Pongi, Lavanga Perera, Anurudha Wilwara and Nigel Ratwatte. Wijesinghe will lead the pack with some outstanding youngsters playing quality rugby for the Kandy outfit. Kandy will greatly miss their South African playmaker Chris Colette who left the country last week for surgery on his eye. Much will be expected of scrum-half Roshan Weeraratne, who will be counted upon to distribute the ball to his three quarters along with Kenyan Oscar Ouma.
The Red Shirts will be led by Ashan De Costa with Lochana Hettiarachchi and Kanchana Ramanayake adding power to their three quarter line. The game will be officiated by referee Pradeep Fernando.
Meanwhile, the second semi-final between Police and Sri Lankan Air Force should be a close battle. No one expected both teams to advance to the last four. Police will depend heavily on their Fijian playmaker Apisaito to deliver the goods. The unpredictable Airmen should them a close fight. The referee for this game will be Dinka Peris.
Past winners – 1950 and 1951 (Havelocks), 1952 (CR and FC), 1953 (Dimbula), 1954 to 1956 (CR and FC), 1957 (CH and FC), 1958 (CR and FC), 1959 (CR and FC/ Dimbula) 1960 (CH and FC), 1961 (Havelocks), 1962 (CH and FC), 1963 and 1964 (Havelocks), 1965 and 1966 (CR and FC), 1967 and 1968 (Havelocks), 1969 (CR and FC), 1970 (Police/ Havelocks) 1971 (CR and FC), 1972 Police), 1973 (Army/ Police), 1974 (Havelocks), 1975 (Army), 1976 to 1978 (Havelocks), 1979 and 1980 (Police), 1981 (Havelocks), 1982 and 1983 (CH and FC), 1984 and 1985 (Police), 1986 (Air Force), 1987 to 1989 (CR and FC), 1990 (CH and FC), 1991 (Police), 1992 and 1993 (Kandy SC), 1994 (CH and FC), 1995 to 1997 (Kandy SC), 1998 (no tournament) 1999 to 2005 (Kandy SC), 2006 (CR and FC), 2007 to 2013 (Kandy SC), 2014 (Navy).