Royal, Thomians blacklisted, Joes bow out violence-tainted | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Royal, Thomians blacklisted, Joes bow out violence-tainted

Sporting ambassadors: Janith Serasinghe (Isipathana), Mursheed Zubair (Wesley), Kavishka Bandara (Vidyartha), Milan Weerasinghe (Kingswood) and Bilal Hilmy (St. Peter’s College) with the Milo trophy Pic: Shan Rambukwella

Top rugby contenders Royal College, S. Thomas’ College and St. Joseph’s College bowed out of the 2019 season either guilty of turning their backs on a flagship championship or tainted by showcasing violence on the field of play.

The three schools were politically exposed by their absence when the Knock-out championship was launched on Tuesday in the presence of the captains of Isipathana College (Janith Serasinghe), Kingswood College (Milan Weerasinghe) St. Peter’s College (Bilal Hilmy), Wesley College (Musheed Zubair) and Vidyartha College (Kavishka Bandara) who showed up for the media kick-off like true sporting ambassadors.

But a tough talking head of the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association, Ranjith Chandrasekera said Royal and S. Thomas’ will face ‘ordinary seeding’ at next year’s League championship while violence of the part of the Joes in assaulting a match referee had tarnished the face of youth rugby.

“From school to national level we have politics in sports and that’s why as a country we can’t go forward. I will clean this up starting with schools rugby,” lashed out Chandrasekera.

According to the match schedule, Royal were slated to take on Vidyartha while the Thomians were to scrum down against Wesley in the quarter finals at the time of the tournament’s launch. Chandrasekera said the SLSRFA were not officially told of a withdrawal by any school other than receiving a hastily scripted note from old boys of Royal which he disregarded without authentication from the school principal.

“As of this moment no school officially conveyed to us that they were pulling out. This is the most prestigious tournament for schoolboys and we cannot run it to suit the whims and fancies of others,” said Chandrasekera.

The SLSRFA came under severe pressure last week with the culmination of the League tournament that Royal won after players from St. Joseph’s College were captured on camera manhandling or assaulting referee Priyantha Gunaratne that shocked the whole rugby fraternity.

Several former players and illustrious old boys of St. Joseph’s College told the Sunday Observer that the conduct of their team was the outcome of “outside opportunists” who in their desperation to win trophies influenced the enlistment of players from other schools whose pedigree did not match theirs.

“Right or wrong we took the referee’s word and respected our College jersey,” said one of them.

Chandrasekera said his sympathies were with players who do not get a single match other than carry water bottles or sit on the bench.

The Knock-out tournament is into its 34th year and played under the Milo brand name for 26 years running.

Ironically the best two teams available, St. Peter’s and Kingswood meet in the last quarter final today at the Royal College ground.