Lanil the Planter of tries | Sunday Observer

Lanil the Planter of tries

Lanil Tennakoon
Lanil Tennakoon

Lanil Tennakoon was one of the great players of all time in rugby, a forward like no other with a devastatingly quick and accurate line-out jump who also had the pace to go it alone on a searing break if needed.

He was a brilliant goal kicker and one who stood out above all others and captained Sri Lanka even without representing his school Trinity College at senior level rugby.

A strong, tenacious, commanding and physical defender, Lanil excelled in the game and was also known for his aggressive tackling.

While at school he led the Lemuel team as a boarder for thirteen years and never got a break to represent the school at rugby and left school at the age of 18 to take to planting.

In 1970 he was posted to a tea estate in Hatton and represented Dickoya MCC at a time when all upcountry clubs Kandy SC, Dimbulla ACC and Dickoya MCC Uva were playing in the ‘A’ Division. The Dickoya team was led by Malin Goonetilleke and had players in the mould of Aubrey Patternott, Dushy Perera, Bede Johnpillai, Alister Mackenzie, Bob Smith, Ronnie Almeida, GDV (Donga) Perera and Maurice Aldons, to name a few.

It was then that the low country clubs were given a run for their money when they came to Darawella. Players who represented Dimbulla and Uva Gymkhana Club at the time were Roger De Silva, Mike de Alwis, Jeevaka Atapattu, Ken Murray, Keith Paul, Larry Schokman, Sunil Jayakody, Owen Mottau all from Dimbulla and from Uva were Brian and Cedrick Munaweera, Gamini Samson, Gamini Udugama and Gamini Goonasekera.

In 1971 when Lanil was in top form he gave up planting and joined the mercantile sector in Colombo and played for CH & FC until 1973. The 1972 CH & FC side remained unbeaten in the League tournament and contested the final of the Clifford Cup knock-out championship and lost to Police 12-09.

The CH players who featured in that final were Ron Huchinson, Kumar Bastianpillai, Rizvy Nizar, Bryan Baptiste, Noel Brohier, Upali Withanage, Lorensz Pereira, Horace Perera, Rodney Patternot, Micheal Hawke and Tony Amith.

Then in 1974 Lanil moved to Kandy SC that was led by Jeremy Pereira. Other players in the side were Sunil Munasinghe, DH Rajaguru, HM Kuthoos, ‘Bola’ Gooneratne, Jadi Dissanaike, HG Ariyaratne, Nimal Malagamuwa, Chang Fa, Kalu Perera, Sunil Serasinghe, Gavin Stevens, Izwan Omar and George Jayasena. In the same year Lanil was selected to play for Sri Lanka at the Colombo Asiad where the team entered the final and lost to Japan.

In 1975 he was pulled in by Havelock SC and Lanil went on to play until 1978 and in all three years the Park Club were the League Champions with the final year 1978 making them Triple Champions. Shafi Jainudeen, Thajone Savanghan, Anton Benedict, Jeffrey de Jong, PL Moonasinghe, Michael Jayasekera, Royden de Silva, Angelo Wickramaratne, S. Selvaraja, Gavin Stevens, Stefan Da Silva, Marco de Silva, David Nicolle, Chula Warusivitarne, H. Hameed, Hanzil Samad, Jeyer Rodriguesz, Len Silva, Morseth, Errol Thabinayagam, Frank Hubert and Shane Pinder were his team-mates.

Once again in 1978 Lanil re-entered planting and came back to Kandy SC with Irwin Howe as the captain. An unforgettable rugby moment was when Lanil was selected to play for the International Rugby XV captained by Wallabies skipper Mark Loane in 1978 against Hong Kong together with Michael Jayasekera.

He had the privilege of scoring the final try in this match. The International XV was selected from the nations that played at the HK Sevens that year.

Then in the 1980s Lanil was invited to captain the Trinity College Old Boys team against the Old Royalists captained by Dr. Maiya Gunasekera and this match was played in connection with the opening of the Royal College Sports Complex at Reid Avenue. He was also invited to captain the TCK Old bBys team against the Old Isipathanians captained by Nalin de Silva.