The Sunday Leader

Looking Back On The Clifford Cup

By Sharm De Alwis

When Lady Clifford, wife of Sir Hugh Clifford, the Acting Governor of Ceylon, presented in 1911 the cup to be played for in her honour, she ignited rugby with a compelling enthusiasm that brought forth players of sheer excellence.
Although three original matches were played in 1911 between United Services and All-Ceylon, they are not of significance to us as the All-Ceylon team comprised of only expat Europeans who dominated and dictated terms.
The cup was lost when the regiment shifted out of Ceylon in 1914 on short notice at the outbreak of World War One, but the contest was revived as a quadrangular in 1926 with Sir Hugh back in the country after a tour of duty as governor in the colonies.
The first of our country to enter the fray were a band of doughty players who banded themselves as ‘The Ceylonese’ to go down 3 – 6 in a closely contested encounter at the Race Course in 1926. Posterity should know that they were Herbert Wittachy, Oorloff, Joseph, Herman Schokman and Illangakoon, Aluvihare and Murray, Lourensz, Modder, V.C. Kelaart, Norman Schokman, George Wells, Roy Wells, G. Pereira and Weeraperumal.
In 1927 ‘The Ceylonese’ took festered revenge on the United Services by beating them 16 – 08. Three Schokman brothers played and the team was captained by Norman, the other two being Herman, the most talented of the three and Vernon, the acrobatic wicket-keeper/opening batsman who captained the country in cricket and produced in his son Peter, a coach of the Australian Rules football team.
His daughter Vivienne was a Miss Melbourne in the ’60s. The full team was W. Abeyratne, C. Oorloff, N. Kelaart, Vernon Schokman, Murray, Aluvihare and Herman Schokman, Modder, Lourensz, V. Kelaart, Roy Wells, G. Pereira, Norman Schokman (capt), Noel Gratiaen and A.E. Meaden.
The four teams that vied for the Clifford Cup in the re-constituted tournament were Up-Country, Low-Country, The Ceylonese and United Services. The greatest game ever was an 11-11 drawn encounter between  Up-Country and The Ceylonese in 1938. Expat Europeans played for the former and The Ceylonese consisted of Ray de Zylva, Percy de Silva, Sammy David, Percy de Zilva, George Kellar, Archibald Perera, Claire Roeloffsz, B. Ohlmus, C. Ohlmus, A.P. Koelmeyer, E.D.W. Jayawardena, D.L. Pate, Fred Kellar, Dr Willie Ratnavle (capt) (all from CR&FC) and E. Dodanwela.The next confrontation between the two teams was at Longden Place in 1939 when The Ceylonese out-played the United Services handsomely to win 16-08.
In 1950, the CRFU opened the competition to all constituent clubs and a wealth of talent was mined in fiercely contested games. Havelocks and CR&FC proved to be the winners of the cup in the most number of times and some great players since 1950 have been Fred Aldons, Geoff Weinman, Ashy Cader, Summa Navaratnam, Kavan Rambukwella, S.B. Pilapitiya, Didacus de Almeida, Sena, Sari and Tony de Sylva, Tony Sirimanne, Mohan Sahayam, Glen Van Langenberg, Ago Paiva, Claire Roeloffsz, Archibald Perera, Lecho and Conrad Ephraums, Y.C. Chang, Mike de Alwis, Ken de Joodt, Abdul Majeed, Thajone Savanghan, Jeffrey de Jong, Priyantha Ekanayake, Angelo Wickramaratne, Hisham Abdeen, Saman Jayasinghe, Hanzil Samad, Chandrishan Perera, Michael Jayasekera and P.L. Munasinghe. The list will go on like a rivulet, so I will stop.

1 Comment for “Looking Back On The Clifford Cup”

  1. chandran-kandy

    Yes…..! it was a good story of Clifford cup.I was a very happy man after reading this old & interesting rugby story. Yes Sir, I remember the famous former Trinitian Mr.Mohan sahayam the son of 2nd Principal of Trinity College some 3 decades ago.At that time I was just 19 years old boy.Not a Trinitian.I was a village school boy in Kandy at Mahaiyawa.So, I will come to the point that Mr. Mohan Sahayam was good ruggerites during his school period.Several times he won the Bradby shield under his captaincy.I like his play.Thanks-Chandran-Kandy

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