Kandy rugby fans crave for Clifford Cup matches

Rugby fans in Kandy are hoping that this year’s Clifford Cup knock-out rugby tournament is played at Nittawela. Now of them told the Sunday Observer they deserve a better deal and to echo their sentiments, Kandy SC has already made it clear that it will be a win-win situation for them and Sri Lanka Rugby as each match played at Nittawela could bring the parent body a purse of Rs.500,000 compared to much less on gate money if the matches are to be played in Colombo.

Kandy SC has also said that it will be hard on the players to make three trips to Colombo and back if they progress right up to the final.

The Clifford Cup is the oldest rugby trophy in Sri Lanka having existed for over a 100 years. Arguably it is also the oldest rugby tournament in Asia. Having won it for the first time in 1992, Kandy SC has taken hold of it on 21 occasions, the highest by any team. Havelock SC and CR & FC have bagged it 14 times, Police SC eight times, CH & FC seven times, Army and Dimbulla A & CC twice each and Air Force and Navy once each.

The Clifford Cup was donated by Lady Clifford, wife of the then British Governor of Ceylon Sir Hugh Clifford, for a match on her birthday, August 26 to be awarded to the winners of the game between All Ceylon and United Services. That was as far back as in 1911. But that game took place a week after the donation of the Cup on September 2. The reason for overlooking the birthday request of the donor in the inaugural year was that of the venue, Colombo Race Course was reserved for another sporting event. In 1926 the tournament was converted to a quadrangular with four teams, Low Country, Up Country, All Ceylon and United Services battling for supremacy.

The first outing witnessed United Services Kandy beat All Ceylon 25-0. The following year in September 1912 All Ceylon beat United Services Kandy 8-0 and in 1913 Kandy United Services again beat All Ceylon 3-0.

The Clifford Cup encounter was suspended during the First World War and not restarted until 1926 when Low Country, United Services Kandy, Up-Country and All Ceylon disputed. Again in 1939 the Clifford Cup was canceled with the start of the Second World War from 1939 to 1950. A new strategy was planned and worked out and this trophy was introduced to a new league format for the first time and presented to the winners of the inter-club tournament in 1950.

Havelock SC were the first winners of the Clifford Cup and they were led by Ian Labrooy. They went through the tournament without their try-line being crossed.

Dimbulla A & CC comprises some of the top players in the country, maintained an unbeaten record at their home ground, Radella, until the game against Havelocks. It is said that it was the best match ever witnessed at Radella. By virtue of their 13-0 victory over Dimbulla A&C, Havelock SC became the first Clifford Cup champions.

In 1953 Dimbulla defeated the holders of the Cup, CR & FC at Radella 6-0 in the final and became the first club from the Up-Country to win the Clifford Cup.

The entire tournament was worked off outside Colombo in 1992 and the venue in Kandy was Nittawela due to the dedicated rugby promotion done by YC Chang. That year Kandy SC emerged winners of the Clifford Cup for the first time when they beat Police by 22 points to 9 in the final.

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