RIP Kingswood Rugby Dominance (2001-2010)

It is surely the end of the “magic run”. Kingswood’s untouched status in Sl school’s rugby ended around 2005-06. With life support and with occasional flashes, it somehow had some lease till about 2010. The cyclical run has come to an end now; and we should be patient and work for glory if, at some future point, rugby success to Kingswood is to come.

This is the 11th year since Kingswood first won the President’s Trophy (in 2001). I am one of those who managed to follow that eventful game where Kingswood, then contesting in Division ‘B’, edged out a much fancied St. Thomas’ by 21-19 to clinch the plum. Exactly a decade later, in 2011, Kingswood gave strong negative signals that the end to that decade of “faith” was already taking shape, when they were punted around the park by KCK’s strongest home-town rugby rival Trinity, to be humiliated to a 41-00 defeat.

The 2001 President’s Trophy, no doubt, was a milestone and it lead to a “resurgance” in Kingswood rugby, paving way for the school to dominate the fifteen-man sport for the next half-a-dozen years or so. The only other force that could do what Kingswood rugby did in 2003, 2004 and 2005 was Hulk; and that was fiction. Winning the rugby triple in three staright years and in producing a body of players who still rock the top spots of the national and club circuits is a deal that even the more recent champion school sides could not do.

However, following Eranda Weerakkody’s team of 2005, the inevitable downward glide for KCK rugby began. Every success story has this anti-climax to face and Kingswood rugby fans, too, should be realistic in seeing that their once larger-than-life team is now fighting for dear life in Division ‘A’. In 2008, there was a steller performance from Kingswood who came trumps in the league; but, that was more due to the inspirational captaincy of Gayan Rathnage, since a more talented side than his XV could hardly match what Rathnage’s team pulled out, the very next year.

Glory Days!

The team to take over the rugby crown from Kingswood was St. Peter’s. For the past 5 years the Peterites have maintained their dominance, in spite of an odd season with fluctuating luck. From about 2008, Trinity rugby and (since about 2009) Royal, too, have come up with foolproof performances that show a rising tide in both schools’ rugby dens. Those who remember the school rugby scene of the past decade will observe the low ebb Trinity and Royal rugby had hit for the first 5-6 years of 2000-2010.

When Kingswood was running riot between 2001-2005, teams such as Royal and Trinity were playing fair square mediocre rugby. Even the commentators on TV (who always come out with export quality biased statements for these two schools) had to quote more and more from the schools’ past glory in order to cover up for the below average shows at hand. The only team to stay consistent over a long period during the last decade was Isipatana — and that, too, as either the runner up or number 3/4.

The Peterite rugby machine is well fed. They have the resources and facilities and a well groomed rugby structure which is kept nippy and on the toes. The finances coming in has always ensured a workable infrastructure on which their killer sides get groomed. The same can be seen in Royal and Trinity. Kingswood, on the other hand, has lost direction and inspiration in both financial input and team management. Compared to SPC, RC and TCK, Kingswood is a poor school and whatever past pupil bodies active are not geared sufficiently to maintain an enterprise that costs millions every year.

The last player to run after being tackled

My feeling is that Kingswood had had two decisive turning points in their past few years. One was the exit of Ronnie Ibrahim. Ronnie initially migrated to St. Thomas’ and has followed the Rajapakshe trail from thereon. He is currently very successfully placed as a top sports director. Ronnie’s exit was less seriously felt, as Nilfer Ibrahim immediately took over, and with some success. But, Nilfer’s moving over to Trinity within 2 seasons and with Kingswood not being able to produce “individual stars” had had a depression on the school’s rugby fortunes.

When compared to the sides fielded between 2001-2005 (and by extension, to about 2008) the teams Kingswood fielded over the past 2 years are without any “outstanding” individual players. But, then again, one has to also see that “impact players” are not always “born”, but have to be bred and groomed in the training field. So, perhaps, the players’ parents are not the only ones to be blamed for failing to deliver a “super kid”. The last “impact player” to be born out of Kingswood’s rugby academy — perhaps — is Rajitha Sansoni. That, too, was 2 seasons ago and even in Sansoni I don’t think the true potential of that resource was extracted.

Die is the word

This season, Kingswood has thusfar played 3 games, losing pants down to St. Peter’s and Isipatana. They have won against St. Anthony’s who, arguably, is the second weakest side in Division ‘A’. However, Kingswood has to regroup and fight back for some prestige; until a more long term plan with commitment comes by their way. Our prediction is that Kingswood will win 2 games this year — against DS Senanayake and St Anthony’s — and will just manage to hang back in Division ‘A’. Defeats against Trinity, Royal, Science College, Vidyartha look inevitable. The St. Joseph’s game will be a close one, perhaps; but, the benefit of the doubt at this point should be given to the Josephians. Indeed, I won’t take my life if this prediction is proven wrong and the fighting spirit Kingswood has shown at worse instances may even help them a bit here.

The “Kingswood glory” however is no more. The cyclical motion of life and fortune has come full circle where the trophy held aloft in 2001 by JCG Withanage is not even within contesting range, a decade or so later. The Peterite dominance will be followed by the might of Royal and Trinity. Kingswood, perhaps, will have to cause another “2001” to get humpty back together again.