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Walter Payton

The Inception and Triumphs of Rugby at Isipathana College

Rugby football seems to be a way of life at Isipathana, where the boys, even from a young age, play improvised or modified versions of rugby during their spare time at college. So, with enthusiasm so great, it’s only natural that success should come their way.

In the late 1950s, Isipathana had an English teacher by the name of Mrs. Geddes who had a fervent desire to introduce rugby at Greenlands College (formerly known as Isipathana College). Being a rugby fanatic herself, and with her husband being a Trinity ‘lion’ and her two sons studying at Isipathana College, her passion for the sport ran deep. However, her sons later moved over to Trinity and represented the school in rugby.

Though Mrs. Geddes’ efforts to establish rugby at Greenlands College were not immediately successful, they were not forgotten. In 1961, the headmaster of the school, Mr. H. T. de Silva, enlisted the help of some Peterites, including Mr. Jayantha Fernando, who would later become the managing director at ‘Caves’. Together, they rounded up some boys and formed a rugby team. Among the boys, Randy C Keller, whose father had played for Havelocks, became the team’s first captain. However, Isipathana did not play their first 1st XV game until 1963. In the initial stages, they played against all junior teams, sometimes competing against Royal or Thurstan, but never a 1st XV game.

Under the coaching of Brian Ingram, Isipathana played their first interschool match in 1963 against St. Anthony’s College Katugastota, and much to their joy, they won the game by 8 points (one Goal and a Penalty) to nil. The first try was scored by Dayalu Perera, with Tony Maathara successfully converting the try. The first Isipathana player to represent the national team was Randy Pieterz.

The following year, in 1965, Isipathana College was recognized and included in the SLRFU schools section, and Ananda “Ana” Saranapala became the captain. Under the coaching of Frankie David, Isipathana led by Juraghan Savanghan began a remarkable four-year run without conceding defeat. In 1968, they completed the season unbeaten, and the following year, they continued their winning streak under Thajone Savanghan. In that year, they won all ten matches they played, scoring 164 points and conceding only 25. Thajone Savanghan was selected to represent Sri Lanka Schools that year.

In 1969, Isipathana had become a force to be reckoned with, and rugby pundits soon began calling them the ‘Kings of Schools’ Rugby’. That year, Royal and Trinity refused to play against Isipathana, but Isipathana managed to defeat St. Peter’s College 26-8. Hafi Abdeen’s 1970 team continued the unbeaten streak, and Hafi himself was selected to play for Sri Lanka Schools. In 1971, Sriyantha Rajakaruna took charge of the team, leading them through their fourth straight season without conceding defeat. Sriyantha, too, was later selected to play for Sri Lanka Schools.

Unfortunately, the winning streak was brought to an end in 1972 when the Union imposed a suspension on players. Nalin de Silva, the only player exempt from the ban, was determined to form a new team. He went from class to class, inspiring students to keep the spirit of rugby alive and handpicked players with potential to form a fresh team. In the absence of a coach, he himself organized practice sessions and coached the side, preparing them to face the challenges of 1973. During this period, other schools refused to play against Isipathana, but Royal College was the exception.

Nalin de Silva’s efforts bore fruit in 1973 when, under the coaching of Frankie David, a young and enthusiastic Isipathana team, led by Nalin, played against all the leading schools and won most of the matches, once again bringing the Pathanians into the limelight. That year, Nalin de Silva was the only Pathanian to represent Sri Lanka schools, which comprised seven Peterites and seven Royalists, and he proudly displayed his true Isipathana colors in a match against a visiting British schoolboy team, the ‘Nomads’.

In 1978, former Isipathana player O. W. R. Perera took over as the coach for the 1st XV team. During his tenure from 1978 to 1989, he nurtured the game to such an extent that rugby almost became a tradition in the college. Witnessing the success of the team, more and more students expressed interest in taking part in the game.

This period marked Isipathana’s heyday. In 1979, they reached the centenary final, and they toured Bangkok in the years 1979, 1980, and 1982. In 1985, for the first time, Isipathana won the triple championship and repeated the feat in 1986. The legendary coach O. W. R. Perera took Isipathana rugby to new heights in the schools arena.

Since the introduction of rugby tournaments for schools by the SLRFU in 1978, Isipathana has remained a dominant force, winning 55 championships, including 38 Under-19 titles. They were the winners of the first-ever schools ‘7s’ championship in 1971 and have since won the ‘7s’ championship for the ‘Phillip Buultjens’ trophy 10 times to date, including four in a row. They have been finalists in the same tournament eight times in a row, from 1976 to 1983. Isipathana has triumphed in every trophy available and holds a proud record of defending the inaugural Premadasa Trophy (now the President’s Trophy) in 1985 and retaining it for the following six years consecutively.

The under 17 side boasts the distinction of winning the inaugural President’s Trophy for that age group in 1995. Isipathana also claimed victory in the inaugural Gymkhana Club Under 20 Invitation Championship in 1989, defeating two leading clubs, Havelocks and CH & FC. The school’s rugby achievements are further decorated by multiple wins in the Western Province Schools 10s competition.

The year 1992 will always be remembered as the golden year of Isipathana rugby. The team, adorned in green jerseys and white shorts, achieved an unprecedented feat by winning six out of seven major trophies on offer, including the Under-19 triple crown, the Under-15 and Under-17 league titles, and the Under-13 Mini Rugby championship. The only trophy they narrowly missed out on was the Under-17 sevens, where they ended as runners-up to Royal. In 1997, Isipathana became the first school to win the Under-19 Grand Slam, triumphing in the League, President’s Trophy, Sevens, and the WP ’10s’, a feat they repeated in 1999, making them the only school to have achieved such an honor. They were also the first to win the Triple Crown, securing victories in the League, Sevens, and the Inaugural Premadasa Trophy championship, and repeating it in 1986 and 1992.

Isipathana has produced remarkable talents who have excelled in the national rugby arena. In 1980, Hisham Abdeen became the first schoolboy to represent Sri Lanka in the Asian Championships. He also captained the country’s 15-a-side team in 1987, leading a side that included 10 Pathanians, including two schoolboys, namely Pradeep Lakshantha and Nilantha Lakshmeewewa, on a tour to Wales. In 1984, Hisham Abdeen captained Sri Lanka to victory in the Hong Kong ‘Sevens’, with another Pathanian, Nalin de Silva, featuring in the team. This achievement marked Sri Lanka’s first-ever rugby trophy, the ‘Bowl Championship.’

Over the years, several Isipathanians have set records and achieved remarkable feats. In 1977, H. K. Sisira became the first schoolboy to score 25 tries in a season, a record later equaled by Hisham Abdeen in 1980 and Champika Nishantha in 1992.

Isipathana’s rugby excellence was not limited to Sri Lanka; they showcased their skills and thrilled crowds during overseas tours as well. In 1979, under the leadership of K. D. Nanayakkara, Isipathana participated in the Asian Schools Rugby Championship in Bangkok. Though they initially struggled, the team’s performances improved remarkably the following year under the captaincy of A. S. B. Bowela, impressing crowds and securing the award for the “Most Outstanding Team” at the tournament.

In 1982, Isipathana’s overseas success reached new heights when they finished third in the Asian Schools Rugby Championship and were awarded the accolade for the ‘Most Exciting Team’ at the tournament. The juniors brought honor to the school and country in 1991 when the Under-15 team was invited to the Asian Schools International 10-a-side championship in Malaysia, returning with the award for the ‘Best Overseas Team’ at the tournament.

The success and popularity of Isipathana College rugby can be attributed to the dedication and enthusiasm of the students, staff, parents, and sponsors involved in the sport. The school’s rugby pioneers, including Randy Kellar, H. T. de Silva, Jayantha Fernando, Frankie David, Michael Loos, Y. C. Chang, and others, along with O. W. R. Perera and the Havelock Sports Club members, have played instrumental roles in establishing and nurturing rugby in the school.

The journey of rugby at Isipathana College has been a remarkable one, marked by victories, achievements, and an unshakable spirit. As the college continues to excel on the rugby field, it stands as a symbol of inspiration for future generations of rugby players, demonstrating the power of determination, teamwork, and passion in achieving greatness.

Our Mission & Vision

Our Vision

TO STRIVE WITH DETERMINATION
TO BUILD STRONG JUNIOR AND SENIOR TEAMS
FOR THE NEXT DECADE,
WHILE TRANSFORMING PLAYERS’ EDUCATION, SPORTS SKILLS, LEADERSHIP, DISCIPLINE, CREATIVITY, AND INNOVATION CAPABILITIES
TO FIT THE MODERN WORLD.

ISIPATHANA RUGBY 60 YEARS OF EXCELLENCE

Our Mission

TO PROVIDE GUIDANCE, FACILITIES, CREATIVITY, AND INNOVATION THROUGH A RESULT-ORIENTED, WELL-BALANCED, AND COMPREHENSIVE PROGRAM.

ISIPATHANA RUGBY 60 YEARS OF EXCELLENCE

Our Determination & Our Passion

Our Determination

WE ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT EVERYTHING WE DO AND HAVE A BURNING DESIRE TO ACHIEVE EXCELLENCE AND PERSEVERANCE IN ALL OUR ENDEAVORS.

OUR OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE SINCE THE 1960S TO DATE IN ALL SCHOOLS RUGBY TOURNAMENTS, FROM JUNIOR TO SENIOR LEVELS, IS PROOF OF OUR COMMITMENT TO THE GAME.

OVER THE YEARS, ISIPATHANA RUGBY HAS PRODUCED 60-PLUS NATIONAL PLAYERS.

‘STRIVE WITH DETERMINATION’

 

ISIPATHANA RUGBY 60 YEARS OF EXCELLENCE

Our PASSION

AT ISIPATHANA COLLEGE,
PRIDE OF PLACE IS GIVEN TO DEVELOPING OUR RUGBY.


OUR LARGE ACADEMY OF RUGBY PLAYERS CONSISTS OF OLD BOYS FROM COLOMBO, BRINGING WITH THEM A DIVERSE RANGE OF SKILLS, NATURAL TALENT, AND ABILITIES.


WHILE THESE SKILLS ARE CAREFULLY NURTURED TO ACHIEVE PERFECTION, THE PLAYERS ARE BOUND TOGETHER BY A COMMON THREAD.

ISIPATHANA RUGBY 60 YEARS OF EXCELLENCE

From Zero To Win

Roethlon Has Been Established Since 1998

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Years Of Career
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Our Journey

Consistent Every Season

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Player Fitness

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Rigorous Training

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Player Welfare

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Player Dormitory

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Rigorous Training

Professional Player

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