CR & FC Rugby 7s
The Ceylonese Rugby & Football Club is celebrating its Centenary. The other day, it was reported that the main event of the Centenary celebrations will be the three-day “Rugby Sevens Tournament”. It is to be conducted under three segments: inter-school, inter-club (Men’s), and inter-club (Ladies).
When the CR & FC celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1948, the Longden Place club organized a “Sevens” tournament as part of the celebrations. Arguably, it was the first-ever major seven-a-side inter-club tournament conducted here in Sri Lanka. Although the Layard Cup competition dates back to 1941, it was meant only for the Police department personnel with a separate invitation tournament for CH & FC, Havelocks, CR & FC, and CR NVF.
The CR & FC silver jubilee “Inter-Club Sevens” tournament was a one-day affair held October 9, 1948. The following day, “The Times of Ceylon – Sunday Illustrated” reported: “The CR & FC celebrated their 25th anniversary by winning the seven-a-side rugger tournament at Longden Place yesterday beating their old-time rivals the CH & FC in the final by 10 points to 5. Mrs. Weinman gave away the prizes to the winning team – a beer mug to each, which they did not take long to fill, empty and fill again.”
In 1949, Colombo became the venue of the prestigious All-India Rugby Tournament for the first time. By then the All-India tourney had a history of 25 years. Hosting the All India tourney was considered one of the biggest public events to be held since the independence gained in the previous year. The Prime Minister was the chief guest at the finals; radio commentary was relayed from the grounds “for the benefit of those who were unable to witness the game.” Adding more colour and glamour to the seven-a-side tournament which they started in the previous year, the CR & FC in 1949 went on to introduce a new format by inviting all losing teams in the preliminaries of the All-India tournament for the CR “Sevens” competition. The press tagged the competition as the “Little tourney”.
Eventually, Army and Royal Air Force Combined “B” team became champs defeating Navy “A’ and the result was reported in the press as “Navigating through a final Naval barrage and landing in the darkness of a twilight try, the R.A.F. and Army combined “B” team emerged victorious in the 7-a-side tourney organized by the CR & FC. The “Little Tourney” was indeed grand fun with the championship issue being left to a last minute try decision.”
The Ceylon Barbarians XV that lost to Calcutta by a margin of a solitary try to nil in a thriller in the main All-India competition also fielded a sevens team in the CR tourney. They were represented by Archibald Perera (Capt.), M. Bostock, Amarasinghe, Horsfall, Kellar, Walker and Gunawardena.
The formation of the CR & FC was a direct consequence of the result of that famous CH & FC vs NCC rugby confrontation in 1920. It proved beyond doubt that Ceylonese could not be overlooked anymore when it comes to first-class rugby on the island. And when the historic meeting was held at the Ceylon Garrison Artillery headquarters on September 25, 1922 to form a new rugby club, it was decided that the club should be called “The Ceylonese Rugby Football Club”, and “only Ceylonese should be eligible for membership.” The club changed its name in 1929 to “Ceylonese Rugby and Football Club” and in the same year, for the first time in the club’s history, had the Annual General Meeting (7th AGM) at its own club pavilion. And by then the club had its own rugger ground and a clubhouse. Before step-in into a such comfort zone, the club decided to appeal to the rugby fraternity for financial support to help them to build their own grounds and a pavilion.
“The Ceylon Sporting Chronicle” of December 9, 1928 carried the 10th list of subscriptions with the names of the donors under the caption “C.R F.C. Ground Fund – Rs. 20,000 Limit Passed.” The news item also published a letter addressed to the Editor, by the Hon. Treasurer, CRFC – Ground Fund. Among other things, the letter states “Friends of the club will be pleased to learn that the Government has given us temporary possession of an excellent ground adjoining Longden Place, which will be ready with a pavilion for matches to be played next season---.” Among the donors listed were the Ceylon Rugby Football Union (Rs. 500), Colombo Hockey & Football Club (Rs.300 & Cents.05) and Kandy Sports Club (Rs.100). Apart from this, three individuals had donated Rs.200 each and a couple of donors had given Rs.100 each, while all other subscriptions were of two or one-digit amounts, including the donation of Rs.10 from a Hardware store in Nawalapitiya.
Whilst fulfilling the undertaking given to the membership and the donors, the club was able to host the opening match in the following season, at the new venue. “The Ceylon Sporting Chronicle” dated June 9, 1929, reported: “The CR & FC played their first-class rugger match on their new ground at Longden Place yesterday when they met and defeated Uva by 6 points to 3. His Excellency the Governor arrived shortly before 5 pm. and was received by Colonel Joseph, the club President”. And the editorial of the broadsheet was dedicated to “THE C.R. & F.C”, which concluded by stating the club’s “fine ground and pavilion, will remain for all time as a memorial to Colonel E.H. Joseph, the keenest Ceylonese rugger enthusiast.” By Neil Wijeratne
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