Rivalries come in many ways. You have Ashes; England and Australia, you have wallabies and all blacks, you have Real Madrid and Barcelona & then you have the Royal-Thomian. For 130 plus years this rivalry changed the landscape of the sporting arena countless times. After 138 years the year 2017 proved to be yet another prime example.
The Royal-Thomian season for the year 2017 began with the much anticipated ever so exciting 138th Battle of the blues. The Royal team went another the captaincy of Helitha Vithanage while the Thomians were led by Romesh Nallapperuma. The encounter certainly lived up to its expectations and it went both ways during the three days play. It’s safe to say that the Thomians had the upper hand but the Royal spirit thrived to bring out the outcome in their favour as Thevindu Senarathne guided the Royal innings to ensure that the prestigious Senanayake Shield stays at the Reid Avenue for yet another year.
Following that it was the shift of seasons that brings a completely different change to the atmosphere. The Rugby football season. The Tuskers led by Ovin Askey had one vision, bring back every single trophy back to Royal. That included the Michael Gunarathna Trophy. Having lost the encounter in the previous year the tuskers took the field and right from the get go the likes of Janindu Dilshan and Deputy Sabith Feroz demolishes the Thomians defence. Try after try and eventually it was Blue Gold and Blue who emerged victorious conquering the School by the sea thus bringing back the trophy to Reid Avenue.
It was the calm before the storm during the mid September as the hype from both ends gradually increased for three months of nonstop action. The real killer was about to commence. The talk of the town was indeed the Roy-Tho spectacle. The final chapter kicked off with the Carrom encounter where it was a complete white wash as the Royalists emerged victorious yet again. Following which came the badminton encounter. Having not being able to fulfil their goal at the All Island Championship the Royalists led by Thevin Rahubedda were ready to conquer the blue black and blue at their own backyard. The likes of Dinuka Kaluarachchi, Nilesh Wijesekara and Deputy Binara Kariyawasam gave the team that much needed early break through and within a very short time period it was game set and championship for the host team as they retained the Ranil Wijesekara Trophy for the sixth consecutive year.
During the early October it was time for another racket spectacle, the Roy-Tho Tennis Encounter. Having faced lot of difficulties during the season and having lost the trophy in 2016 after regaining it in 2015, the team was out to prove something. Regardless to the bad weather conditions the look they had in their eyes told a different story. Back and forth it went and at one point both teams had won two games a piece. It came down to the wire and the decider was nothing short of amazement as the youngest player in the Royal camp steered the ship to E.F.C Pereira glory as Mihindu Samarasinghe and the Co brought back the lost glory to Reid Avenue.
It was the same Cinderella story for two other sports teams, Basketball and Football. Both teams didn’t have much similarities to begin with. The season was exceptionally great for the basketball team while the football team had to dig down deep to survive. But when it was crunch time, when it mattered the most they both shared the same motive; bring back what they didn’t have. Both encounters were similar as to how they transpired. Nervousness, edge of the seat, holding the breath, sweaty palms it was all there for the fans. The funny thing is both encounters were won with a two point lead. For the basketball team it was 44-42 and for the football team it was deja vu but this in the favour of the boys in blue and gold as the penalty shoot out finally stood 4-2. It’s safe to say that despite the drama when it mattered the most they both brought their A game and left everything out on the field as the D.S. Senanayake Trophy and the Blue derby were both safely Home courtesy of Tharindu Balasooriya, Ashraff Ali and the Co.
In the midst of all that was happening there was another team who chipped in to enter their name to the history books. The Royal College Chess team led by B.D.S. Mendis faced the Thomians at the second annual chess encounter and yet again the history repeated it self as they walked away with the glory. During the late October, naturally you feel a change in the atmosphere particularly around the picturesque Colombo Rowing Club. For the past two years the world saw record after record getting broken courtesy of the Blue and Gold. With high expectations the Royal Crew spearheaded by Hashen Hettigoda took the waters of Beira by storm as it was a full on massacre. Even though they couldn’t beat the record score of 50-02 the final score told everyone who was watching the dominance of the boys from the Reid Avenue, 46-06. As the sun went down, behind the majestic sight of CRC Royal lads hoisted the T.N. Fernando Memorial Trophy for the third consecutive year.
Since the start of the show the attention and the anticipation revolved around one particular encounter. Crashing waves, gasping for air, blood on water, all of this focuses on one encounter, the Royal-Thomian Waterpolo Encounter. For four years the Royalists were left in tears as the Thomians walked away with the Trophy. The year 2017 marked a revolution for Royal College Waterpolo and Basith Yakoob and the Co wanted to put an end to the Thomian uprising. Even though the season was a magical the first leg of the encounter wasn’t a smooth sail for the boys. Safe to say that the boys didn’t expect the Thomian grit to come out strong the way they did as the first leg concluded with a score of 8-4. As the rain hit the waters of Sugathadasa, so did the boys with intensity in their eyes. The encounter certainly went back and forth and this time it was Thomians who were mind boggled with Royal attack led by the likes of Sawinda Dissanayakke, Chamod Edirisingha, Isiwaruna De Silva and the captain himself Basith Yakoob. At one point in time the Hayman was within the Royalists’ grasp but this time the Cinderella story wasn’t meant to be as a desperation goal from the Thomians sealed the encounter in a draw. As tears went down the eyes of the skipper every single man woman and child applauded the team who won the hearts of millions by giving them “The greatest comeback in the history” and for putting a stop to a four year losing streak.
As the Royal-Thomian season came to its last straw, the pressure was on the shoulders of Pasindu Senarathne. Never before a Royal-Thomian season has ended with one side not losing a single encounter. To submit the legacy of 2017 in the history books all they had to do was retain the Orville Abeynayake Trophy. As the days went by the pressure kept mounting and finally the judgement day arrived. It was now or never for them and the lads knew it was no easy task. Having done comparatively well during the season the Thomians were indeed the favourites. After a gruelling display the lights slowly faded away and it was the blue black and blue who had the final laugh.
As we close the book for what has been an unprecedented year, one thing is for sure;
“An ounce of Royal Spirit is much greater than a Pound of Thomian grit”.