|Bombay Gymkhana scores against Calcutta Police Sergeantsí Institute in the Thursday semis at CC&FC. Pictures by Bhubaneswarananda Halder
With just hours to go for the finale of the Royal Challenge presents All India & South Asia Rugby Tournament, in association with The Telegraph, the mood was tense with a capital T at CC&FC on Thursday. The club greens witnessed the semi-finals and with two city teams — Jungle Crows and the Calcutta Police Sergeants’ Institute — up against two of the stronger contenders in the league — Army Reds and Bombay Gymkhana — the crowd was roaring with support for you know who! The week-long tournament that kicked off last Saturday culminates with the Cup and Plate finals today.
The play-offs leading to the finals were definitely not a sight for the faint-hearted with scrums and mauls a regular affair. The sound effects? Bone-crunching! Thursday saw five-time winners Army Reds take on Jungle Crows and bring them down pretty hard with the score reading 40-8. The Ahmednagar team from Maharashtra is now just a match away from winning the Cup. Again. “To take home the Cup for the sixth time running (is our dream),” shouted an exuberant Suresh Singh Sajwan, the front-row forward for the Reds. For Jungle Crows coach Paul Walsh, the effort mattered more than the result. “We lost but the boys fought well. Next time we are going to need to look for some big people!” laughed the former British diplomat.
Before the next semis, last year’s finalists Bombay Gymkhana and the Calcutta Police Sergeants’ Institute seemed evenly matched. On paper that is. “This is hopefully going to be a very close match. But again, who can predict in such a sport?” said Debabrata Mukherjee, a keen onlooker and a match official. He was proved wrong and right as Bombay Gymkhana crushed the Calcutta Police team 40-3, sealing a berth in the final.
“Almost 70 per cent of the national squad is going to be on the field on Saturday, it’s going to be one helluva match!” said Sandeep Mosamkar of Bombay Gymkhana. “We (Bombay Gymkhana) all come from various backgrounds, many of us are normal working professionals the rest of the year. But yes, we have worked hard and let’s see what the finals have in store,” smiled the PR professional.
“You want a prediction? It’s going to be Army Reds again this time,” smiled veteran rugby player Noomi Mehta, the president of the East India Rugby Football Union and the vice-president of the Indian Rugby Football Union. “Today we have managed to spread the game to many states including the likes of Manipur, Assam and Jammu and Kashmir, but the Army team has been the best so far. In fact, a majority of them are in the national squad. The army is such a large body, if more of them take the game seriously, we can get them to go a long way. The Army Reds’ biggest strength is their (physical) size and the intense training,” said the former president of CC&FC.
The finals of the Plate will see a clash between Maharashtra State Police and Delhi Hurricanes.