by J. R. Suber
The story as told to me goes like this: After a local rugby match in St. Louis, Missouri—perhaps around 1957—two of the players, both Irish, were having a disagreement in the locker room. They couldn’t agree about who exactly scored a game-winning try in a famous match back in the United Kingdom. The referee overheard them and decided to interject. “It was Eric Bole,” he assured them. They asked the referee how he knew. He replied, “I am Eric Bole.” The Irishmen were surely surprised by such a coincidence! They may have wondered how this former rugby star had ended up in St. Louis of all places refereeing their rugby game! To readers today, the better question is probably, wait, who is Eric Bole? Continue reading
When we talk about our playing days we casually throw out words which suggest we were engaged in a sort of warfare. We talk about being down in the mud, the blood and the pain. We talk about digging in when the going gets tough. Such phraseology trips off the tongue easily when we’re back in the warm bar with our mates, but for an awful lot of our predecessors at Richmond Football Club the words had a harsh and vivid reality. They knew real mud, blood and pain. And they knew tragedy and death.
Rugby history beckoned at Ellis Park, Johannesburg on Saturday July 27th 1974. The British Lions were playing the 22nd and final match of their tour and they had won all their previous matches. Only the 1891 British tourists had a superior record, having won all 19 matches on their tour including the first three tests played between these great adversaries. The 1974 test series was already wrapped up 3-0 and the Lions had only to win this final test to set a record that would probably never be equalled and could never be surpassed.
Looking back forty five years later, it can be seen that the 1974 Lions contained some of the greatest players in rugby history. Led by the inspirational Irish second row forward, Willie John McBride, other luminaries of this remarkable side were full back JPR Williams, the sprint champion JJ Williams on the wing, the half-back pair Phil Bennett and Gareth Edwards and the No 8 Mervyn Davies from Wales; the centre Ian McGeechan, the prop Ian McLauchlan (‘Mighty Mouse’) and the converted full back Andy Irvine on the wing from Scotland; the marauding Irish flanker Fergus Slattery and the formidable English forwards Fran Cotton and Roger Uttley. So strong was the touring party that players of the calibre of the Irishmen Mike Gibson and Tom Grace and the rangy English No 8 Andy Ripley were unable to gain selection for any of the tests.
The book, Thomas Cook’s Rugby Club 1910-1966, tells the story about the life and times of the illustrious travel firm and its rugger club.
The firm was described as a company with contacts everywhere, and by the time of Edwards VII’s coronation, it was reckoned to be among the “three most competent organisations in the world” – the other two being the Roman Catholic Church and the Prussian army.
It describes club activities from the Edwardian to the Elizabethan age. Set against a backdrop of music halls, jazz and cocktails, two world wars to the birth of rock and roll, and its demise in the swinging sixties. The period coincides with the so-called ‘golden age’ of rugby – loosely the amateur game played after the First World War – through the Second to the immediate post war years. Continue reading
THE KING’S CUP PLAY-OFF MATCH: TWICKENHAM WEDNESDAY 16TH APRIL 1919.
MOTHER COUNTRY 3 v NEW ZEALAND 9
A century ago, in this deciding clash for George V’s King’s Cup, the Inter-Services and Dominions Rugby Tournament post-World War One, could the Mother Country reverse their earlier defeat by New Zealand at Inverleith, or would the men from 12,000 miles away who had come to fight for that King and all ‘his’ countries maintain their edge and build on the winning reputation they and their countrymen had built over the previous fifteen years?
The Services teams from Down Under finally clashed at Bradford after a snow-postponement, and the against-the-odds Aussie win helped the Mother Country in their hopes of forcing a play-off for the 1919 Kings Cup…
This was the match postponed from March 22nd due to three inches of snow on the pitch, and tournament results during the delay meant a New Zealand win would give them the cup given by King George However, in the glorious way of sporting competition, it was to be a huge upset. New Zealand suffered a one-point defeat as Australia dug deep and handed the ‘All Blacks’ their first beating of the tournament.
Both sides had been in action just four days earlier, but it was thought by some to be a formality for New Zealand that would give them the Cup. Others believed that the great effort by the Mother Country had tired New Zealand – their pack in particular – and that Australia had the forwards to fully stretch them on Bradford’s new Lidget Green pitch. Continue reading
As the King’s Cup tournament of 1919 drew towards its climax, the Mother Country and New Zealand travelled north of the border to Edinburgh’s Inverleith, for what turned out to be a terrific foretaste of the eventual final and produced the ‘Storey’ of the day…
From the pre-game joint team photograph, the splendid Blackheath forward Peter Lawless, MC proved the only player on the Mother Country side never to be capped. He served in the Artists Rifles, captained Richmond RFC and was to be a sports reporter for The Morning Post and the Daily Telegraph, specialising in rugby and golf. In 1945, reporting on the US advance into Germany he was killed by shell fire. His only daughter, Pamela Faulks, is the mother of award-winning Birdsong novelist Sebastian Faulks.