A History of Bournemouth Rugby
It is believed that the Club first played in 1888, one of the main fixtures being Downton; the journey, by horses and traps, was enlivened on one occasion by one trap arriving with half the side who duly changed at the Bull Inn together with the Downton side. While waiting for the rest of the Bournemouth side to arrive, they proceeded to consume liquid refreshment to such an extent that, by the time the others arrived following a breakdown, Downton and half the Bournemouth side were quite incapable of taking the field. The difficulties of transport and the dearth of nearby fixtures were obstacles that even the most enthusiastic could not overcome and gradually the Club’s activities ceased.
About 1893 another Bournemouth club was started, the home matches being played at Dean Park and their colours being a blue jersey with a broad white hoop and dark (blue?) shorts. The main fixtures being against Trojans, Portsmouth and Sherborne School and transport was usually by train. Once again the difficulty of arranging nearby fixtures caused a lapse of several years before the club was restarted by a Major Langley Taylor in 1906. It continued playing for some three seasons with fixtures against the Trojans, Castle Carey, Sherborne School and a Dorchester and District XV. A photograph of the teams in a match against the latter side in 1909 has been presented to the Club by Capt F G Box, the scrum-half at the time. The colours were then large red and white hoops. Once again transport difficulties and lack of support caused failure. However, during the 1914–18 War a New Zealand Forces XV played rugby football in Meyrick Park.
In 1923 the Bournemouth Sports Club started a team, playing at Iford, the colours being green and white hoops. However this was not a financial success and the majority of the players formed the Bournemouth RFC with Meyrick Park as their home ground. Starting in season 1928/9 something like half the games were played at Dean Park for reasons that are not explained. The colours were narrow black and white hoops. A very useful side was got together and there were fixtures against the London Banks, Barnstaple, Exeter, Sidmouth and Bath United. Unfortunately only scratch sides could be raised for these long-distance fixtures although, however, a good show was put up at home. The Club then cut the long-distance fixtures and played within a 50 mile radius of Bournemouth. On one occasion D A Kendrew (who won 10 caps for England between 1930 and 1936) played for the ‘A’ side! He also won four DSOs in the 1935–45 war.
In 1929, the Sports Club purchased the ground at Kinson Park Road, Northbourne and, as there was room, Bournemouth RFC were offered a pitch. However, the offer was declined owing to the distance from the town!
Dicks Richards then undertook the job of raising the newly formed Rugby Section of the Sports Club and, within a month, two teams were being fielded, playing in black, yellow and blue striped shirts. The Poole RFC closed down about this time and, fortunately, the services of all their members were obtained. As the ground at Northbourne was not yet ready, a ground was hired at Muscliffe Farm, near the Horse and Jockey pub on the Wimborne Road. Changing and bathing were in a loft followed by tea in a cow shed. The farmer was paid 2⁄6d (12 1⁄2p)to clear the pitch of cow dung but his idea of clearance seemed to be spread it evenly over a larger area!
After going for three seasons, the Sports Club beat Bournemouth RFC by an unspecified narrow margin and a very keen and even contest developed between the two clubs. The Bournemouth RFC fixture card of 1930/1 (the second or third season of the new Rugby Section of the Sports Club?) shows two fixtures between the two ‘A’ teams and two fixtures between the Bournemouth RFC ‘B’ and the Sports Club ‘A’ team. The fixture cards of Bournemouth RFC for the four seasons prior to this do not feature fixtures with the Sports Club.
The Sports Club eventually obtained a stronger fixture list, including games against the ‘A’ XVs of some of the leading London clubs such as Blackheath, Harlequins, London Scottish and Richmond plus Woodford 1st XV, Bath United, Bristol United, Clifton, Old Redingensians, Taunton, Torquay, Sidmouth, Exmouth and Somerset Police and of course the local ‘blood battles’ such as Yeovil, Salisbury, US Portsmouth, Berkshire Wanderers (now Reading), Portsmouth and the Trojans. Again the question of raising a representative side for the long-distance matches caused much trouble and in the 1938/9 season it was suggested that the two clubs should merge to ensure adequate reserves and to field six sides on Saturdays—the Sports Club’s colours of black shirts with narrow gold hoops to be worn. The war, however, interfered with this programme but in the full postwar season the idea was put into practise and to be called Bournemouth RFC—a Section of the Bournemouth Sports Club. Successive fixture secretaries steadily improved the Club’s fixtures but it was hard work.
However the question of expense and raising sides for the long-distance fixtures initially curtailed the programme somewhat—the nearest club of 1st XV standard being 30 miles away.
The Rugby Section (of the Sports Club) was the only rugby club in Hampshire and Dorset to keep going throughout the war and this was due to the hard work and enthusiasm of Ken Baily and Dicks Richards who was the Hon Secretary until 1948—a fine record.
The Easter Festivals, first organized by the Sports Club in 1937, were always a tremendous success with many prominent London, Northern and Welsh clubs coming to play with great enthusiasm over the four days, Friday to Monday in a programme with as many as eight games in a day. Although the festival continues to this day at the club only hockey is played. With the advent of league rugby there was less and less enthusiasm for touring and it became difficult to raise enough interest to make the venture worthwhile and the last Easter Festival rugby was played in 1995.
The Post WarYears
The 7-a-side competitions were revived after the war after a lapse of some years and were unofficially known as the Hampshire 7s. Bristol for many years sent a team as did Exeter University (St Lukes). But the competition steadily declined with ever decreasing interest and they stopped in the early 1990s.
It was felt in the immediate postwar period that the Club was well served by the local schools but Bournemouth School played rugby football from 1935 to 1955 under Percy Cushion (Bournemouth and Hampshire) and several of the members of these prewar sides played for the Club. Just before the war, the Old Boys became a section of the Sports Club and played under its auspices but nine of them lost their lives in the War. The annual match against a Club XV on Boxing Day became a postwar feature although this became The Chairman’s XV v The Vice-chairman’s XV certainly by the early 60s. However, as rugby football was not immediately restarted at the school after the war, the Club turned to and supported Portchester School and several useful players have helped the Club although National Service deprived the Club of their services for long periods. But it was in the 70s that old boys from Portchester School really made their mark when it was only half-jokingly suggested that you had to be an Old Portcastrian to play for the Club.
This corresponded to the so-called ‘Golden Era’ (according to Chairman at the time, Wally Wright) when Bournemouth enjoyed unparalleled success winning many matches and scoring an unprecedented numbers of points—certainly enough to attract the notice of the national press in the form of the Daily Telegraph. The halfback combination of scrum-half Andy Trevett and fly-half Clive Martinez seemed to be the catalyst for this purple patch. They won the Dorset & Wilts Cup four years in succession, from 1977/8 to 1980/81 and twelve times all told (at the time of writing).
The Eighties until now
Elsewhere rugby (and sport in general) suffered from a decline of support in the schools, at least in the maintained scctor and this obliged the clubs to take matters in to their own hands in producing the succeeding generations of rugby players and so Mini Rugby was started in 1976 by Derek Ward. Under the guidance of a number of successive chairmen over the ensuing years, we can boast one of the most successful Youth and Mini Sections of any club. This in turn has fed, what used to be known as, the Colts (Under 19s) but who are now restricted to Under 18s, which in turn has fed a number of players in to the Bournemouth 1st XV. One notable success of this programme is Andy Long who was first involved with the Club from the age of four when he came along with his older sibling James. He always had a desire to play for England and did so at the junior representative levels including captaining England Under 21s. As an adult he went to Bath for the season 1996/7. However he was not able to get regular rugby and we suggested to Bath that perhaps in the meanwhile he played for us to ensure that Andy was ‘getting games’. Under this arrangement he came back for a short while over the Christmas 1996 period and played his last game for us in January 1997 when he returned to resume his professional career with Bath. He played for England against Australia the following November—a meteoric rise from Level 7 to England in just eleven months!
There was an increasing desire to introduce more competitive rugby rather than simply playing ‘friendlies’ and so called Merit Tables were intoduced for the season 1982/3 and Bournemouth were placed in the Bisley Office Equipment Southern Merit Table, which Denis Eveleigh helped set up. The Table consisted of some eight clubs who all played each other once during their otherwise usual ‘friendlies’ format season. Bournemouth won the Merit Table in 1983/4.
It was this success that placed Bournemouth in South West 1 (Level 5) when the full-blown league rugby—the English Clubs Championship—was introduced for the 1987/8 season. It unfortunately corresponded with a decline in Bournemouth’s relative playing strength and they struggled against the opposition in that first season and were immediately relegated. After three seasons in South West 2, Bournemouth were relegated again to Southern Counties. They won promotion back into South West 2 in 1993/4 their Centenary Year. This division was reformed into South West 2 East in 1996/7 but were relegated from that new division after three seasons into what had now become Southern Counties South and remained there for six seasons before winning promotion to South West 2 East in 2004/5. After two seasons they won their way back to South West 1. After four seasons, by which time the divsion was styled National 3 South West, they lost in a play-off against Hertford 22-23 but the following year they won promotion in fine style withe club-scoring records being broken all over the place and reached the highest level (4) the Club had ever played at — Ntional 2 South for the 2012/2013 Season.
In October 1989 the Sports Club relocated to their present home a 67 acre site partially developed by the Barclays International but further developed by the Sports Club at Chapel Gate next to Bournemouth International Airport. The Rugby Club boasts some of the finest playing surfaces available and have been proud to host a number of Junior, Schoolboy and Student International matches including games against Wales, Ireland, France and New Zealand with names such as; Laurence Dallaglio, Simon Shaw, Phil Greening, Ben Kay, Richard Hill and Joe Rokocoko playing.
In addition to Andy Long playing for the full England International XV, ‘Bob’ Jenner, Ben Gollings and Greg Barden all played for the England 7s, the last two captaining the side.