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Home arrow BFR Matters I arrow Fletcher Robinson & Rugby (Part VI)
Fletcher Robinson & Rugby (Part VI) PDF Print E-mail

Between April 1890 and June 1894, BERTRAM FLETCHER ROBINSON (hereafter BFR) was a student at Jesus College, Cambridge University.  During this period, he was awarded both a B.A. Tripos degree in History (1893) and Part 1 of the Tripos degree in Law (1894).  BFR then retained his name on the Jesus College register until June 1896 when he qualified as a Barrister-at-Law.  On 25th November 1897, he was also awarded an M.A. degree from his alma mater.

In October 1890, BFR played his first match for Jesus College Rugby Football Club.  The following October, he made his debut appearance for Cambridge University Rugby Football Club in a match that was played against Lancashire.  Between October 1890 and March 1894, BFR played approximately 80 games for both Jesus and Cambridge (including tour games).   He evidently felt that rugby demanded much self-discipline because he later wrote the following comment in his book that is entitled Rugby Football (London: A.D. Innes & Company, 1896):

Perhaps the best feature of this enthusiasm for Rugby Football which has grown up amongst working men is the delight in hard exercise and consequent self-denial that it has taught him.  A man cannot spend his nights and his wages in the public-house if twice a week he has to face a hard struggle of forty minutes each way.

In October 1890, BFR presented a paper entitled Village Life in the 14th and 15th Century to the Jesus College Coleridge Society (Samuel Taylor Coleridge was admitted to Jesus in 1792).  Around that same time, he forged a life-long friendship with another active member of that same society called Percy Holden Illingworth.  Illingworth was a double rugby 'Blue' (1889 & 1891) and he had also played for both Blackheath and Jesus College.  Undoubtedly, it was Illingworth who encouraged BFR to become actively involved with rugby at Cambridge.

BFR participated in five notable rugby matches during his time as a student.  He played three games for Cambridge University against Oxford University (the so-called 'Varsity Rugby Match).  BFR also played two games for a combined 'Varsity XV against a combined London, Southern, Western and Midland Counties XV.  This annual fixture was one of several games that was traditionally used by selectors to pick international squads for England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.   The details pertaining to each of these five matches are listed below:

Key:

E = England Cap   
= Ireland Cap    
S
= Scotland Cap   
W = Wales Cap    

+
= Captain   
*  = Blue
.

1)  16th December 1891.  19th Annual 'Varsity Rugby Match.  Reported in The Times newspaper on 17th December 1891 (pp. 10).  Played at Queen's Club (West Kensington, London).  Attendance: 8,000.  The referee was H.L. Ashmore and the two touch judges were P. Christopherson and E.T. Gordon.  Cambridge won this match by a score of 2 tries to nil (4 points to 0 points).  The two teams included 13 international players and were as follows:

Cambridge University:  (Back); E C.M. Wells (Dulwich & Trinity).  (¾ backs); A.B. Fforde (Bedford Grammar School & Christ's), S W. Neilson (Merchiston & Clare), I R. Montgomery (Queen's College, Belfast & Trinity).  (½ backs); E* A. Rotherham (Uppingham & Trinity), J.C. Orr (Clifton & Trinity).  (Forwards); +**  T.W.P. Storey (Fettes & Trinity Hall), W*  C.B. Nicholl (Llandovery College & Queen's), E. Mayfield (Leys & Caius), H. Staunton (Bromsgrove & Selwyn), E A.E. Elliott (Cheltenham & St. John's), H.J. Craig (Rugby & Trinity), W W. Cope (Repton & Clare), R.N. Douglas (Dulwich & Selwyn), B.F. Robinson (Newton Abbot & Jesus).

Oxford University:  (Back); * P.C. Cochran (Loretto & Oriel).  (¾ backs); S+** P.R. Clauss (Loretto & Keble), W J. Conway-Rees (Llandovery College & Jesus), *  F.I. Cowlishaw (Rugby & Brasenose).  (½ backs); ** R.G.T. Coventry (Hereford Cathedral School & Brasenose), W.E. Wilkinson (Durham & Keble).  (Forwards); E*  L.J. Percival (Clifton & Trinity), E*  E. Bonham-Carter (Clifton & New College), G.H.F. Cookson (Clifton & Lincoln), ** A.R. Kay (Fettes & Oriel), C.D. Baker (Sherborne & Merton), E G.M. Carey (Sherborne & Exeter), E. Selby (Sedbergh & Queen's), E F.O. Poole (Cheltenham & Keble), W.H. Wakefield (Charterhouse & New College).

2)  9th November 1892.  Annual match between a combined 'Varsity XV and a combined London, Southern, Western and Midland Counties XV.  Reported in The Times newspaper on 10th November 1892 (pp. 10).  Played at the Richmond Athletic Ground in Surrey.  Attendance: 4,000.  The referee was H.L. Ashmore and the two touch judges were  E.T. Gordon and G. Rowland Hill.  The combined London and Counties XV won this match by a score of 1 goal and 1 try to 2 tries. The combined 'Varsity XV fielded 9 international players and the two teams were as follows:

Oxford & Cambridge Universities:  (Back); E E. Field (Trinity, Cambridge).  (¾ backs); S W. Nielson (Clare, Cambridge), S H.T.S. Gedge (Keble, Oxford), W J. Conway-Rees (Jesus, Oxford).  (½ backs); T.L. Jackson (St. John's, Cambridge), S W. Donaldson (Brasenose, Oxford).  (Forwards); W.D. Carey (Exeter, Oxford), C.D. Baker (Merton, Oxford), E J.J. Robinson (St. John's, Cambridge), E F.O. Poole (Keble, Oxford), G.F.H. Jackson (Lincoln, Oxford), E W.E. Tucker (Caius, Cambridge), B.F. Robinson (Jesus, Cambridge), W C.B. Nicholl (Queen's, Cambridge), J.C.A. Rigby (Caius, Cambridge).

London, Southern, Western and Midland Counties (Back); J. F. Byrne (Moseley).  (¾ backs); C.A. Hooper (Middlesex Wanderers), A.E. Stoddart (Blackheath), J.H.C. Fegan (Blackheath).  (½ backs); H. Marshall (Blackheath), A. Rotherham (Coventry).  (Forwards); F. Evershed (Burton-on-Trent), W.E. Bromet (Richmond), A. Allport (Blackheath), F. Soane (Somerset), W.W. Rice (Coventry), W.P. Wells (Kensington), E.G. Chubb (Old Leysians), J. Hammond (Blackheath), C.J. Hill (Coventry).

3)  14th December 1892.  20th Annual 'Varsity Rugby Match.  Reported in The Times newspaper on 15th December 1892 (pp. 7).  Played at Queen's Club.  Attendance: 6,000-7,000.  The referee was H.L. Ashmore and the two touch judges were  E.T. Gordon and R. F. de Winton.  This game ended as a scoreless draw.  The two teams included 12 international players and were as follows:

Cambridge University:  (Back); E E. Field (Clifton & Trinity).  (¾ backs); S J.J. Gowans (Harrow & Clare), S* W. Neilson (Merchiston & Clare), S D.D. Robertson (Glasgow Academy & Christ's).  (½ backs); E* C.M. Wells (Dulwich & Trinity), T.L. Jackson (Leys & St. John's).  (Forwards); W+**  C.B. Nicholl (Llandovery College & Queen's), ***  T.W.P. Storey (Fettes & Trinity Hall), * B.F. Robinson (Newton Abbot & Jesus), J.C.A. Rigby (Oundle & Caius), E W.E. Tucker (Trinity College, Port Hope, Canada & Caius), W.E. Nelson (Haileybury & Clare), E J.J. Robinson (Appleby Grammar School, Atherstone & St. John's), H.D. Rendall (Rugby & Trinity), D.B. Hill (Heretaunga School, New Zealand & Jesus).

Oxford University:  (Back); L.C. Humfrey (Christ's College, Brecon & Keble).  (¾ backs); A. Latter (King's School, Canterbury & Trinity), W* J. Conway-Rees (Llandovery College & Jesus), L. Mortimer (Clifton & Exeter).  (½ backs); S* W.P. Donaldson (Loretto & Brasenose), H.M. Taberer (St. Andrew's College, Grahamstown, South Africa & Keble).  (Forwards); +* G.H.F. Cookson (Clifton & Lincoln), E* G.M. Carey (Sherborne & Exeter), E* F.O. Poole (Cheltenham & Keble), J. A. Smith (Loretto & Trinity), W.B. Stewart (Loretto & Brasenose), W.H. Wakefield (Charterhouse & New College), A.H. Grant (Fettes & Balliol), A.H. Colville (Merchant Taylors, Crosby & Merton),  A.C. Elwes (Bedford Grammar School & St. John's).

The relevant match report in The Times newspaper included the following reference to BFR

...the Oxford defence was severely tried.  But it stood the test.  Conway-Rees [Oxford] next had a free kick for a"mark."  B.F. Robinson, however, drove the ball into touch near the line again and Oxford were really hard pressed.

4)  8th November 1893.  Annual match between a combined 'Varsity XV and a combined London, Southern, Western and Midlands XV.  Reported in The Times newspaper on 9th November 1893 (pp. 4).  Played at the Richmond Athletic Ground in Surrey.  Attendance: "several thousand spectators".  The referee was E.T. Gordon.  The combined 'Varsity XV fielded 7 international players and won this match by a score of 1 goal and 1 try to 2 tries. The two teams were as follows:

Oxford & Cambridge Universities:  (Back); E E. Field (Trinity, Cambridge).  (¾ backs); L.E. Pilkington (King's, Cambridge), W J. Conway-Rees (Jesus, Oxford), W.G. Druce (Trinity, Cambridge).  (½ backs); W.P. Davidson (Oxford), F. Cattell (Oxford).  (Forwards); E G.M. Carey (Exeter, Oxford), J. Baker (Oxford), E F.O. Poole (Keble, Oxford), A.H. Colville (Merton, Oxford), W C.B. Nicholl (Queen's, Cambridge), E J.J. Robinson (St. John's, Cambridge), B.F. Robinson (Jesus, Cambridge), H.D. Rendell (Trinity, Cambridge), S W. Nielson (Clare, Cambridge).

London, Southern, Western and Midlands Counties:  (Back); J. F. Byrne (Moseley).  (¾ backs); C.A. Hooper (Middlesex Wanderers), H.P. Reynolds (Stratford-on-Avon), J.H.C. Fegan (Blackheath).  (½ backs); A. Rotherham (St. Thomas's Hospital), T.L. Jackson (Old Leysians).  (Forwards); E. Prescott (Old Merchant Taylors), B.H. Cattell (Moseley), G.H. Allington (Devon County), W.W. Rice (Coventry), F. Soane (Bath), C. Hawkings (Devon County), W.P. Wells (Kensington), Rev. T.W.H. Carey (Leicester), W.J. Helder (Wickham Park).

5)  13th December 1893.  21st Annual 'Varsity Rugby Match.  This was the first time that both 'Varsity teams employed the four threequarters formation.  Reported in The Times newspaper on 14th December 1892 (pp. 11).  Played at Queen's Club.  Attendance: "many thousand".  The referee was H.L. Ashmore and the two touch judges were P. Christopherson and E.T. Gordon.  Oxford won this game by a score of 1 try to nil (3 points to 0 points).  The two teams included 15 international players and were as follows:

Cambridge University:  (Back); E* E. Field (Clifton & Trinity).  (¾ backs); S* J.J. Gowans (Harrow & Clare), S+** W. Neilson (Merchiston & Clare), W.G. Druce (Marlborough & Trinity), L.E. Pilkington (Clifton & King's).  (½ backs); A.H. Greg (Marlborough & Trinity), E R.O. Schwarz (St. Paul's & Christ's).  (Forwards); W***  C.B. Nicholl (Llandovery College & Queen's), E* W.E. Tucker (Trinity College, Port Hope, Canada & Caius), ** B.F. Robinson (Newton Abbot & Jesus), E A.F. Todd (Mill Hill & Caius), * H.D. Rendall (Rugby & Trinity), E F. Mitchell (St. Peter's School, York & Trinity), S.E.A. Whiteway (Sedbergh & Trinity), H. Laing (Wellington & Trinity).

Oxford University:  (Back); * L.C. Humfrey (Christ's College, Brecon & Keble).  (¾ backs); S H.T.S. Gedge (Loretto & Keble), W+** J. Conway-Rees (Llandovery College & Jesus), E E.M. Baker (Denstone & Keble), W W.Ll. Thomas (Christ College, Brecon & Keble).  (½ backs); S* W.P. Donaldson (Loretto & Brasenose), E R.H.B. Cattell (Trinity College, Stratford-on-Avon & Exeter).  (Forwards); * C.D. Baker Sherborne & Merton), * A.H. Colville (Merchant Taylors' in Crosby & Merton), E** F.O. Poole (Cheltenham & Keble), R.B. Littlewood (Merchant Taylors' in London & Wadham), * J. A. Smith (Loretto & Trinity), D.W. Donaldson (Loretto & New College), * A.C: Elwes (Bedford Grammar School & St. John's), E.R. Balfour (Edinburgh Academy and University).

Rugby historians generally agree that the annual 'Varsity match was formative to the development of the modern game.  In turn, BFR was an integral part of the Cambridge XV during the latter part of the 20th Century.  On 12th February 1894, The Times newspaper reported that he was "well-known in rugby circles".   Furthermore, on 22nd January 1907, The Daily Express newspaper reported that BFR had "only missed an International cap by an accident [injury]".  Between these dates, he wrote and co-wrote two books about the sport [see 'Fletcher Robinson & Rugby (Part VII)].  These books were well received and they influenced both coaching strategy and tactical play for many years after their publication.  

For further information about the history of Oxford University Rugby Football Club, Cambridge University Rugby Football Club and the 'Varsity Rugby Match, please follow the links below:

 http://www.ourfc.org/history/index.asp

http://www.curufc.com/

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By Paul Spiring © 2007.

 
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