Monday, 4 July 2011

College Rugby Union in the 1960s

These are some of my memories from 1968/69, the first season of College rugby at Doncaster College of Education.

In one interesting game, just after Christmas 1968, we played a new club called Barton on Humber. In the Barton team were some experienced players who had obviously told their team mates that as they were going to play a team full of young students then they needed a very physical approach or we may be too quick for them. They certainly had a physical approach, but we had one or two players who could handle themselves and so we were not intimidated and gave as good as we got. Unfortunately the referee was intimidated most and so just after half time he said he had seen enough violence and was going to abandon the game. This was a disappointment as we hadn't won on a Saturday for a while and we were leading at the time.

Most of the college games were enjoyable because we did try to play open rugby. The twelve games we won were mostly on a Wednesday when we played other student teams. We usually managed to get a stronger team out on a Wednesday, probably because of the night out that followed the game. We had some good players at college but the occasions when we managed to field our best team were few and far between.
Ian Cooke, who was a good non-league footballer, played for us when his football commitments allowed. Ian hadn't played much rugby, but he was a very good ball player as well as being quick and he could be relied on to kick well either from hand or at goal.

A second year mature student called Les Clarkson always made an impact when he played. He was a massive man who had played amateur rugby league at a good standard and his presence on the field often struck fear into the opposition.In one particular game against Scawsby College we were winning by over sixty points at half time, quite a feat in those days when tries were only worth three points. there was some talk of abandoning the game as we seemed to score every time we got the ball. However, Scawsby were keen to play the second half so Les Clarkson suggested that we swopped the backs and the forwards around. I played as a flanker in a very small pack with the rest of the backs and Les played stand-off with prop forwards in the centre and second rows on the wings. It did keep the score down a little but we still got over a hundred points. Scawsby was a local college but because of that heavy defeat they were not very keen to play us again.

I recall a student in our year called Robert Gate, who later became a well known author on rugby league history, making an appearance in a Wednesday afternoon game at Bishop Lonsdale College in Derby. Robert had been very keen to play, but was very skinny, probably weighing in at under nine stones. He played on the wing and took some heavy punishment. After one particular tackle he struggled to get up and I am not sure that he finished the game. Robert didn't play again!

The College continued to play regular fixtures until the late 1970s when the Minister of Education decided that the national arrangements for the training of teachers should be revised, and one consequence of this was the termination of teacher-training courses at Doncaster College of Education.

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