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Harvard-Yale 1875 – In the Boston Globe in 1892, some seventeen-years after the 1875 event, Walter Camp of Yale, the “father” of gridiron football, wrote about the “concessionary” game, one half played as soccer with a round ball, and the second half rugby rules with the oval ball. Yale had never seen nor played rugby, and when a few oval balls arrived, he recorded the team’s odd reaction:
“After a few days’ practice, we concluded that the ball was best kicked on its side rather than on the end.”
Harvard played rugby previously against McGill and Tufts, and won easily against the Elis four goals to none. In those days, a try (touchdown) scored nothing, only a conversion after the try counted as one point (a goal). Camp became discontented with many aspects of rugby union, particularly, the scoring. Yale in 1882 scored 52-1 (goals) playing rugby, but after Camp’s gridiron rules changes were accepted after that season, in 1883, Yale’s points skyrocketed to 540-2 when touchdowns rose in prominence for the nascent American game.
US Olympic Jersey 1924 – The story of USA’s two gold medal triumphs in 1920 and 1924 are documented in the excellent historical book Try For The Gold (www.tryforthegold.com). Less known is the 1924 after-game story of USA rugger Ed Turkington who, as he handed over his jersey to his opponent at the end of the US win in the final against France, was kicked hard in a poor display of sportsmanship. He managed to receive the French player’s shirt as was the rugby exchange custom. Years later, the Frenchman’s family returned Turkinton’s USA Olympic jersey, which is on display in the U. Cal Berkeley’s Witter Rugby Field House.
Oxford vs. Cambridge 1959 – The annual Varsity Match between Oxford and Cambridge remained the dominant rugby event in England since the first game in 1872. In the US media, it received barely a short squib…until 1959 when Americans wondered how Rhodes Scholar Pete Dawkins would do, playing on the wing for Oxford. The former Heisman Trophy winner from West Point in 1958 excelled at half back. Starting rugby in September, he advanced quickly from his college side (Brasenose) to the Greyhounds (Second XV), finally, to promotion to the first XV. Dawkins did not disappoint in the match, receiving praise from UK newspapers, and demonstrating in the line out, an American-style overhead long pass of forty-yards (see photo) that astonished Cambridge and the crowd. Fifty-years later in 2009, those Oxbridge players returned for a reunion of that storied day.