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For almost a decade in the 1930s, rugby flourished in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, numbering as many as ten sides (club and college) whose games results were reported in the New York City newspapers, especially, The Times.
The rugby renaissance commenced with the founding of the New York Rugby Football Club in 1929, the first American organization dedicated solely to rugby membership. A year or so later, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton offered teams for spring play, the teams comprised of ex-Pats. Further, Yale began touring Bermuda at Spring Break, which the two other Ivies emulated. Soon after these four clubs played each other, other areas of Metropolitan New York also created new teams. By 1938, the list included: The French RFC in Manhattan, the Pilgrims also in New York City, Long Island University, Hofstra College on Long Island in Hempstead, St Andrews RFC in northern New Jersey, and, finally, Cornell in upstate Ithaca, New York, the fourth Ivy. These clubs formed the Eastern Rugby Union (ERU).
In 1934, a Cambridge University fifteen called the Vandals arranged a tour of the ERU. The Cantabs stayed at Columbia University and participated in some American football running and blocking drills. With five internationals, the English side made easy work of their opponents, defeating Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (Captained by Ed Lee), and an All-Star ERU team, piling up 136 points (three points for a try) against 42.
Cambridge returned for a six-match tour in 1938, where the beat the three Ivies, the NYRFC, an All-Star New York fifteen, and finishing with a match against an ERU select side. Playing in the center was Harvard’s Joe Kennedy, Jr. who stands in the back row of the photo, second player in white on the left. (Brother Ted played rugby for Harvard, and John Kennedy, Jr. played for Brown.)
Cambridge came with six internationals, and trounced opposition in a six-game win tally, scoring 216 points and ceding only 6 (off two penalty goals.)
The 1938 tour solidified the reputation of the New York RFC as a first-class rugby organization. The NYRFC represented the first American rugby club to qualify for membership in the Rugby Football Union in England, then the sport’s official, worldwide association.