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Old Blue versus Westchester

In the second issue of the revised “Scrumdown” (later renamed “Rugby Magazine”), dated March 1975, the feature on the front page detailed the upcoming spring season for the six, New York City Metropolitan Clubs: NYRFC, Westchester, Manhattan, Old Blue, Old Maroon, and Essex.

New York City had always been a prime city for rugby participation owing to its large population, and commercial centers for finance, advertising, insurance, and the arts. Additionally, it was also welcoming to ex-Pats from the UK and Ireland who came to seek work abroad. Some would open rugby bars, which served as meccas for the players on the local teams.

These New York-based clubs arranged spring and fall, home and away games with other eastern cities like Boston, Providence, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, creating spirited rivalries.

The New York RFC is the oldest rugby club in the United States, founded in 1929. Under the aegis of Brit Albert Woodley, it was the first American club to join the official Rugby Football Union in England. In its earliest beginnings, it attracted primarily a British membership that also would include Ed Lee of Princeton. During the mid-1930s, rugby flourished in New York with ten sides - Princeton, Yale and Harvard and seven local clubs - participating in an Eastern Union.

Westchester, founded by Colgate University wrestling star, Clint Blume, was next, beginning in 1959. It played its home games in the north of City suburb.

In 1960, four renegade members of the NYRFC, including author, actor, and publican, Malachy McCourt, unhappy with not being selected each Saturday, broke away to form Manhattan RFC. During its formative years, it was a club on paper only, often arriving at the pitch with only eight to ten players.

In the spring of 1961, Columbia University started its first rugby club, the side formed by a mix of football players and football players who had graduated. By 1963, the University ruled that only undergrads could play for the club, which led directly to the formation of Old Blue RFC, boosted by its cadre of Columbia gridiron alumni.

The Kappas brothers, Fordham University grads, created Old Maroon, in the early 1970s and Essex RFC was created by former Fairfield University alumni, many living after graduation in southwestern Connecticut.

NYRFC and Manhattan fielded four teams weekly during the 1960’s and 1970s heyday of rugby expansion. Manhattan’s Cecil “Jacko” Jackson started Les Vieux, the city’s first Old Boys side in 1970, playing in Manhattan RFC stripes with a red, heart shaped patch spelling out Les Vieux. Jackson, along with NYRFC’s John Tait, had previously started the New York Over 30s.

In 1975, rugby flourished throughout the USA, and New York City, home of A. Jon Prusmack's “Scrumdown,” was in the thick of it.