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Joe Kennedy Jr - Second on Left

In the next two years, Albert Woodley, an officer of the NYRFC and ERU, and a businessman who traveled frequently to Great Britain, made excellent contacts within the RFU.  He hosted representatives of the RFU in Manhattan and, importantly, demonstrated that the NYRFC was organized along the same amateur principles of all British rugby clubs. By 1937, the RFU hinted that the ERU should solicit Twickenham to request a visit by Oxford or Cambridge. The latter accepted and would return in 1938 for its second tour.

In 1938, Mr. K. Auty of the Illinois Rugby Union wrote, “Since this will be the second visit of Cambridge within five years, the Rugby yeast is evidently rising in the east!” Indeed that was true, in the four years since the Cantab’s last visit, the five club ERU had grown to ten teams. In addition to the Ivy Big Three, NYRFC, and Queens (formerly, the French RFC) were added Hofstra College (originally Nassau College), the Pilgrims (New York City), Long Island University, St. Andrews RFC in northern New Jersey, and Cornell. These clubs contested games weekly, followed by significant write ups in the NY Times, often with photographs.

Woodley and the ERU were determined to stage a first class tour, and also to maximize publicity within New York City’s eleven newspapers. The local press would drum up support for the two games to be hosted in New York City, the big finale at the New York Giants’ Polo Grounds stadium rented for $1,800. Radio personality Lowell Thomas invited some of the Cambridge players on his show. A final piece of good news came when Pathé News (The movies’ newsreel) offered to film the last game. 

The ERU’s enthusiasm that the Americans would be competitive in 1938 did not materialize. Cambridge, with six internationals, romped in game after game. (Tries scored four points back then.).  The team defeated Yale 40-0 in the opener (8 tries), 50-0 against Harvard (8 tries), and 19-0 versus Princeton (2 tries) played on a wet pitch that measured a mere 55 yards wide. At Randall’s Island Stadium in front of 2,500 fans, the All-New York team lost 38-6 (7 tries), promoting the NY Times to write, “The New Yorkers were utterly helpless before the sweep and dexterity of the Cantabs.”  The NYRFC went scoreless in the fifth game losing 35-0 in the start of April snow (8 tries). The Cantabs finished up the tour with a 39-0 thumping of the best of the ERU, their sixth win on the tour, finishing with 221 points for and 6 against, the latter coming from two penalty goals. (NB. Playing in the center that day was Harvard’s Joe Kennedy, Jr.)  In the Times’ write up by the knowledgeable Allison Danzig, he summed up the realistic disparity “…American can hardly hope to meet the British on even terms at rugger.”  

There was talk that an annual, home and away rugby game should take place with US university teams coming from the east or west to play Oxford and Cambridge. World War II ended that interesting idea.  As for Cambridge rugby, it would not appear in a significant newspaper column for twenty years, when, in 1958, the same Allison Danzig would write about Oxford’s Rhodes Scholar Pete Dawkins’ “torpedo throw” against the Cantabs in the Varsity Match. But more significant to rugby in the East, was that after a last full season 1939, the ERU would not number as many as ten teams again until the NYRFC’s 1960 Thanksgiving Seven-A-Side tournament.