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Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, the nation will be preparing for the annual turkey dinner repast, watching the Macy's Day Parade in Manhattan live, and viewing football on television. And another activity will occur in New York City, the final detailed preparations of the New York RFC's Seven-A-Side tournament on Saturday, November 26.
The NYRFC, founded in 1929 and the USA's oldest rugby only club, continues the tradition of this post-Thanksgiving sevens festival, the first sevens event of its kind, and now, the oldest, continuous rugby tournament in the country. The first occurred in 1959, a modest affair with but eight eastern teams competing. MIT A beat MIT B in the final. The games were played in Van Cortland Park in northern Manhattan.
The next year in 1960, the tournament increased marginally in participants as newly formed clubs like Brown and Columbia entered teams. Dartmouth won the second event beating Harvard on tries from seniors Tom Conger and Mike Murphy. Of importance, the game was written up in the NY Times, and represented the longest article about rugby in the paper's sports section since 1940.
When the tournament moved from indoors in the old Madison Avenue Armory to outdoors again in the late 1960s, the number of teams proliferated. By 1988, there were fifty sides, still over represented by eastern clubs. The Manhattan RFC holds the record for most tournament wins.
The composition of clubs has changed over time, attracting significantly more Canadian teams, which represent more than fifty-percent of entries in all divisions. Since the Canadians do not celebrate Thanksgiving, they are free to head south for some rugby and Manhattan nightlife.
This year, 135 teams will compete in 11 divisions, all games played on the renovated pitches at Randall's Island. Parties are scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights. Prize money is awarded to the winners and runners up in the Women and Men's Premier Divisions. (i.e.; $1,000 and $500)
All praise to the New York RFC for operating a popular and efficient tournament that renews itself annually, and now celebrates its 57th year.