Sun 28 May 2017 06:14

Rugby Football came early to Dorchester, the first Club being formed in 1871 – a year ahead of the Rugby Football Union. Opposition was restricted to those that could be reached by horse and brake or the railway network as it then was, therefore, matches were played against fairly local Clubs and Schools and various H.M. Ships that visited Portland. By the end of the decade, a craze for Association Football spread along the south Coast, and enthusiasm for Rugby faded, not to be rekindled until 1907 when a revived Club took the field against Dorset and South Somerset Clubs and Naval and Military Establishments in the County. The First World War put a stop to this revival and, sadly, the Club was not reconstituted until 1934.

By this time there was a group of dedicated rugby footballers in the town, led by a nucleus of Dorchester Grammar School Masters, who, tired of travelling to Weymouth for their rugby, re-founded the County Town Club. Five successful seasons followed and five of their number represented Dorset in County matches. Alas, another World War brought these activities to a halt.

The Club was re-started in September 1946. The first match was against the 'Old Enemy' Weymouth, which Dorchester won 8-5. John Hale, Captain in 1938-39, who had been de-mobbed as a major with an M.B.E., scored the first try! From that moment, the Dorchester Rugby Football Club has never faltered and has steadily progressed to the major force in Dorset and Wilts Rugby that it is today. By 1948, a second XV had taken the field, a third XV (The Gladiators) by 1960, and, intermittently, a fourth XV by 1962.

An example of how the playing strength was improving; the 1949 season opened with a match against a full-strength Gloucester XV, including three current and two future England Internationals. The visitors won by a small margin of 11 points to nil. In April 1955, the Club played a missionary game at Bridport, where no rugby had been seen in living memory. The match was played on the soccer ground versus the Dorset and Wilts County XV. The Club won 17-0 and this heralded a record season in 1955-56 with 19 of the 28 games won and only 7 lost, an achievement not to be bettered for thirty years. All this time, the fixture list was being strengthened by an enthusiastic Committee, formed mostly from playing members.

Home games were originally played on the Dorchester Recreation Ground, however, in 1964 a lease was taken on the Regimental Depot Ground, and thus began a long association with our landlords, The Duchy of Cornwall. A Ladies' Committee was formed, who produced cooked teas, at first in very cramped conditions. By 1967, new changing rooms had been completed, the floors and foundations being built by Club labour. In 1966, a new Clubhouse was erected around the existing small pavilion using three second-hand 'pre-fab' houses. This was achieved in nine days, entirely by the players and Committee. The building was opened by the Mayor of Dorchester, Alderman R. R. Thomas, who had been an outstanding player in the pre-war teams.

The Club continued to flourish, and in 1980/81 entered the Dorset & Wilts League, which they won in 1983/84. In 1987/88, the National Leagues began and the Club was runners-up in the Dorset & Wilts & Berkshire League. With only one team promoted, they were second again in 1988/89 and third in 1989/90, winning and gaining promotion in 1991. The spur to this promotion was the move to new premises at Coburg Road. This ground provided three level pitches, and artificial cricket wicket and new Clubhouse. The 1991/92, whilst the team were feeling their way in the Southern Counties League, they reached the final of the Dorset & Wilts Cup for the first time. The following season saw the Club tie for first place in the League, but failed to be promoted on points difference. Although slipping to third place in 1993/94, the overall strength of the Club was reflected by both the 2nd XV and the senior Colts side reaching the finals of their County competitions.

n 1994/95, promotion to South West League II was won, and in 1998/99 Dorchester were champions, losing only one game in the season. We were promoted to South West League I, but unfortunately, after three seasons, were relegated to South West II.

The Club has made a significant contribution to Dorset & Wilts since the Combined Counties were formed in 1947. Over forty Dorchester players have represented the Counties, with Brian Dibben appearing in some twenty matches. Neither has the Country been overlooked. In 1968, Brian Keen, an Old Hardyean, played in all four England International matches. A student at Newcastle University, he forced his way into the Northumberland County side, where he was spotted by the selectors. At that time, Dorchester had been the only Club with whom he had played, and for whom was still turning out in the vacations. Later, Keen was to play at Twickenham in a Cup Final for Bedford, as did Chris Bailward; Bedford won and both Dorchester men scored tries.

Junior Rugby

Youth has always been encouraged at Dorchester Rugby Club. Throughout the years, young players, some still at school, have been introduced into the 1st XV and, as far back as 1951/52, two players, David Hardwicke and Paddy Kemp, played for the England Schools, as did Simon Legg.

The first regular Colts team (under 19) was raised in 1958/59, under the management of H.M.I. Bax of Hardyes School. Throughout the next decade, upwards of twenty-five matches a season were arranged. In 1963, David Rees, a former player, took charge, and two years later Dorchester Colts won the Dorset & Wilts Shield.

There are teams at all age levels up to seventeen, so there is continuity from the Mini Section.

The Mini Rugby movement started at Dorchester at the old ground in 1977/78. Now, on Sunday mornings, under the charge of a band of enthusiastic and dedicated parents and coaches, over one hundred children of both sexes will be seen playing on the Club pitches. Tournaments, matches and even tours are regularly arranged, starting with Under 6's, Under 7's, through Under 8's, Under 9's, Under 10's, Under 11's, Under 12's to Under 13's.

Besides inculcating the spirit of Rugby Football allied to true sportsmanship, the young are taught to think of others not so fit and fortunate. They have taken part in Fun Runs in aid of the Joseph Weld Hospice, a charity dear to the heart of the Dorchester Club (Sir Joseph Weld having been our President for seventeen years).

The Club also has a fine relationship with the St. John Ambulance Brigade, who attend all our home matches. We are also deeply indebted to the local medical establishment for providing the Club with a Doctor in attendance at all home games of the 1st XV, and the paramedic service who deal speedily and expertly with any player receiving a serious injury.

As can be seen since our move to Coburg Road, the Club has made great strides both on and off the field. Playing, Coaching and Ground maintenance have been of a high order. The pitches are carefully nurtured during the close season, and are now as good as any in the South of England. Other improvements include complete furnishing of the Clubhouse and floodlighting on the 1st XV pitch. Floodlighting will soon be completed on the other pitches. Juniors section...click here

The social side has not been neglected either. Functions include an Autumn Dinner and Dance, a Summer Ball, and also the Annual Players' Dinner and numerous smaller events.

Top honours

League

  • Winners Berkshire/Dorset & Wilts 1990/91
  • Winners Southern Counties 1994/95
  • Winners South West 2 East 1998/99
  • Dorset & Wilts Cup Winners 1999/2000
  • Runners up 1990/ 91/ 94/ 95/ 2001
  • Dorset & Wilts Cup 2nd XV Cup
  • Winners 1995/96
  • Runners up 1993/ 94/ 96 97

Statistics

  • Most games played for 1st XV - Frank Dike 658
  • Most Games played for Dorchester - Frank Dike 969
  • Most Tries scored for 1st XV - Tony Foot 738
  • 1st XV biggest win v Ventnor I.o.W, 4th October 1997, 99 - 7

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