Rugby History

The Liverpool Collegiate School took up rugby in 1919, but it was June 1925 when a group of ex-pupils held a meeting in the Knotty Ash Hotel to form a Rugby Section as part of the Old Boys Football Club. The Rugby Section later became independent of the Old Boys Football Club in 1958. The first Captain was a Mr A.J. Fogge and in that first season two teams played regularly on pitches situated in Finch Lane, Knotty Ash. By 1932 the Club was putting out three teams. This remained constant until the start of World War Two. In 1938, Tom ‘Bully’ Ellis, whilst playing for Liverpool University and Collegiate, received his first Lancashire Cap. The only other senior county player we have had was Barry Smith who played for the Three Counties many years later. However, many of Collegiate’s junior players have received county caps. The war started in 1939 and twenty Collegiate players left to join the armed services. Under the leadership of John Roberts, the club fielded a team throughout the war years, a quite remarkable achievement. Throughout its history the Club has lived a nomadic existence, playing at Finch Lane, then Mill Lane (now the Bill Shankly Fields) from 1945, then at Leyfield Road from 1962. A burnt out pavilion caused us to move to the Peter Lloyd Centre in Mill Bank in the 1980s and finally to Liverpool Cricket Club in 1998.

Since the formation of the Club, various degrees of success had been enjoyed but in 1957 we reached our lowest ebb. A Club meeting was called, coincidentally in the Knotty Ash Hotel, to decide upon the options of disbanding the Club or re-organising it to take the Club forward. The latter was the decision taken and Bob Moss became the man who did most over the years to keep the Club going and he held the Chairmanship until 1968. In 1968 we had a record attendance at our AGM, partly because we were then running six teams plus a Colts XV. Bob Moss stood down and Joe Lucas started a run of many years as Chairman and later became President. Many people have had a great influence in the Club over the years. Tom (Bully) Ellis played for Lancashire, Waterloo and Collegiate O.B.’s. Jock McGeoch was our first President, later followed by Tommy and Harry Graham and Harry Smallpage. From the mid 70’s Norman Langley, Fred O’Hanlon, Phil Martin, Barry Smith and Frank Downey all put time in as Chairman. Rod Hannah and Len Morgan were notable Club Captains and Geoff Lloyd was Fixture Secretary for an eternity.

In 1971 the opportunity arose for us to amalgamate with the Bohemians Tennis Club situated in Sandforth Court, West Derby. The Collegiate Bohemians Sporting Club was formed on condition that the Rugby Club ran the bar and the Chairmanship of the new Club alternated annually between the sections, Trevor Brown for tennis and Joe Lucas for rugby. This enabled both Clubs to progress both financially and in playing strength. A year or so later a Building Fund was established and members’ loans totalling £30,000 financed the extension of the lounge and bar. The success of this venture enabled the loans to be repaid in full within the five years promised. However, by the late 90’s relationships at the Tennis Club were getting a bit strained, as was our tenure of pitches at the Sports Centre. Our rugby future was beginning to looking bleak. The Collegiate school had been closed and the club was struggling to attract new members. Then a stroke of good fortune came our way. Norman Langley arranged his daughter’s wedding reception at the Cricket Club. During the course of the evening a casual conversation at the bar revealed that Liverpool Cricket Club were intent on getting rugby back under the Club’s umbrella. From this gem of information, several meetings took place, led by Peter Bown and Chris Jones with the Cricket Club Chairman, Peter McEvoy, which eventually led to our separation from the Bohemians Tennis Club and a new relationship with Liverpool Cricket Club. Incidentally, the Collegiate Bohemians survived, the Collegiate Old Boys Football Club replacing the Rugby Club in the partnership.

On 31st January 1998 the rugby members at an extra-ordinary meeting of the club, voted unanimously to join Liverpool Cricket and Sporting Club. It was a historic occasion for our club and the rugby committee was confident that the move to the Cricket Club, with its excellent facilities, would offer the club the chance to develop and expand and become the premier rugby club on Merseyside. The vote was followed by a lot of negotiations and hard work. After the rugby section was formally accepted into the Cricket Club, pitches had to be prepared and posts had to be erected. A great deal of time and effort also went into improving the fencing to try and prevent rugby balls going on to the railway track. (Still a problem!) The First XV, under the captaincy of Lenny Bragg, played its first home game on Sunday 31st August. The match, a Lancashire Cup game against Chorley, was an exciting game that attracted a sizeable crowd and led to our first victory of the season. A week later the Second XV, captained by Bart and the Third XV captained by Chris Jones, both won their first games at the club. The Third XV game was made even more memorable as it saw Njike playing his first game for the club. A few years later he was to represent the Cameroon’s in the Rugby World Cup. One of the major benefits of our move to the Cricket Club is that we are now more able to attract sponsorship. The most generous donation was provided by Pete Best, ex-Beatle and former rugby member. His donation helped us to improve the floodlighting at our training sessions.

Since 1998 the Rugby Section has made steady progress and has laid down some very firm foundations for the Section’s future development. Pete Bown, Matty Hesketh and Chris Jones have all served a stint as Chairman of the Section at LCC. While the First XV has been captained by Lenny Bragg, Dave Angwin (twice), Chris “junior” Jones, Gareth Hodges, Terry McLoughlin and Harry Zalk. Special mention must be made of Paul Walsh (a genuine Collegiate Old Boy) who during his twenty-five years on the committee has held virtually every position in the Club. He also served as First XV captain twice and has regularly been the Section’s top point scorer. Currently, the First XV is in the Euro Manx, South Lancs and Cheshire league structure, but ever ambitious, the Section is looking to secure a series of promotions in the forthcoming seasons to cement its place as a leading rugby club in the region. The Second XV is also in a local league, while the Third XV and Vets teams have regular “friendly” fixtures. The Vets team has been one of the most successful teams in recent years, dominating the annual end of season Vets tournament at Chester Rugby Club.

Perhaps the most important benefit of the Rugby Section’s move to Liverpool Cricket Club is that it has provided us with the opportunity to run mini and youth rugby teams. On Wednesday 26th November 1998 more than 200 pupils from eight junior schools took part in a rugby ‘Taster Day’ organised by the Club with the help of the local Rugby Youth Development Officer. Liverpool Live Cable TV Channel sent a film crew and presenter to cover the ‘Taster Day’ and later produced a fifteen-minute programme about the event. The ‘Taster’ day was a great success and greatly boosted the number of youngsters who turned up on a Sunday morning to attend the mini and youth rugby sessions. Jackie Griffiths, long term club coach and one of the club’s best ever players, led the rapid expansion in the numbers of junior players. His role has now been taken over by a whole army of new coaches under the leadership of Rob Smith and Colin O’Leary. There are now more than 200 youngsters who regularly attend the Sunday sessions.

The 2004-05 season was one of the most successful in the history of the club. Mainly due to the success of the mini and junior section, the club was honoured with a whole series of awards, including the ‘Lancashire Junior and Mini Rugby Club of the Year Award’ and the ‘Liverpool Club of the Year Award’. The latter award was open to all sporting clubs not just rugby, so to have won it was a clear sign that the Collegiate Rugby Club was moving in the right direction. Apart from these awards, the club also received the RFU ‘Seal of Approval’ and the ‘Sports England Club Mark’. The Club was also honoured by being the only club in Liverpool to have the Rugby World Cup for the day as part of the ‘Sweet Chariot Tour’. The same year, Adam Anderson played for Lancashire Under-15s and made the North of England squad; while Karl Anderson played for the Royal Navy and Combined Services Under-21s at Twickenham. The Club again hosted a county junior rugby match.

The 2005-06 season was a special one as it marked the 80th anniversary year of the founding of the club. The occasion was marked by several events including a 1920s fancy dress ball in a marquee at the club at which former England captain and grand-slam winner, Mike Rafter (the grafter) was our special guest. During the course of the year, the section developed its own website. The latter was seen as vital if we were to improve communications and attract new members to the club. Another first for the Section was the creation of the Collegiate Ladies XV. Their first ever game against Liverpool University saw them romp to a fantastic 19-0 victory, which made their manager, Simon Taylor, extremely proud. This season the Ladies team has entered the Lancashire league and great things are expected from them. Another notable event was the success of one of Liverpool Collegiate’s Under-10s stars, Jonathan Davidson. He was crowned the National Kick, Pass & Run Champion on the hallowed turf of Twickenham at the Guinness Premiership final in May 2006. His was award was presented to him by England’s most capped international, Jason Leonard.

The 2006-07 season was one of the most successful in the history of the club with teams at all levels achieving a great deal of success. The First XV, captained by Dave Angwin, got the season off to an excellent start, winning five of the first six games and drawing the other, with the hard work of the players and coaching staff from pre-season really paying off in the first few months. However, injuries to a few important players and a loss of form brought 3 defeats before Christmas that saw us drop to 4th in the league. However, after this period the team really started to gel and went on a four month unbeaten run that saw us steadily climb the table before securing 2nd place and promotion with a victory at Moore on the first weekend in April. There were also notable cup runs, reaching the 5th round of the EDF National Vase before losing unluckily to West Leeds and the semi-final of the Lancashire Plate where a loss to a very powerful Tarleton team ended any hopes of silverware for the year. The Second XV, captained by Trigger, has also had a strong season fielding a team every week and finishing fourth in the league. After a few weeks it became obvious that the players filtering through from the colts section would form a major part of the team. The step up from junior to senior rugby did not intimidate them & many proved that they were not only capable of playing rugby at this standard, but that they could excel. Names such as Chris Austin, Peter Day, Graham Wilson, Rob Connolly & Luke Baldwin will undoubtedly feature in future Collegiate First XVs. Highlights of the season were three straight wins against Sefton and beating Parkonians by 50 points both home & away. The Third XV, captained by Sean Lenehan, had a very good season. The team played with great spirit and a high level of skill, indeed several of the players went on to play for the First XV. The overall playing record was played 18, won 9, drew 1 and lost 8. One of the highlights of the season would have to be the second visit to Southport Thirds, turning around an early season 47-0 loss and winning 37-0. The junior/mini section is continuing to go from strength to strength with 12 teams from Under-7s to Under-19s (the Senior Colts). Last season the minis (Under-7s to Under-12s) swept almost all before them. The Under-10s squad have gone two seasons, over 50 games, undefeated, winning three tournaments. They have scored over 150 tries and only conceded 13 this season. The Under-11s capped a record-breaking season by smashing the opposition at the prestigious Hilversum tournament in Holland over the Easter weekend, an event covered by Dutch television. The Under-11s defeated both the Dutch and German National teams at the tournament. They were just beaten by just 2 points for the title by strong Belgium opposition. Collegiate scored the most tries in the tournament and brought home the silverware for runners-up. The junior teams made history, as Collegiate became the only club in Lancashire to have teams in every single quarter-final of the junior section of the Lancashire Cup. The Under-14s were beaten in the semi-finals, while the Under-15s reached the final itself. The Under-15s also went on a highly successful and enjoyable tour of Ireland. The Under-17s (Junior Colts) finished 6th in their league and have had some great results. The Under-19s (Senior Colts) have had another successful season finishing second in League B of the Senior Colts competition ahead of teams such as Preston Grasshoppers, Waterloo, Sedgley Park and Orrell. They were beaten finalists in the U-19 Lancashire Cup. Twelve of the colts represented Lancashire this year. The team has just returned from a hugely successful tour to Rome where they defeated Capitolina 21-17 and were robbed by Frascati 15-14. Playing in Italy was a fantastic experience for these players and it gave them a real insight into a more physical game, which is played, in some parts. This team improved year on year and it all looks good for the rugby section as whole with these players filtering through to play senior rugby for Collegiate. Consistent training last season had the Ladies XV ready to enter their first full season in NW3 division. The team took the league by storm and eventually finished in second spot. Special mention should go to the captain Laura Parkes who has being there without fail to help and encourage the entire team and in particular the less experienced players whom she has been assisted greatly. Additionally, it would be amiss not to mention Lynsay Adair (Hooch) who has on her own this season scored approx 180 points.

The move to Liverpool Cricket Club has undoubtedly been a great success for the Rugby Section. There has been an expansion in player numbers and an improvement in playing and training facilities. However, the most important benefit of the move continues to be that it provides us with the opportunity to run mini and youth rugby teams. The junior/mini section is going from strength to strength with 10 teams from under-7s to under-16s inclusive. There are also two colts teams. Two season ago the colts team came to within two games of playing at Twickenham before being very narrowly beaten in the regional final. With the commitment from players and parents, we are now one of the strongest junior/mini rugby clubs in the Northwest of England. With our team of volunteers (coaches, managers, registration and club secretaries, referees, hospitality people) we are constantly growing and improving to ensure we stay as one of the best rugby clubs in the region. The future look very bright for the Section. Long may rugby prosper at Liverpool Cricket Club.