Rugby club's celebrations to mark 50th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 09:00 01 September 2012

Winscombe Rugby Club's first-ever team before their match against Clifton

Winscombe Rugby Club's first-ever team before their match against Clifton

Steve Bridges

FIFTY years since its first player went over the line to score a try, one of the district's best-known rugby clubs will celebrate its golden anniversary.

Winscombe Rugby Club will hold an extravaganza of events to mark the occasion – kicking off with a match against the team’s first-ever opponents on September 5.

That will be followed by a day of activities and events on September 8 which will culminate in a formal dinner dance.

The club was founded in the summer of 1962 by five men – Welshmen Dai Davies, Taff Watham, Pete Smart and ‘Nipper’ Reid, and Englishman John Jacobs.

After they agreed on their objective, the quintet set about rustling up support among the local populace.

Letters were sent, posters put up and an advertisement put out in the Mercury – and as a result 150 people turned out for the inaugural meeting at the Woodborough Hotel on September 5 that year.

The nascent committee, with Archie Stewart as chairman, Davies as secretary and Thomas as treasurer, then set about finding a ground, changing rooms, kit and balls and arranging fixtures.

Local policeman Tony Bell became the first fixture secretary and Watham grounds secretary and coach.

A deal was struck for the use of Woodborough Farm for a pitch for the new club, and various sponsors and contributors were debited £20 to pay for a new kit.

The club’s first changing room was a lean-to shed at the rear of the Woodborough Hotel and president Tony Scull, who owned a large plumbing firm, provided the shower facilities.

And so eventually it came to kick off – the club’s first match was against Clifton Extra Bs on November 10.

In their debut Winscombe came away with a 26-12 win, with future club president and current parish councillor Steve Bridges scoring the club’s first ever try.

He said: “I am extremely proud of the fact that I scored the first ever try for Winscombe, something I quite happily tell everyone ad nauseam.

“That match was followed by an evening of undiluted euphoria.”

That era proved to be a great time for local rugby, with both Weston Hornets and Cheddar forming to provide a tasty three-way rivalry, which may be resurrected now that Cheddar have reformed.

Since those early days, hundreds of locals have passed through the ranks of the club and its junior teams have welcomed scores of youngsters from the surrounding areas.

Mr Bridges continued: “Since those early years much water has flowed under the bridge with the setting up of a very successful mini/junior organisation; the acquisition of new grounds; the installation of new floodlights and a steady flow of new players over our 50 years of existence.”

Seventy-seven players have made 100 or more appearances for the team, with current club chairman Geoff George sitting atop the appearance list with 580 starts for the club.

And as well as looking proudly back over the past 50 years, the club is also looking forward.

Sam Denham joined the club as an under-eight in September 2002 and has played right through to the under-16s, which he captained.

The 17-year-old has gained three England caps at under-16 level, and having joined Millfield School on a rugby scholarship he is on the England Elite training scheme – so expect to see Winscombe represented on the national stage in the next few years.

The club’s golden anniversary weekend will kick off with the match against a Clifton representative side to commemorate the club’s first ever fixture.

The game will start at 7pm on September 5.

A fun day will follow at the ground at the Longfield Recreation Ground on September 8 with a minis and juniors tournament against Wellington at 10am.

At lunchtime the club will form a giant 50 out of people to mark the anniversary, and this will be followed by the 1st and 2nd teams playing their league matches at 3pm.

The day will end with a dinner dance for 400 people in a marquee in the field, with the president of Bath Rugby Club, David Trick speaking.

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