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THE BEGINNING – 1960

In 1960, four men came together at Brown to start a rugby club. Ian Tulloch ’63, a Scottish student and Jon Tower ’62, an English student, both studying here for a year, Dave Zucconi, Class of ‘55, an Administration officer who played rugby in Great Britain while serving in the US Air Force, and Bill Tingue ’62, who played the sport originally while attending secondary school at Cheltenham College, England.

In late winter, flyers on campus appeared on bulletin boards announcing the formation of a rugby club. The initial meetings were held in Sayles Hall where films were shown of past matches, and basic rules explained. Tryouts and practice sessions were held at the newly opened Aldrich-Dexter Field. Everyone had to purchase the informative pamphlet, Why the Whistle Went – Notes on the Laws of Rugby Football, written by H.F. Ellis, an Oxford Blue (1931) and former writer for Punch.

It’s important to remember two facts about the beginning: first, rugby began as a spring season club sport, and more importantly, the rugby of 1960 conformed to the old rules and old scoring. The rules then allowed kicking directly to touch from any place on the field and lifting in the line out was forbidden. A try scored three points, a conversion two. In net, rugby circa 1960 conformed to a century old tradition that emphasized kicking for territory with resulting low scores.

The first match was away at M.I.T., a side with a long rugby history who were the winners of the first New York RFC’s 7s Thanksgiving tournament held in 1959. M.I.T. featured a gigantic prop who had been an All-American football tackle at the Air Force Academy. M.I.T. won 9-3. Ian Tulloch’s three point penalty kick marked Brown’s first rugby points.

The second game was played at home against Williams on the dusty Hope High School football field, oddly, the only venue available. The Williams XV were an easy victor 21-0, and this team would go 5-0-1 to tie for the Carling Cup as 1960 co-champions with Dartmouth for best team in the Eastern Rugby Union.

The third game was played away against Westchester RFC in Yonkers, New York. Westchester arrived with only 12 players and Coutts offered up Allyn Freeman ’61 to prop for the opposition. Westchester handed Brown its third loss 5-0. (Freeman, who had set up Westchester’s only score, returned to campus proclaiming, “Brown lost…but I won.”) The last match occurred when a New York RFC “B” squad came to Providence. Brown would record its first win 21-0 against a traveling side of aging, ex-pat Brits. The game was played on a field without goal posts. Tingue, Zucconi, and Dave Remington ’61 each scored two tries. Brown’s record that first year was 1-3. It had become the seventh Ivy League school to play rugby. (The first rugby match between two North American sides occurred in 1874 when Harvard played McGill University.)

In addition to those listed in this write-up, the following played and practiced during this historic first season: Tom Dunleavy’60, Dick Young’60, Jim Mongillo’60, Ron Whitehall’60, Buzz Barnes’61, Tim Orcutt’61, Dave Remington’61, Peter Hurley’61, Dan Alper’62, Tom Wilson’62, Allen Parkman’62, John Percesepe’62, Dick Jordan’62, and Gordon Lindsey’62.

That first season, Brown RFC played without any student interest or attendance; it was hardly mentioned in the Brown Daily Herald. But from this unpromising beginning, no one could foresee that in the spring of 1961, the Brown RFC, in only its second season, would compete in the finals for the Carling Cup against perennial rugby powerhouse Dartmouth. No one could predict then that the 1961 season would begin a long tradition of winning rugby at Brown.