Sidmouth RFC and the top 10 season’s for the Chiefs – 1951-52 ‘rebuilding in a post WW II era’

The Sidmouth RFC team that won no fewer than 35 matches in the 1951-52 season. With teams i the mode

The Sidmouth RFC team that won no fewer than 35 matches in the 1951-52 season. With teams i the modern era playing only around 30 games a season, that 'win total in a single campaign' is unlikely ever to be beaten. Picture: SIDMOUTH RUGBY CLUB - Credit: Archant

We have reached number two in terms of the top 10 seasons enjoyed by Sidmouth RFC through the thoughts of Terry O’Brien.

This week Terry takes us back to the campaign of 1951-52.

After the Second World War the Sidmouth Rugby Club began the process of rebuilding, starting with the players returning from the forces and young men reaching adulthood.

Also, a Colts team was started with a view to the future.

Secretary George Bolt was at the forefront of the rebuilding process and took the opportunity to put into operation the plan he had put forward on his election in 1931 to recruit students from Exeter University and St Luke’s College.

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The first to be recruited was Geoff Ryall, a talented centre, in 1948.

Over the next two years, he was followed by Derek Rees and Bob Sloman, two outstanding forwards, plus Arnold Pascoe and Graham Biddle in the backs.

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Pascoe provided the bonus of a reliable goalkicker.

Geoff Ryall played twice for Devon while Rees and Sloman were regulars in the county team during their time at Sidmouth.

Like Ryall, they stayed in the area for a few years after completing their studies. A strong team was developing and in the 1950-51 season a new record number of wins of 29 was recorded. There were also six draws in the 43 matches played.

With Geoff Ryall getting a teaching post in the area, the squad was unchanged for the following season with graduates from the Colts adding to the strength.

Future captains, Stan Baker and John Mortimore became regulars in the Chiefs. Baker would go on to represent Devon.

The front five were lightweight but mobile, meanwhile the back row was outstanding with five quality players to choose from.

They provided great support to a talented back line with plenty of pace on the wings provided by Alec Baker and Graham Biddle.

The team also had an outstanding and experienced captain in Godfrey Whittington, a versatile back who played many times for the England Fire Brigade.

Had he settled for one position he would probably also have been selected for Devon.

Critically for success, a remarkably small number of players were used in a season of 47 games.

A nucleus of 20 players played in most of the games with about 12 others filling in from time to time when needed.

A strong fixture list included all the top teams in Devon except Exeter, which fielded an ‘A’ team.

The Chiefs reached March 22 of the campaign having enjoyed a total of 22 wins.

They then went on a remarkable 13-game winning run that all took mplace across 35 days!

Amongst the opposition were the likes of Barnstaple, Brixham, Crediton and Taunton.

This all meant that the club had achieved a new record of 35 wins having played 47 games throughout the season.

With teams only playing about 30 games these days, this is unlikely ever to be beaten.

The team finished the season playing Plymouth Albion at Blackmore, losing 3-0 and having a try disallowed in the final minutes.

Meanwhile, the Quins beat Cullompton, Honiton and Bideford 2nds to reach the final of the Devon Junior Cup.

In the final played at the County Ground they lost 9-3 to Totnes with the Sidmouth try scored by Alan Down.

The policy of recruiting students, which continued until the early 1960s, was not without controversy!

A few years later, when player match fees were introduced, the principle of paying travelling expenses to players living outside Sidmouth while local players paid a two-shillings match fee, was questioned at an AGM.

at an AGM.

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