Sidmouth Rugby and the Devon Junior Cup
- Credit: Terry O'Brien
In 1890, Sidmouth Football Club, as it was then known, decided that it was sufficiently well established to apply to join the Devon Rugby Football Union.
Sidmouth was now eligible to enter the county cup competitions and entered for the Junior Cup.
For the first stage of the competition, the county was divided into four areas to reduce travelling. The area winners then went forward into the semi-finals to decide the finalists.
Sidmouth’s first ever cup game was played at Budleigh Salterton on February 14, 1891. The match attracted much interest in the town and many supporters travelled over the hills by foot, boat and various types of horse drawn transport.
An 11-0 win meant the fans travelled home in good spirits and there was much celebration in the town when the team returned.
A 5-0 win against Tiverton B put them in the area final against Oaks, a team from Exeter. A 3-3 draw forced a replay, which Oaks won 6-0 to bring the first cup run to an end. And that was as far as they got for the next three seasons.
In March 1895, they eventually succeeded in winning the area competition, but it took four games for the tie to come to a conclusion against Heathcoat from Tiverton in the final. Home and away legs failed to produce a winner. A replay played at the Exeter County Ground also ended in a draw, despite playing 30 minutes extra time.
A second replay took place at Exmouth, which Sidmouth won 3-0 to progress to the county semi-final.
Initially they lost the semi-final against Plymouth Russell, but their opponents were found to have played four ineligible players and were disqualified, allowing Sidmouth to progress to the final against Ilfracombe. The match was played at the Exeter County Ground on April 20, 1895 in front of 2,000 spectators.
Ilfracombe kicked off and soon had Sidmouth under pressure, which was eventually relieved with a clearance kick by Bill Skinner.
Sidmouth showed early intent to play an open game and a fine run down the wing by G. Bartlett took play into the opposing 22.
Play remained inside the Sidmouth half until Ilfracombe opened the scoring with a try resulting from a forward rush (the forwards dribbling the ball forward in a pack).
With Sidmouth captain and fly half W.Vallance controlling matters, Sidmouth finished the half strongly and scrum half Sammy Skinner levelled the scores with a break on the blindside of a scrum. The score remained 3-3 at halftime.
Sidmouth continued to play with ball in hand, or as the match reporter wrote “they passed the leather all over the field.” They took the lead when Vallance finished off a long-range handling move. Full back George Perry added the conversion.
Vallance was in the action again when he, Bill Skinner and Percy Baron combined to send Poulton over for a try, which was converted by Perry.
Sidmouth were now well on top and Baron ran powerfully to score a fine individual try for Perry to kick a third conversion.
In the closing minutes, Vallance jinked his way over to complete the scoring for a 21-3 victory.
When the Sidmouth players and supporters arrived at Queen Street station for the return journey, my great grandfather Toff Mortimore, the Sidmouth town crier, announced that “Sidmouth have won the cup and have it with them”.
On arrival at Sidmouth station, they were met by a large crowd and the Volunteer Band playing “See the Conquering Hero Comes”. A torchlight procession then escorted the team to the club headquarters at the Anchor Inn, where the celebrations continued.
The Club would go on to be losing finalists on three occasions. In 1951, the Quins lost 3-9 to Totnes. In their brief spell in the Devon league, the Chiefs lost 10-11 to Tavistock in 2002 and to Honiton by the same score the following season.