The 30's - Towns' Cup Glory

In terms of playing strength, BRFC remained fairly static during the pre-war years. Even during the highly successful 1932-33 season, during which Bann won the Towns’ Cup for the first time, a 2nd was fielded with only some difficulty.

Seen against this background of player shortage, the winning of the Towns’ Cup, which was and still is the Blue Riband of Junior rugby, was quite an accomplishment.

Since the 1926-27 season the First XV had worked its way up to Section 1 of a three section Junior League. However, in the period before Christmas 1932, results were somewhat mixed, and a serious League challenge was never mounted.

The New Year saw a considerable improvement and when C.F.A. were defeated 11-6 in a League game on 21st January it was Bann’s seventh consecutive victory. The following Saturday Newcastle visited Rifle Park to play a Towns’ Cup game and were summarily dismissed 19-0. Further victories that followed were gained at the expense of Larne (14-6) and Queen’s 2’s (14-0) before Armagh ended the run on 18th March by defeating Bann 6-0 in the League.

A fortnight later however, Bann gained revenge by defeating Armagh in the semi-final of the Towns’ Cup. There was little open play in this game played at Rifle Park, with the only score being a penalty kicked by home full-back C. Woods.

Banbridge RFC team picture from the 1930s

Banbridge RFC 1930s

The final was played just nine days later on Easter Monday at Ravenhill. Portadown provided the opposition and the following XV took the field for Banbridge: A. Williamson, J. Leitch, W. Cargin, A. Chambers, D. Finney, D. Forsythe , J Rutherford, W. Johnstone, W. McCallum, H.M. Scott, S. Mehaffey, (capt.), H. McMillan, J. Ledlie, E. Marshall, W. Lusk and C. Woods.

Bann fielded the heavier pack but the game was very even throughout, with full-back Woods again proving a matchwinner. His penalty seven minutes into the second half was the only score of the game, and he put in two try saving tackles, one with such ferocity that the Portadown player had to retire injured. The Bann defence held out in spite of a late Portadown rally and so the Towns’ Cup came to the Co. Down town for the first occasion.

The 1933-34 season again saw the First XV competing in Section 1 of the Junior League, with, for the record, the following teams:- Armagh, Ballymena, King’s Scholars, Lurgan, Malone 2’s, Queen’s 2’s, Queen’s Freshers and Sirocco.

Reports at the 1933 AGM showed: “an increasing interest being taken in the game in Banbridge”, and the Towns’ Cup success must have done much to foster this interest. However, such was the turnover in players that the First XV six years later contained only two survivors from the Cup side, namely S.J. Mehaffey and W.J. Cargin. This turnover can be attributed to some extent to the transfer of players from the town for business reasons.

However, by the 1938-39 season the club was established, and this in itself was satisfactory progress in a town which for many years had been synonymous with top-class hockey.