The Legend of Roanoke RFC
The Roanoke Rugby Football Club was first conceived by Jim Bowden and Bob Copty in the fall of 1971. Jim and Bob had both played in college and wanted to form a local team. After a poor turnout, they decided to wait until the next year. After newspaper advertisements and word of mouth 18 hardy souls showed up for practice. A schedule was set and the Roanoke Valley Rugby Club was born.
The first match was played on Saturday, September the 24th, 1972 against the University of Richmond and ended in a 12-0 loss for Roanoke. Roanoke went 3-3 that first year and 9-5 in 1973. 1974 saw Roanoke Rugby accept an invitation to play in the Porter Cup where they defeated Old White RFC, the favorite, after losing to Atlanta Renegades RFC. This was also the year that started the Clarence Culpepper years with the club and more recruits.
In 1975 Roanoke took 2nd place in the Ed Lee Championship and was developing its style of tough black-shirted rugby. The team had changed its name to Roanoke Rugby Football Club and the uniform was changed from the black and red hoops worn in the initial seasons to a black jersey with white collar, white shorts, and black socks. In 1982 after the death of team member, James Carty, the team switched to black shorts.
The 1988 Carty Cup saw Roanoke change jerseys to black with red trim. The patch of the Roanoke Star designed by Bob Pharr in 73-74 is embroidered on the left chest.
Led by Clarence Culpepper throughout the Seventies, Roanoke RFC continually turned out representative players for the state, E.R.U., and the national team. The Seventies also saw the start of our international games. RRFC first played H.M.S. Ark Royal in the 1976 MacArthur Cup. RRFC lost the match, but finished 3rd in the tournament for the club's first trophy.
In 1978 H.M.S. Ark Royal visited the Star City as guests of the club. RRFC won the match and a weekend of partying followed that few can truly remember. 1979 saw RRFC tour England and Wales and return with and amazing 4-2 record and the ideals of rugby firmly rooted in their minds, i.e. great rugby, great pitches and clubhouse –this is how it can be!
International matches were played in Roanoke on numerous occasions. In May, 1979 Roanoke RFC hosted Croborough RFC and lost 8-0. The next international at home, April 1980, was lost Clifton RFC. Roanoke RFC then got a 32-7 home international victory over Beusize Park in April, 1982 before losing to Askeans in April, 1984 against Askeans.
In 1982 Roanoke toured the sunny Bahamas where they went 1-2, but won all the parties.
Throughout the 80's the club continued to improve and in the spring of 1985, Roanoke defeated Norfolk, in Norfolk, 11-7 to win the Virginia Sate League Championship for the first time.
In the spring of 1988, Bill Gibson made the generous offer of the use of his warehouse at the corner of 5th and Marshall. Over the years through hard work the club has transformed it into a first rate clubhouse that is the envy of every team that visits Roanoke. With the additions of a bar, big screen tv, and Legends Room the clubhouse is a great place for a post match social or just a club get together.
1990 was a big year for the club with RRFC winning its first 15's title at Washington Irish's tournament, defeating Severn River in the finals, 13-9. Later that year the club went the Bahamas again for a few days of R & R, as well as a 21-12 victory over Baillou.
The mi-1990's saw a downturn in the club as the original members started retiring and the club struggled to replace them. This changed in the Fall of 1997 when the club won the Virginia Rugby Union's Division III and played Richmond United in a relegation match. RRFC lost the relegation match in Richmond only to repeat it in 1998. In 2000 it all came together with the club winning the DIII Title again, qualifying for the MARFU Playoffs, finishing second to Raleigh at the Ed Lee, and then going to Richmond to beat James River in a hard fought relegation match. This started a short stint in Div II where the club always battled hard, but couldn't get the numbers or commitment to continue at that level. 2001 was another second at the Ed Lee, this time a loss to Norfolk after beating Raleigh in the Semis. In 2005 the club came back from a couple years of rebuilding to finish second in the VRU's Div III and qualified for the MARFU Playoffs.