Sat 01 Oct 2022 13:01

A Brief History of Tabard RFC

 Tabard, founded in 1951, is a comparatively new club and, although beginning to dominate Hertfordshire Rugby in the early 1980s, it was not really until the formation of the Courage leagues that they managed to establish themselves.

 Like so many clubs, they found they were placed in a lower league than many of the local clubs, whom they had been contemptuously beating over the preceding few seasons. However, they soon made up for their disappointment, starting off in London NW3, they were champions of that league in 1989/90 after being runners up on points difference the previous year. They followed this with the London N2 Championship in 1991/92 and then capped this with the London 1 title the following season to join the National Leagues. At that time the only Hertfordshire club to achieve that status and this before the onset of professional rugby. Tabard then stayed in the National Leagues for 12 years, no mean achievement for a small local side without massive sponsorship. However, their long occupation finally came to an end with relegation at the end of the 2004/05 season. Inevitably, in the now professional era some players left Tabard and this weakened them drastically for the following season in London 1 and they found themselves relegated again at the end of the season to London 2 North. Although they remained here for one season they were relegated and have enjoyed a chequered record since, promotion in 2010/11 for one season and then promotion again in 2013/14 to the renamed London 1 North.    This was again followed by relegation back to London 2 North West, where they remained until suffering relegation again, to London NW3, at the end of the 2017/18 season, where they have remained although the 2019/20 season was cut short by the Corona Virus lockdown, with Tabard in mid table.   Similarly, the 2020/21 season was written off completely.   Although rugby resumed for 2021/22 Tabard did not have the greatest of seasons, however, for the 2022/23 season the leagues were reorganised and Tabard found themselves in the Counties 2 Herts/Middlesex league. which has replaced Lodon NW3.

Tabard also now have a fluorishing womens team who play mainly on Sundays and a vast mini/junior section with several strong representative sides and also a number of trophies accumulating in the trophy cabinets.

Tabard have had mixed successes in the now superseded National Knock Out Cup, their most memorable performance coming when they were still in London 1, when they took on Northampton at Cobden Hill. Although suffering defeat, Tabard brought the home crowd to its feet as they opened the scoring with a pushover try. There was also a controversial penalty try decision when Tabard again reached the third round of the competition, this time against Richmond in 1996.   Although originally winning the Hertfordshire Presidents cup in 1983, further victories did not come until later and they have now won the cup a record eleven times. However, during the National league seasons the priority of the local cup was reduced and Tabard entered their 2nd XV. This policy produced rich rewards one season when the Tabard second XV won the cup and so became the first second XV to do so in the history of this competition!

Tabard won the Herts Cup replacement competition, the Herts Tankard in 2013.

Originally an offshoot from UCS old boys after the Second World War, the club followed on from a successful Wanderers side led by the late Wally Fullerlove, who, with the other founder members, also instigated the name Tabard. Wally, a man of Kent, when travelling to London used to stop at the Tabard Inn in Southwark for sustenance, in the manner of the Chaucerian Pilgrims. Hence, when the new club was formed, the name Tabard was chosen, even though the first AGM was held in another London pub, the Anchor.

The club first played at White Horse Lane, London Colney. A fact commemorated by the White Horse on the club shield. They moved to their present ground, about five miles from the original, in 1962. The present clubhouse was opened in 1966, co-incidentally the same year as the Tabard Inn in Southwark closed. Since then the clubhouse and the club, have seen many changes. The clubhouse itself has had several extensions to keep Tabards facilities to a high standard and the pitches are some of the best in the area with the lower team pitch fully floodlit.   The latest changes include a complete re-build of the bar area and the provision of an outside patio area.

 The Club has grown in stature and size, with senior membership now totalling approximately 400 members, of which about 100 are playing members and the remainder are either Vice Presidents or social members.

 Tabards players have enjoyed some representative success over the years but the highest was second row Richard Malone who played for the Barbarians in 1998.   Hannah Casey, a Tabard womens player who moved to Saracens, represented Ireland in the six nations in 2017.

[By Peter Cook]

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