Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe - Rugby 1st XV, 1952/53

Standing (left to right) : K. C. Jones, Roy C Jones, G. W. Snapes, C. M. Edwards R. A. Mann, T. E. Uphill, I. T. Johnston, (Roland) Clive Ashby, P. J. Woods*. Seated : Roger C File, R. Ludlam, E. Hall, P. C. S. Hall (Captain), G. J. Bristow, T. W. Abdallah, D. F. E. Hill.

* the boy on the far right not identified in the photo (which appeared in the April 1953 Wycombiensian)

(Roland) Clive Ashby (1937-2015) represented England (at scrum-half) in three internationals in 1966/67. His club was Wasps.

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From The Wycombiensian, April 1953, p995-998, p1000


1st XV

School Matches : Won 9, Drawn 2, Lost 1

Other Matches : Won 2, Lost 2.

“ A ” Team : Won 1.

A mixture of some very experienced old hands, mostly in the forwards, with seven of last season’s under fifteen side, mostly behind the scrum but two of them forming the second row of it, has made up a highly successful First Fifteen. P. C. S. Hall, in his second year as captain, wisely insisted on all-round team work, and an excellent pack of forwards has not only given the backs plenty of the ball in most of our matches, but covered up in defence in a most remarkable way.

Although the loose scrummaging and heeling from the loose has at times been poor, in most other departments the forwards have shone. P. C. S. Hall understands the art of hooking and sets his side a fine example in the loose. His two enormous “ props,” E. Hall and G. J. Bristow, dominated the line-outs and covered up excellently in defence. R. A. Mann and A. J. Gordon, though young and light, packed and shoved well in the second row, and Gordon played some particularly fine games in the spring term. R. C. File, in what used to be called the lock position (now No. 8), has played with a new fire and dash this season. Of the loose forwards, T. W. Abdallah has had some good games, being especially forceful in attack : he has harassed but by no means always subdued the opposing stand-off half. D. F. E. Hill, our oldest member, has maintained his previous season’s form on the blind side. C. M. Edwards and A. F. Abercrombie have played in the pack on many occasions, and both G. F. Regan and G. R. Davis deputised for P. C. S. Hall after Christmas. Abercrombie did especially well.

Behind these forwards a youthful pair of halves, R. C. Ashby and G. W. Snapes (P. J. Osborne left School after the Marlow match to take up a job), have not only shown the greatest promise but have held their own with most pairs they have played against. Ashby has not a long pass yet, but he plays with irresistible energy and imagination. Snapes, just fifteen at the beginning of the season, has all the talents, handling, running, kicking and tackling : with growing strength and a more developed positional sense he will be able to go to the top or somewhere very near it, if he cares to.

Centre-threequarter play is a problem not confined to schools : where are the players who can (a) stop their opposite number, (b) penetrate or at least draw the defence, and (c) pass to their wing ? (I say nothing of kicking, because they can all kick, and do so—far, far, too often.) We had one centre left from last season, R. Ludlam, who has skilfully nursed a young and inexperienced back division. His defence is courageous and he runs straight with fair powers of penetration; but he has starved his wing. The other centre position was after prolonged experiment given to T. E. Uphill, whose powers of penetration are very good indeed, who occasionally remembers to pass and does so fairly accurately, but whose defence, partly unskilful, partly irresolute, has kept the corner-flagging forwards very busy indeed. It is fair to add that he improved it enough to arouse hopes.

I. T. Johnson has tackled and run well on the right wing : indeed his determination has been impressive. K. C. Jones, less experienced but equally resolute, promises to be an unusually fast and strong wing threequarter in a year or two’s time. R. C. Jones, like his namesake barely fifteen at the beginning of the season, has committed most of the sins which full-backs should not commit, except to lose his head or his nerve ; he has saved many an awkward situation by a variety of methods. Quicker positioning would have helped him.

I cannot remember a side with more boys in it whom I would confidently recommend to the earnest attention of first-class clubs searching (well ahead) for talent.

For the opening match Saracens sent down a weak Gipsy team and were easily beaten. Windsor County School gave us a hard game at Wycombe but were outweighed forward. Marylebone G.S. were below their usual strength and our team were able to run riot. Watford G.S. then visited us and we enjoyed a tussle against their excellent backs : some superiority forward and good covering enabled us to draw the game with the help of a penalty goal. At Marlow injuries during the game could not prevent our beating a smaller side, and an “A” team beat Henley G.S., who have had to rebuild their entire side this season. Stowe 2nd XV had a large and high-spirited pack, but our three-quarters, now reorganised, made some lively and successful attacks. Perhaps the best game of the season was that against the City of Oxford School, who brought down a very good side : their three-quarters, though inclined to over-elaborate, soon scored two good tries. The School replied with a penalty goal and a goal, but fell behind again when Oxford scored another try. In the last minute or two Snapes kicked a winning penalty and Oxford failed to take a good chance of replying. A game in which the forwards excelled with their defensive covering, but we were lucky to find the opposition place-kicker having an off-day. The match against Tiffin School was narrowly won, but rather spoilt by endless difficulty getting the ball into the scrum. At Reading the wings were given a fair share of the ball for the first and only time during the season, and the play showed a vast improvement. On a wet and horrible day at Watford, we got the invaluable lead of a try, thanks to a clever pick-up and pass by the captain ; but, alas, some anonymous forward handled in the scrum and so allowed Watford to earn a draw with a fine place-kick. Then came our only school defeat at Abingdon, by two goals and two penalty goals to five tries. It was a sad story of dropped scoring passes and missed place-kicks, while the Abingdon side kept pegging away and their place-kicker had a wonderful afternoon out.

In the spring term, E. Hall took over the captaincy on the field from the injured P. C. S. Hall, whose hooking was sorely missed despite noble efforts by his substitutes. He handled the team well. Arborfield Training School were soundly beaten ; but at Oxford, Balliol College paid us the compliment of turning out their whole “ Cuppers ” side on a dry but windy day. We did well to keep our loss down to five points against eleven. A close game against St. Edward’s “A” team was won largely owing to some first-rate place-kicking ; and, again at Oxford, Jesus College grew tired in the second half and were soundly beaten. The Old Boys turned out a splendid side for the last match of the season, and despite some plucky but disorganised tackling, routed a side rather weakened by injuries : they played most attractive open football.

Place-kicking has decided for or against victory in several of our matches. There is a double moral : practise kicking and keep to the rules.

The First Fifteen was : R. C. Jones ; I. T. Johnston, T. E. Uphill, R. Ludlam, K. C. Jones ; R. C. Ashby, G. W. Snapes ; E. Hall (Vice-Captain), P. C. S. Hall (Captain), G. J. Bristow, R. A. Mann, A. J. Gordon, T. W. Abdallah, R. C. File, D. F. E. Hill. All the team have been awarded their colours.

A. F. Abercrombie and C. M. Edwards played in many matches and others to play besides P. J. Osborne and R. E. Hester, who left School in October, were G. F. Regan, P. S. Reader, J. C. Colver, G. R. Davis, M. J. Garratt and B. K. Johnson.

Summary of 1st XV Results, 1952/53

Date Opponents H/A Result Pts F Pts A
Sept. 20 Saracens’ Gipsy XV Home Won 22 6
Sept. 27 Windsor County School Home Won 9 0
Oct. 4 St. Marylebone Grammar School Home Won 58 0
Oct. 8 Watford Grammar School Home Drawn 9 9
Oct. 11 Borlase School, Marlow Away Won 24 3
Oct. 22 Stowe School, 2nd XV Home Won 14 6
Oct. 29 City of Oxford School Home Won 11 9
Nov. 5 Tiffin School Away Won 6 3
Nov. 8 Reading School Away Won 11 3
Nov. 15 Watford Grammar School Away Drawn 3 3
Nov. 22 Abingdon School Away Lost 15 16
Jan. 24 Arborfield Apprentices Home Won 19 0
Jan. 31 Balliol College Away Lost 5 11
Feb. 7 St. Edward’s School “A” XV Away Won 11 8
Feb. 21 Jesus College, Oxford Away Won 16 3
Feb. 28 Old Boys Home Lost 3 35

(The fixtures against Southfield School, Leighton Park School, and St. Bartholomew’s School, Newbury, had, unfortunately, to be cancelled because of bad weather.)

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