Old Northamptonians Rugby Football Club, usually known as ONRFC, is an important part of Northamptonshire’s rugby community and is recognised as a centre of excellence in the sport. The club, which can be found in the middle of Northampton, has been an essential component of the vibrant sporting culture of the town for almost one hundred years.
History of Old Northamptonians
ONRFC traces its roots back to the winter of 1922, when W.C.C. Cooke, the then headmaster of Northampton Grammar School, founded the club. Its inaugural fixture against a Northampton Alliance team was played on Boxing Day 1922 at Northampton Racecourse. While the match was eagerly advertised in the local newspaper, sadly, the result remains undocumented. However, in a nod to the past, this fixture was replayed, almost a century later, during the club’s 100th-anniversary celebrations in 2022.
For many years, the Old Northamptonians played their games at the Northampton Racecourse, lacking a home ground of their own. However, this changed in November 1936 when the Old Northamptonians Association managed to secure a lease on 17½ acres of land near Billing Road and Park Avenue South. This land, once agricultural, was transformed into sports pitches, housing two for rugby and one for cricket. With these new facilities, the club dreamt of expanding from their two teams to four rugby teams. They realized this ambition by the end of the 1949-50 season. That same season, the Town Planning Committee approved the construction of a clubhouse, further solidifying the club’s presence in the town.
ONRFC’s influence extends beyond Northamptonshire; many of its players have moved on to represent Northampton Saints. The club is proud of producing talents like Tom Collins and James Grayson. Bob Taylor, a luminary from the club, achieved international acclaim by securing 16 caps for England and two for the British Lions. Moreover, in 2007, he elevated his association with rugby, becoming the President of the RFU.
Honors and Achievements of RFC
The club’s roll of honor is a testament to its rich legacy. Here are some of the accolades ONRFC has accumulated over the years:
– Champions of the Regional 2 East Midlands: 2022–23
– Midlands 3 East (South) champions: 2008-09
– East Midlands/Leicestershire 3 champions: 1992–93
– East Midlands/Leicestershire 2 champions: 1993–94
– East Midlands/Leicestershire 1 champions: 1994–95
– Midlands 1 (east v west) play-off winners: 2009–10, 2014–15
Their dominance in the Northampton & District Alliance Cup is particularly noteworthy. They clinched the title an impressive 22 times, with a stunning streak of 14 consecutive titles from 2004 to 2017. 2022 saw them regain the title, and in the same year, they added the Lewis Shield and Oceanic Trophy to their trophy cabinet. This marked the first time ONRFC achieved this illustrious “treble.”
In their centenary season, 2022-23, they held onto the Oceanic Trophy and the Lewis Shield. However, the centenary Alliance Cup Final saw a resounding defeat against their arch-rivals, Northampton Old Scouts, with a scoreline of 12-67. But the club rebounded with panache, winning the inaugural Regional 2 Championship of the Papa John’s Community Cup at Twickenham.
With a history that spans almost a century, Old Northamptonians Rugby Football Club remains a symbol of passion, commitment, and excellence in the world of rugby. Their journey from playing in Northampton Racecourse without a home ground to their own club facilities and countless titles is a testament to their resilience and dedication. As the club continues to evolve, it remains a pivotal part of Northampton’s sporting heritage, fostering talent and championing the spirit of the game.