The First Match With Leicester 

During the early years of rugby’s history there were many disputed results. This was due to the fact that there were no referees, games being controlled by one umpire from each team. As can be imagined arguments were frequent and often heated. It was not uncommon after a close match for both sides to claim victory. The first Leicester-Moseley match, in 1880, was one of these occasions when controversy reigned.

At the beginning of the 1880/81 season Moseley, led by Albert Smith, visited the Belgrave Road Cricket Ground, where they played Leicester in that club’s inaugural fixture. The only scores with two minutes remaining were three touchdown[1] to Moseley and two to Leicester, at which point Moseley’s Denston Gibson scored a disputed try.

On the following Monday the newspapers reported the match as a draw which prompted the Moseley secretary to write to The Birmingham Daily Post stating that ‘Moseley won by one try and three touches to two touches. The try was obtained two minutes before ‘no side’ by Mr. D. Gibson, and was undoubtedly a fair one.’

This prompted a response from the Leicester captain in which he stated ‘the real facts of the case are these-and I and my side say that Mr. Gibson was “off-side”; the Moseley men deny it; the umpires (Mr. Kemp and Mr. Holmes) likewise differed in opinion. When an affair stands thus in a court of justice it is decided upon the testimony of independent witnesses. These-I mean the bystanders, many being old football players, and men of high standing in the town-are, as far as I can ascertain, unanimous in declaring the try was an unfair one.’

One wonders how independent those Leicester ‘men of high standing’ were but whatever the legality or otherwise of the ‘try’ relations between the clubs do not appear to have been soured too much because they met again at Moseley later in the season when the home team won easily.

This inaugural match was, however, the precursor of a number of acrimonious meetings between the clubs during the next twenty years.

[1] Minor points or touchdowns were when a side was forced to ground the ball in its own in-goal area, which today would result in a five-metre scrum or a 22-metre dropout.