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Early Matches With Leicester
Early Matches 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.


This was the first ever match played by the Leicester club. The only scores after 78 minutes were three minor points to Moseley and two to Leicester[1]. Then two minutes before the end of the game Denston Gibson, Moseley’s second captain (1877/78), 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.’


It was then the turn of the Leicester captain to respond which he did as follows ‘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.’


This raises a couple of interesting points. Firstly, these bystanders whether they were men of high standing in the town or not would presumably have been supporting the Leicester team and therefore would probably have agreed with the captain that Gibson was offside. Secondly, the Moseley umpire E.B. Holmes later became an international referee and so was hopefully a man of integrity.


Relations did not seem to have been soured too much as the sides met again at Moseley later in the season when the home team triumphed 14-0. Moseley also won the two fixtures played during the 1881/82 season. Following the introduction of the Midland Counties Challenge Cup in the previous season Moseley defeated Leicester in a second round tie in 1882/83.


Leicester were Moseley’s opponents in the historic first game at The Reddings on 6th October 1883. The game resulted in a Moseley victory by three goals and two tries to nil. The Birmingham Daily Post described the game as ‘well fought out.’ Later in the season Moseley also defeated Leicester in the fourth round of the Midland Counties Cup.


The first game of Moseley’s 1884/85 campaign was also against Leicester and ended in a 0-10 defeat. Moseley then remained unbeaten in 12 consecutive games with Leicester. This run included victory in the final of the 1889 Midland Counties Cup.


The last match of this undefeated run was another eventful occasion and took place in 1890. Leicester lost the match and the home crowd indulged in ‘referee baiting,’ which prompted the referee to report the club to the Midland Counties Union. The union although they exonerated the club from any responsibility for the baiting ordered that Leicester send the referee an apology and they further ruled that for the remainder of the season only club members were to be admitted to matches.


The first game of the 1890/91 season produced a home win for Leicester and the return game was again controversial. At this time there was a tree at The Reddings whose branches overhung the pitch and the local rule was that ‘the ball upon hitting the tree will become dead.’


However, in the Leicester game, J.H. Rogers of Moseley kicked the ball into the tree at which point the visitors stopped playing believing the ball to be dead. However, R.H.B. Cattell picked up the ball and scored a try. Leicester naturally protested but the referee ruled that as the Moseley captain, the aforementioned Rogers had not informed him of the rule the score was fair. Leicester refused to play on for some time but the try stood.


Results then swung Leicester’s way and in the following seasons they won four of the seven club games played although Moseley did beat Leicester in the 1894/95 Midlands Cup semi final.


Fixtures were discontinued from 1895/96 to 1901/02 over allegations of professionalism at Leicester although the clubs continued to meet in the various rounds of the Midland Counties Challenge Cup.

[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.