England's First Penalty Goal 

On 9th March 1895 Moseley’s J.F. ‘Fred’ Byrne, the holder of four England caps, appeared once more, at full back, for his country’s game against Scotland, in front of 20,000 spectators, at Richmond Athletic Ground. Also in the England side, at halfback, was Byrne’s club colleague R.H.B. Cattell. Both of these players would go on to captain England in international matches. In the centre for the home side was Oxford University’s E.M. Baker who later played for Moseley.

Prior to the game there had been a long period of severe frost and many leading club matches had, as a result, been cancelled resulting in many of the home players being out of practice and not up to their usual condition. Most of the play during the match consisted of a mauling contest amongst the forwards and when the ball was released the Scots used their classic dribbling play and their scrum half W.P. Donaldson made sure that they advanced downfield with accurate kicks to touch. In the face of the visitors’ foot rushes the English defence was frequently in a state of confusion and Fred Byrne was thoroughly tested by Donaldson’s range of kicks.

During the first half, completely against the run of play, the English forwards took a leaf out of their opponents’ book and succeeded in dribbling the ball downfield where they were awarded a penalty for offside by the Scots. The penalty goal as a means of points scoring had first been introduced into the game during the late 1880s and this goal, which Fred Byrne successfully converted from 40 yards, was the first occasion on which England had scored a penalty goal. This ‘first’ by Fred Byrne is not, perhaps, as well known as some of his other achievements but is nonetheless still a notable milestone in the history of rugby union.

England’s lead was short-lived because G.T. Neilson shortly afterwards levelled the scores with another successful penalty attempt from a similar distance. There then followed a series of scrummages until Donaldson sent his centre, G.T. Campbell, away. Campbell kicked ahead and when Byrne tried to clear his lines his kick was charged down by Neilson who scored a try. There was no further scoring during the match and the second half was completely dominated by Scotland. The visitors were partly prevented from adding to their score by runs out of defence from Baker and Cattell and by clearing kicks by Byrne. This victory over England by one penalty goal and one try (6 points) to one penalty goal (3 points) gave Scotland the Triple Crown for the second time in their history.