Canadian Rugby (Football) University v Toronto 1875


Early on Saturday morning it began to be talked about town among lovers of athletic sports that a foot-ball match had been arranged for the afternoon between the University (of Toronto) team and the Argonauts, the respective champions of the Canadian and English games. No very great publicity was given to the announcement of the match, though, owing to the amount of attention that has lately been attracted to the relative merits of the rival games and to the newspaper warfare that has been going on between their respective adherents, considerable interest was felt in the result of the struggle. The day was all that could have been desired by those who were to take part in the match, though rather too cold for the comfort of spectators. Nevertheless a large number – a very considerable portion of whom were ladies – had at an early hour assembled on the lawn and terraces in front of the University buildings, where the match was to take place. It was understood that play was to commence at half past two o’clock, but as that hour approached it became evident that it would be some time at least before the match would actually commence. The various members of the two teams soon, however, began to come straggling up in twos and threes, so that by three o’clock each captain was able to muster a respectable representation of his followers. The poles were pitched nearly north and south at a distance of apparently about two hundred yards. The Argonauts won the toss for choice of goals, and elected to kick toward the Observatory, or away from the University buildings. As soon as the choice was announced the two teams collected around their respective goals and began to prepare for the contest.

As the men were standing thus collected at the goals a fine opportunity was afforded of comparing the physique of the two teams. The contrast was most marked: The Argonauts seemed [sic] men, large, strong, heavy, and yet active, not a man of them probably under twenty three years of age or twelve stone in weight – many of them heavily bearded, and all with a manly and experienced look that quite accounted for the general impression prevalent among the spectators that they would make short work of their antagonists. The University team, on the other hand, was precisely the ideal Collection of college boys, termed men by courtesy, the oldest among them probably not more than twenty-two, and the average apparently about eighteen. [They] would probably average about one hundred and seventy each. The remaining fifteen of the college team would range between 130 and 150.

Play was commenced at 3:35 pm, the referee placing the ball in the centre of the field, and giving the signal for the two teams to run for the kick. It was at once manifest that the Argonauts were greatly superior in speed as well as in strength. The kick off was easily won by Shanly, who sent the ball flying high in the air and right on to the College goal. It was of course caught by a College man, and kicked back toward the opposite goal. Play commenced at once in earnest, and the difference between the two styles of play became apparent immediately. Leaving behind five of their number to guard their goal, the remainder of the Argonauts at once rushed in a body to attack. The University men, each of whom had his appointed station, out of which, according to their captain, he would feel about as uncomfortable as a fish out of water, came sloping up the field at a swinging sort of trot until each had found his respective place, quite regardless of the fierce and exciting struggle that was going on behind them and right in front of their own goal.

For the first twenty minutes the ball scarcely ever left the College goal. The University captain seemed not to think it necessary to strengthen his defence, but left the task of guarding the goal to some half dozen of his men who, accordingly, while the struggle lasted, were compelled to fight against an odds of over two to one. The attack of the Argonauts was, however, too fierce to last, and as the game wore on the ball began to be oftener out from the crowd, and occasionally to approach more nearly the centre of the field. At last Murphy, the College Captain, standing just about midway between the goals, secures a free kick – a beautiful drop kick – sends the ball flying high over the heads of the Argonauts, who are rushing up to the defence, and straight into Aylworth’s hands; another free kick passes the ball on to Gunn. Gunn springs forward, seizes it, swings round on one heel, and with a most beautifully scientific kick drives the ball right through the Argonauts’ goal.

A scene of wild enthusiasm ensued, as the University men came trooping up to felicitate themselves and receive the congratulations of their friends on the successful result of the game. Play was almost immediately resumed – the kick off was again easily won by the Argonauts, and a repetition of the former fierce attack on the College goal resumed. Gradually, though, the ball was worked up toward the other end of the field, and in spite of the most determined exertions of the Argonauts kept there until time was called at five o’clock. The first game lasted a little more than half an hour – the second was not completed. Where every man played almost equally well, it seems favidious to particularize, yet Lambe, Perram, Greenfield, and Macqueson of the Argonauts, and Sutherland, Murphy, Spotton, and Gunn, of the College team, deserve especial mention for the sustained excellence of their play.

The Argonauts immediately challenged the College team to play a return match according to the Rugby rules. It is not yet known, however, whether it has been decided to accept the challenge. No obligation rests upon the University to accept it, inasmuch as they claim only to be champions of the Canadian game. The match of Saturday securely establishes them in the possession of this coveted distinction. Victors in a struggle with antagonists so renowned as the Argonaut Foot-ball Team, their title to the championship is one that no Canadian team can either gainsay or resist. The match of Saturday was one possessing particular interest from the peculiar circumstances under which it was played. The challenge from the Argonauts was one the University team could not decline. They incurred, however, great risk in accepting it. To have been beaten in their own game by a club playing according to rules so totally different from theirs would have been to have sunk themselves into oblivion, yet by victory they gained nothing that they did not possess before. Their captain, however, took them, he says, into the match with no fears for the result; the superior skill and science of his men – certainly not their strength or activity – proved his confidence in them was not misplaced.


The Daily Globe, Toronto – Monday, November 22, 1875


Thanks to Dave Stewart-Candy

About this document

Compiled by Dave Stewart-Candy & Dave Clamen, (Canadian Football Almanac 1875-2012, unpublished, Vancouver 2012)

Kindly given to and edited by Enda Mulcahy for the

Eirball | Irish North American & World Sports Archive

Last Updated: 17 March 2021

(c) Copyright Enda Mulcahy and Eirball 2021

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