The story of Rugby Saint Andrews RFC started on Armistice Night 1929, when Reverend Parsons, the rector of St. Andrew’s Church decided there needed to be an outlet for the high spirits of the young men of the town, and so founded a boys’ club, of which one part was to be a section devoted to Rugby Football. From the following year, thanks to the enthusiasm and fundraising efforts of the Reverend Parsons, a ground was rented on Mill Road, and the club used St. John’s Hall as its base. In their first season the club played nine games against school sides, the first against St. Matthew’s School. Under the captaincy of William (Bill) Howlett the club won by eighteen points to three. Three other games were won, 4 lost and one drawn. In the following season the club still played against school sides, including one against Rugby School on the close with the school winning by 39 points to nil!
Over the next two seasons the team began to play senior level games against the second teams of sides such as Lutterworth, Old Laurentians and Long Buckby. 1935 proved to be a watershed for the club. On the strength of their record over the previous two seasons the First Fifteen reformed as Saint Andrews Old Boys while the Boys Club continued to run its own parallel team. Playing strength was supplemented by an influx of boys from distressed areas of Wales. These later formed their own side, initially known as St. Andrew’s Welsh and later Rugby Welsh.
In the years leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War the club’s playing record continued to prosper, especially in 1935/36 when the club remained unbeaten for the whole season, winning 22 games, during which they scored 516 points and conceded only 67. In the following season the club won the Ralli Cup at their first time of entering. They beat Newbold by 6 points to 3 in the semi-final and then defeated New Bilton St. Oswald’s 23 – 6 in the final. Players of that era included Charles (Charlie) Bentley, Alfred (Alf) Reading and Bill Howlett. Jack Jennings, described by the Rugby Advertiser as a ‘capable football secretary’, was aiming to strengthen the fixture list, and the paper also noted the club was intending to form an Under 16 side. Comment was made on the 40 to 45 people who were attending the gymnasium classes, under their instructors, Aldous, Murdoch and Kinross. A further note added that the Boys Club Bible classes were less than well attended (perhaps due to the lack of a curate at Saint John’s Church to take them). One game against St. Marie’s became notable because a bull had to be ushered from the field before play could continue.
Following the declaration of war on the 3rd September 1939 the Rugby Advertiser of the 19th reported that the Rugby Football Union had cancelled all fixtures except those for school-boys, although permission was given to play games that did not interfere with national duties and Government Regulations. It also reported that New Bilton Saint Oswald’s were planning to play a fixture against a combined Saints Andrews/Newbold side on the following Saturday.
Saint Andrews was one of the few clubs in the Midlands to try and continue to play games throughout the war. The pitch at Mill Road became allotments growing vegetables as part of the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign which meant the Club began a nomadic existence playing home fixtures at Thornfield and then Thomas Hunter’s ground.
The Rugby and District RFU announced that any games within the town would be organised on a week by week basis, Saints first being against New Bilton St. Oswald’s, with Saint Andrews winning by 26 points to 5.
The lack of a settled home at the end of hostilities continued to hamper the club’s development, but despite these problems the club established a good reputation in the area and attracted a number of high-class players, many of whom eventually moved on to Rugby Lions. For the 1946/47 season Saints accepted a proposal to run as the Lions A XV but this proved less than successful, and after one rather chaotic year it was discontinued and the search for a new home ground was intensified. Finally, in 1948 the issue was resolved as the Borough Council made the Mill Road site available again, although the teams continued to change either at St. John’s Hall or at the Regent Street Baths.
The next priority was the provision of a clubhouse on the Mill Road ground. The project was begun in 1953 and seemed to galvanise the playing side of the club to higher achievements. The 1955/56 season saw both the First and Second fifteens remaining unbeaten for the first time since the 1935/36 season. The Firsts were captained by John Tomalin, and the seconds by Derek (Deggie) Colgrave both of whom became Saints Legends. Notable First XV victories were achieved over Barkers Butts, Broadstreet and the season closed with a tense 8 each draw against Rootes to preserve the unbeaten record intact. At that time the Ralli Cup was awarded on a merit basis, being awarded to the Second XV as they had only drawn one match to the First XV’s two. The following year the First XV won the Ralli Cup themselves!
The new clubhouse on the Mill Road Ground opened in 1956, with a celebratory match against a XV selected by Don Sproul, a former Coventry, Nuneaton, and Warwickshire player (he was also present when the present clubhouse on John Tomalin Way was opened). The club continued to thrive with the nucleus of the excellent side remaining but a decline in fortunes set in the early 1960’s. Recruitment of younger players dwindled as there was no regular and clear source for them and with many clubs having excellent facilities players were able to choose their own destination. There were still many moments to savour, but with a lack of strength in depth teams were unable to maintain consistency. The club was finding that more able players looked for a higher standard of rugby and moved to clubs where they felt they would find it.
However, by the early to middle 1970’s fortunes began to revive. Under coach Tony Hunt rebuilding was a slow process but during the four years prior to the Silver Jubilee year of 1979 much happened that restored the pride in the club. The 1977/78 season saw the revival of a third fifteen after a 25 year gap. 1978/79 saw the extension of the changing rooms and despite the appalling winter weather the First team enjoyed their best season since 1968, when they came within a whisker of winning the Ralli Cup.
In that 50th anniversary season the club celebrated with a match against a Warwickshire fifteen played on Rugby School Close and a celebration dinner held in the Benn hall.
Names from that period included Dave Parker at fly half, Sean McKee at scrum half, the formidable back row of Des Holmes, Alan Gove and Paddy Gill or Paul Salisbury and the frightening sight of John Bram between John Foode and Willy Johnstone in the front row.
Several brothers played for the club during this period; the Robinsons, the Headlands and Mark and Hugh McClean.
Towards the end of the 1970’s the club learned that Rugby Borough Council intended to re-allocate the ground on Mill Road for light industrial use. A new site for the ground was provided by the council on Ashlawn Road on the other side of the town. Following remarkable efforts by the then committee and massive fundraising efforts by club members; and with the financial assistance of the RFU, a total of pre-move assets of £10,000 was converted into a £55,000 clubhouse. The club were honoured at the opening of the club and ground by the presence of such luminaries as David Brooks, the president of the RFU, Bill Billington, chairman of the Midland Division, Taffy Thomas, president of the Warwickshire Union, and Jim Bambrick secretary of the Warwickshire Union. Committee men of that period included Mick Robinson, John Hunt, Dave (Sam) Lines, Mick Gilbert, Rod Blinco, Danny Tolfts, Alf Reading and John Tomalin.