Clifton Rugby Football Club History
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Bristol/Clifton v Australia January 13th 1909


Clifton provided 6 players to a joint Clifton/Bristol team that lost to Australia 11-3 at Gloucestershire County Ground in front of a crowd of 5,000.

Bristol/Clifton Australia  


Bristol and England

William Dix Combined Country



Daniel Brendon Carroll St. George and New South Wales



Charles 'Boxer' Russell Southward and New South Wales

V. Fuller Eberle


John Joseph Hickey Glebe and New South Wales

E. Fuller Eberle


Charles Esmond Parkinson Harlin and Queensland



Christopher Hobart McKivat (captain) Glebe and New South Wales

H. Gardiner


Arthur John Michael McCabe Sydney District and New South Wales

Percy Down

Bristol and England (captain)

Norman Edward Row Eastern Suburbs and New South Wales



Kenneth Australia Gavin Combined Country and New South Wales

Norman Moore

Bristol and England

Thomas James Richards Charters Towers and Queensland



Sydney Albert Middleton Glebe and New South Wales

George Percy


Patrick Aloysius McCue Newtown and New South Wales

E. J. G. Higham


Malcolm McArthur Eastern Suburbs and New South Wales



John Thomas Barnett Newtown and New South Wales

F. R. R . Rudman


Charles Ackroyd Hammand Sydney University and New South Wales

The Clifton vice-captain A. J. Gardner was selected but was unable to play after being injured in the Gloucester Cup match with Saracens the previous week. The Clifton player W.W.Hoskin was also selected but was away from Bristol and was replaced with a Bristol player. E.Fuller-Eberle and A.J.Gardner were made life members of Bristol Rugby Club after the match.

Above left Clifton RFC Captain Ellison Fuller-Eberle (1907-09) and above right Clifton RFC Vice-Captain A.J.Gardner (1907-09).

The book "The First Wallabies" account of the match is

The Wallabies arrived in Bristol on the evening of Monday 11th January, to be welcomed by Stanley Bostock Smith, president of the Bristol Rugby Football Club, and other officials and supporters. The Bristol Evening News remarked:

'Tom Richards who played for Bristol last year, and has been perhaps, one of the most useful forwards of the Australian team, was soon hailed and given a hearty welcome. He looks wonderfully fit, and has played in nearly all the matches. Hand- shaking and words of welcome over, the visitors' baggage was transferred to cabs and breaks that waited outside, and the Wallabies were ready to drive off to the Queen's Hotel, Clifton, which had been selected as their headquarters.'

An entertaining programme had been planned for the tourists for the evening and the following day, their match against a combined Bristol and Clifton side being scheduled for the Wednesday of that week. The Bristol Evening News continued:

After dinner at the invitation of the management the Australians visited the Empire Music Hall, Old Market Street, where they were accommodated with 'boxes'. They seemed to find plenty of fun in the show - even though Tom Jones, the world-renowned Welsh comedian, figured on the bill - a rather cruel reminder to take the gilt off Saturday's gingerbread at Blackheath. They accepted the jest, however, as they accepted their reverse at Cardiff in the best of good humours. Mr McMahon was with them, and a glance at his face convinces one of his rare qualities for his position. His frank and kindly blue eyes; ever sparkling with fun; his winning smile; yet withal his firm mouth, are the hall-marks of a leader of men - a leader who can check and control, whilst inspiring with the fire of enthusiasm. They looked a jolly crew - those sun- tanned and virile figures, laughing in rollicking fashion in the depth of the boxes, showing beautiful sets of ivories, and ever and anon waving cheery greetings to friends. It happened that Adelaide Waldorf, 'the Australian gem', a lady with a really good voice, was down on the programme, and she was given a loyal greeting by her countrymen, her songs being heartily encored till time would permit no more, and with a wafted kiss she bowed them farewell. The performance over, the party took tram back to the Queen's and it was not long before the 'good-nights' were said, and the Wallabies sought rest. Several of their number are 'cripples', with stiff knees and bandaged legs - signs of wear and tear in the 25-odd matches they have played - but the majority seem fresh and keen as ever.

The Tuesday morning was spent at Fry's Chocolate Factory, where the tourists were shown through the workrooms and inspected the complex machinery involved in the process of converting raw cocoa beans from the West indies into commercial chocolate. After a leisurely lunch at their hotel they then visited the enormous W.D. and H.O. Wills tobacco and cigarette factory. Ernest Booth reported: 'Miles of cigarettes in making came as a revelation to the team, who are mostly inveterate devotees of the weed. After an instructive inspection, the management received the whole company in their offices, and after refreshments and speeches, presented each with cigarettes and tobacco. In the evening a pantomime of 'Aladdin' was witnessed at the Princess Theatre. Thus finished a big day.'

For the match against Bristol and Clifton on the Gloucestershire County Ground on Wednesday 13 January, the Wallabies made three changes from the team which vanquished England at Blackheath. Bill Dix went to fullback to give Philip Carmichael a well-earned rest while Esmond Parkinson, having recovered from the injury which had kept him out of most of the tour, came in on the left wing. Charles Russell moved into the centres in place of Ward Prentice, who was injured at Blackheath, and Danny Carroll played on the right wing. The Bristol and Clifton team were more than capably led by Percy Down, a local farmer who had played with distinction against the tourists for England at Blackheath. He had also visited New Zealand and Australia in 1908 with the Anglo-Welsh side, but remained uncapped on tour. There were three late changes to the home side's fifteen listed in the match programme, F. Holbrook, J. Spoors and E. Kibbey replacing H.E. Shewing, C. Kingston and A.J. Gardiner.

With the former Welsh international E. Gwyn Nicholls controlling proceedings, Percy Down won the toss and Row kicked off for Australia. The early play was all in the visitors' half of the field as the Bristol and Clifton forwards set up a series of dribbling raids while the 5000-strong crowd roared their approval. Holbrook appeared to cleanly intercept a Wallabies pass and set sail cornfield, then put the ball to his toe for winger Eberle to loom up outside and dive on it over the line. As the crowd celebrated Gwyn Nicholls was forced to bring the players back upfield for an earlier knock-on. The home forwards continued applying pressure with dribbling rushes, but the Australian backs fearlessly flung themselves onto the loose ball and saved the situation. The visitors were starting to dominate the scrums and McKivat set his outside backs moving at top pace. Carroll careered for the corner flag, but was just bundled into touch at the last moment by fullback W.R. Johnston. Soon after McCabe dodged through one opening, then another, before transferring to Middleton who put Gavin over the try-line out wide. Hickey missed with the kick and the Australians led 3-0. The Wallaby backs were receiving plenty of good ball but the home side's tackling was rock-solid. Soon it was Bristol and Clifton's turn to attack and only a last-ditch dive onto the loose ball by Carroll saved a certain try. Just before half-time serum-half Spoors and Holbrook in the centres toed the ball towards the try-line, only to see it evade the former's spectacular dive in the in-goal area at the last moment.

On the resumption of play Carroll was seen at his best as he sprinted more than half the field for the try-line, but suddenly V.F. Eberle flashed across the field and tackled the flying St George winged in the shadow of the goal posts. Ten minutes' strenuous play ensued with both teams throwing caution to the winds and treating the crowd to some marvellous passing movements. During one of these McKivat shook himself clear of the defence and sent a well-timed pass to Hickey on the home side's twenty-five. Although three opposition backs attempted to halt his surge for the line, Hickey forced himself over near the uprights for Australia to go further ahead, 6-0. Hickey's attempted conversion of his own try swung wide at the last moment.

For a sustained period after this the Wallabies held good field position and with a surfeit of scram possession looked certain to score again until George Percy cleared the home try-line with a grand dribble, more like a soccer player than a rugby forward, bringing the ball out between his twenty-five and halfway. From the ensuing maul Spoors on the right wing took a long pass and as he approached Dix at fullback, he kicked over his head, regathered the leather and touched down. The conversion just veered wide, leaving the Australians narrowly in the lead 6-3. Heartened by the try the hosts attacked again and were only thwarted from scoring at the last moment by Richards coming across in cover to pick up the rolling football and drive it into touch. Middleton and Barnett were dominating line-out possession and in the last ten minutes of the match the visitors remained camped in the Bristol and Clifton half of the field. From an untidy ruck midfield, McKivat, seeing McCabe unmarked out wide, threw a long spiralling pass and the five-eighth strolled in under the goal posts untouched. Hickey made no mistake with his conversion for the Wallabies to lead 11-3 as the whistle blew for full-time.

Australia 11 (Gavin, Hickey, McCabe tries, Hickey conversion) defeated Bristol and Clifton 3. Crowd: 5000. Referee: E.G. Nicholls, Newport.

Australia Backs: W. Dix, D.B. Carroll, C.J. Russell, J.J. Hickey, C.E. Parkinson Halves: C.H. McKivat (captain), A.J.M. McCabe Forwards: N.E. Row, K.A. Gavin, T.J. Richards, S.A. Middleton, P.A. McCue, M. McArthur, J.T. Barnett, C.A. Hammond.

Bristol and Clifton Backs: W.R. Johnston, J. Spoors, F. Holbrook, V.F. Eberle, E.F. Eberle Halves: G. Spoors, H. Gardiner Forwards: P.J. Down (captain), J.L. Mathias, N. Moore, F. Feltham, G. Percy, E.J.G. Higham, E. Kibbey, F.R.R, Rudman.

Herbert Winfield, the Welsh fullback, who saw the match, was reported by one newspaper as saying after the match: 'The Bristolians stuck to their formidable opponents very pluckily. They were beaten owing to the stronger individual play of one or two of the Wallabies.' Percy Down exclaimed: 'From a player's point of view it was one of the finest games ever played on the County Ground. I was delighted with the way in which the side performed.' Tom Richards, the Wallaby breakaway was supposed to have said: 'The Bristol forwards held the Colonials fairly well in the line- out, and we never got clear away from one of those moves, which was very exceptional. The Colonials, however, in their back division were superior to the home side.' Whether he actually referred to his own team as 'Colonials' is perhaps a little doubtful, however.

More than one hundred players, officials and distinguished guests attended the sumptuous dinner in honour of the Wallabies which was held at the Royal Hotel, Bristol on the evening of the match. The Sheriff of Bristol was in the chair and his welcoming speech was answered by the Wallaby match captain Chris McKivat, who said: 'I would like to say how thoroughly we all enjoyed the match. The game was fought out in the best traditions and in a sportsmanlike spirit. I cannot speak too highly of the Bristol and Clifton team for their plucky fight and we wish both teams great success in future contests.' The menu included Cornish mussels, Scottish oysters, fresh lobster, local fish of all kinds and vintage white wines from Germany and France.

Above left Front cover of programme. Above right the Wallabies tour programme of 1908-09. Out of 38 games played, this Wallaby side won 32, drew 1 and lost 5 The losses were against Llanelli, Combined Midlands and East Midlands Counties, Swansea, Cardiff and Wales.

Above Kenneth Australia Gavin scorer of one of the Australian tries.

Above John Hickey scorer of one of the Australian tries and a conversion.

Above the Wallabies squad of 1908-09

Above invite to the Clifton Captain Elison Fuller-Eberle to the after match dinner.

Above after the match the dinner which for some reason had speeches by representatives of local tennis, lacrosse and hockey clubs and the West of England Bowling League.

Before the end of the Wallabies tour 14 players had secretly signed contracts to turn professional in Rugby League.