Nuneaton RFC was founded on 5
November 1879 in the town’s Newdegate Arms Hotel with the first recorded game
versus Tamworth on 7 February 1880.
A 2nd XV was formed in 1893
following amalgamation with the local side St. Mary’s. The shirts were
originally black with a red sash, which subsequently changed to the traditional
red, white and black hooped shirts in 1911.
By the outbreak of WW1, the
Nuns had established a creditable reputation within rugby circles as a result
of their performances. Fixtures included the likes of Leicester, Rugby,
Northampton, Bedworth and Allesley. However, the war left them without a ground.
The Nuns embarked on a ground
sharing scheme with the town’s cricket club in 1919 which only lasted a year.
Many improvements were made to the ground making it one of the best in the area
and in 1930 the club purchased the freehold from the brewery owners. The ground was known as the “Harry Cleaver
Ground”, in recognition of one of the Club’s stalwarts and remained its home
until the last game which was played there on 30 November 1995.
The current Liberty Way site,
which comprises 50 acres (compared to the previous five acres) was acquired and
the first match was played on 9 December 1995.
The club’s most successful
period was from 1947 to 1954 and especially the 1949/1950 season, which saw
ground attendance records shattered when the scalps of Coventry, London Irish
and Saracens were taken, followed by an historic eight day period when
Leicester, Northampton and Coventry were all beaten.
The club was one of the first
to recognise the demise of schools rugby and in the early 1970s embarked on a
programme to introduce Mini and Junior rugby. This early initiative has been
well rewarded with the Mini & Juniors growing from strength to strength
with numerous players going on to represent the 1st XV, Premiership and
The professional era of the
1980’s saw many changes within the structure of rugby football in general, with
payment for players its most dominant feature, but this provided little
advantage to Nuneaton.
The current league system was
established in 1987 with the Nuns being placed in National Division Three
North, where its fortunes waxed and waned until April 2003 when promotion to National
Division Two was achieved. Life in
National Division Two lasted only two seasons.
The 2003/2004 season saw the Nuns finishing third and narrowly missing
out on promotion but then came back down to earth when they were relegated back
into National Division Three North at the end of the 2004/2005 season.
Despite relegation, the club
retained many of its players for the 2005/2006 season and recruited well and
promotion back to National Division Two was achieved following a 15-6 play off
victory over North Walsham in mid May 2006. Again Nuns only enjoyed a two
season stay in National Division Two.
Initially under the guidance of new DoR, Paul Westgate, the Nuns
finished in 10th position for the 2006/2007 season and the prime target of
consolidation and maintaining level three status had been achieved. Westgate
chose to return to full time teaching after just one season which saw Mike
Umaga appointed Head Coach in July 2007.
Season 2007/8 proved to be a challenging one with a new coach, new team and the result of only winning 6 league matches thereby finishing in 12th position which resulted in relegation to National Division Three North. 2007/2008 was also the trial period for the Ground Share Agreement. Unfortunately the football club was declared bankrupt and the new owner’s demands saw the stadium facility withdrawn and the 1st XV matches were played on one of the outer pitches.
2008/2009 dawned and with a new squad full of recruited talent well drilled by Mike Umaga who took the field with a tough 26 match programme to chase. History will record that the squad of 2008/2009 measured up to the challenge and with only four losses achieved the league championship for the second time with results of
Played 26 Won 21 Lost 4 Drawn 1
Promotion to the newly named National 1 for season 2009/2010 was successfully achieved and an agreement was put in place with the football club to allow the Nuns use of the stadium. National Honours were awarded to Rob Cook England Counties v Ireland Clubs XV and Huw Thomas England Counties v Korea and Japan XV.
The 2010-11 season saw the Club return to National 2 North (the old National 3 North). Although this season did not start well, the young guns coached by Umaga and Stu Friswell grew in confidence and performance throughout the season to retain the club’s position in the National leagues by ending 11th in the table. This season also saw our Colts team lift the Bob Coward Warwickshire Cup by beating Broadstreet in the Final.
The Club throughout its long history has built a reputation in hard play, commitment and a progressive attitude to the advancement of Rugby Football in general coupled with a generous appreciation for hospitality to its friends in the rugby world.
Eric Ballard 2011