Ask John
Queens House RFC, Brian Lima, the Heineken Cup Final and Sevens
John Griffiths
May 23, 2011
England captain Frank Stout and RFU President Rowland Hill, March 18, 1905
Former England captain Frank Stout and RFU President Rowland Hill pictured in 1905 - the latter was the most prominent member of Queens House RFC © PA Photos

Welcome to the latest edition of Ask John where renowned rugby historian John Griffiths will answer any rugby-related query you have!

So, if there's something you've always wanted to know about the game we love but didn't know who to ask, or you think you can stump our expert - then get involved by sending us a question.

In this edition John answers questions on Queens House RFC, Brian Lima, the Heineken Cup Final and Sevens rugby.

My great-grandfather Thomas William Fry was England's fullback in the early 1880s. He played for Queen's House Football Club - do you have any knowledge of the club? John Dalston, England

The Queen's House Club was based in the Blackheath/Greenwich area of London - named, unsurprisingly, after the building at the bottom of Greenwich Park. Its headquarters were at the Green Man in Blackheath. The area was the home of the Hill, Hewitt and Fry families who were all leading rugby lights in the 1870s and 1880s when the game was flourishing in south-east London.

Rowland Hill was the most prominent member of the club. He never played for England but he became an outstanding administrator. He refereed several of the early international matches and was the RFU's Secretary from 1881 to 1904 before becoming their President and serving from 1904-07. The second-ever England/Wales v Scotland/Ireland match, played at Twickenham in 1929, was staged to mark the opening of the ground's Rowland Hill Memorial Gates.

Walter Hewitt, who was for some years the Queen's House club's captain, played for England as a forward in 1881 and 1882. His brothers were Cameron (a noted fullback/ threequarter) and Malcolm, who played in the pack. Sidney Ellis, another Queen's House forward, was capped by England against Ireland in 1880.

The Frys - Tom, Sid and Fred - were a well-known rugby family in the Greenwich area. Tom played fullback for England in 1880 and 1881 and scored a try - only the second one ever by a fullback in international rugby - against Scotland in 1880. Ninety-one years would pass before the next England fullback (Bob Hiller in 1971) scored one in an international match.

Cameron Hewitt and Tom Fry's brothers migrated to North America and when Tom, a corn broker on the Baltic Exchange retired, the club took the decision to close down, rather than follow a long and dwindling existence into decline.

The club is listed among the RFU's membership at the start of the 1889-90 season but closed down shortly afterwards. A correspondent writing in 1892 described them as "one of the most formidable [sides] in London … and decidedly the most difficult to beat." Their chief rivals were Blackheath and Richmond, the best clubs in England at the time, and among their most treasured scalps in the early 1880s were the London Scottish club.

I'm just wondering if there are players other than Brian Lima who have featured in five World Cup tournament final stages, and who could potentially match this record by playing in the 2011 finals? Joe Hinds, England

Brian Lima appeared in the Western Samoan side that took the 1991 RWC by storm by overcoming Wales 16-13 in their opening pool match at Cardiff. He was in their squad for the Finals in 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007 when he became the only player to date to feature in five tournament final stages.

It is unlikely that any of those who have appeared in every RWC including and since the 1995 finals will reappear in New Zealand later this year to match Lima's record.

Has there ever been a Cup game at the top level to match the turnaround seen in the Northampton-Leinster Heineken Cup Final? Graham, England

The pattern of scoring in the Heineken Cup Final was similar to the France-New Zealand RWC semi-final at Twickenham in 1999. On that occasion New Zealand led 24-10 early in the second half (compared to Northampton's 22-6 lead). France then came from behind to score 33 unanswered points (whereas Leinster managed 27) to establish a 43-24 lead (Leinster won 33-22). In 1999, however, the All Blacks managed a late consolation converted try to end up 43-31 losers.

What was the longest sevens match including extra time? Andrew Murray, Scotland

Sevens was the brainchild of Melrose butcher, Ned Haig, who organised the first tournament in his home town back in 1883. Within a couple of years Hawick and Gala were staging their own annual end-of-season events and the Borders sevens circuit, later extended to Langholm and Jedforest, became the focus of Scottish rugby attention late in the season.

Interest in the fifteen-a-side game generally faded in Scotland after the annual Calcutta Cup match traditionally staged on the third Saturday of March, so the stage was set for several Saturdays of sevens events.

In 1919, Selkirk launched their autumn sevens as a prelude to the fifteen-a-side season and Kelso and Earlston soon followed suit.

In England and Wales special permission had to be sought for the staging of club sevens and it was not until the 1920s that the abbreviated format of the game became popular in England, with the Middlesex Sevens launched in 1926. Before then, tournaments had been outlawed because they invariably led to the award of prize money, directly contravening the laws relating to professionalism.

The longest sevens final is believed to be the climax of the Langholm Sports held on May 1, 1920. That day the finalists were Edinburgh Wanderers and Jedforest. The Wanderers included three of the Scottish side that had featured in a respectable Five Nations campaign earlier that season, Charles Nimmo, Allen Sloan and Jock Wemyss.

Superior stamina, however, saw Jedforest to victory on a wet afternoon. There was no score after the normal two halves of ten minutes each had been played, and after a short break sudden death kicked in. Two more periods were played without a score before Willie Scott, the Jed fly-half, finally crossed for the "golden try" after the teams had been going at it hammer and tongs for 45 minutes.

Do you have any information regarding a seven-a-side match that took place between two West Wales families - the Randalls and Williamses - in 1909? The Randalls were related to my great-grandfather. Anon, Wales

This challenge, famous in West Wales rugby lore, took place at Easter 1909. The Williams brothers from Haverfordwest played the seven Randalls from Llanelli at Carmarthen, roughly half-way between the two towns. Mr W J (Billy) Bancroft, the former Wales fullback, was the referee.

Accounts of the meeting say that a £100 prize was at stake and that more than a thousand of the brothers' travelling supporters turned up to see what was billed as the "Family Championship of the United Kingdom."

The Randalls were steelworkers and millmen typical of the working population of Llanelli in the early years of the 20th century while the Haverfordwest boys were sons of the local police superintendent and worked variously as hairdressers, agents and clerks.

The match was rough, the Haverfordwest boys losing a brother to injury early on. Even so, they ran out winners 8-0 of a match that Bancroft described as being "more like a wrestling match."

When and where was the first "International" sevens event? Stephen John, Wales

The first official international sevens tournament was staged at Murrayfield in April 1973 as part of the SRU's Centenary celebrations. The eight sides invited to take part competed in two pools of four with the pool winners meeting to contest the final.

Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland and Australia comprised Pool A (won by Ireland who opened their campaign with an unexpected 22-18 win against the New Zealanders). England headed Pool B after defeating France 22-0, an SRU President's XV 26-16 and Wales 24-10.

England beat Ireland 22-18 in the final. There was a strong Loughborough element in the English seven led by Fran Cotton. Keith Fielding scored two of their four tries and John Gray kicked three goals. Fielding finished the afternoon as the tournament's leading scorer with nine tries. Details of the Final were as follows:

England: K J Fielding, P S Preece, P A Rossborough, S J Smith; F E Cotton (captain), J D Gray, A G Ripley

Ireland: V A Becker, J P Dennison, A W McMaster, C M H Gibson (captain); T A P Moore, D M Canniffe, J F Slattery

Scorers: Fielding (2), Ripley and Preece scored tries and Gray converted three for England. Canniffe, Moore and Dennison scored tries for Ireland, Gibson converting all three. Referee: Mr T F E Grierson (Scotland)

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