The First Decade
For a more in depth look at the first 10 years, we suggest you review the “The First Decade – An anecdotal history of the Texas Rugby Union” by S.G.B. Tennant, Jr..
Tennant takes the reader through the foundational years of the TRU, chronicling the first clubs and administrators who started rugby in Texas.
Rugby begins in Galveston, Waco and Austin, TX. Perhaps one of the mor famous stories begins at Baylor Medical after some Navy shipmen asked Grover Bagby & Ralph Rucker who were medical students if they wanted to play a game of “rugby”. From there, as they say, the rest is history.
In 1968, Dr. Grover Bagby, Dr. Ralph Rucker and friend Dr. William Woodfin started a rugby team at Baylor Medical. Shortly after, Dr. Larry Priano, Ken Long and a few others started a rival team at Galveston Medical.
A third team was started in Austin by Al Hagan, Nat Davis, and P. Ordino from South Africa.
In the beginning there was lots of driving across Texas for matches and so new clubs began forming. South Africa Roger Boos started one at Texas A&M, Ira Gruber at Rice University, and Dr. William Woodfin started a second club along with Andy Csvenko started Dallas RFC.
Houston got into the mix as well, Wayne Baxter, Jim Savage, Lee Garner and Gail Tennant formed the Houston Rugby Club. Houston held the first Lone Star Tournament in November 1969 and the Houston Rugby Club took home the first title.
After this, the teams got together to begin scheduling a season and realized they would be better off if they created a union. And thus the Texas Rugby Football Union was born.
Teams tripled in 1970, including the formation of the Dallas Harlequins by Nelson Spencer. Nelson was also instrumental in the effort of creating the United States Rugby Union.
TRU Vice President Carlos Puentes introduced the Champagnat Tour, where Buenos Aires teams toured and played many of the clubs in the Union. These matches opened the eyes of the clubs and they understood they had much to learn about rugby.
The TRU continued growing and was divided into 20 clubs:
Dallas RFC and Dallas Alpha RFC
Denton Lions RFC
Ft. Sill Gunners RFC
Ft. Worth RFC
Austin RCFC Black and Gold
Saint Edwards RFC
San Antonio RFC
Texas A&M RFC White and Maroon
Baylor University Medical School RFC
Huntsville Volunteers (Sam Houston State Univ.) RFC
Old Boys RFC Gold and Blue
Rice University RFC
El Paso RFC
Univ. of Texas of the Permian Basin (Odessa) RFC
This included the formation of the Union’s first women’s side, the Zulu Warriors RFC.
This year also boasted the first TRU men’s Select Side team who faced a visiting team from Nairobi, Kenya.
The TRU continued showing their organizational strength as a Union and soon developed contacts with the Heart of America RFU and Eastern Rockies RFU.
Texas A&M University women’s rugby was established.
Through the HOA and ERRFU contacts, the Western RFU was created and initially included the Beehive RFU, the Eastern Rockies RFU, the Rio Grande RFU and the Heart of American RFU.
Once this new regional union was created, the WRFU joined the Eastern RFU (Louisiana to Maine), Mid-West RFU and the Pacific RFU to complete the formation of the USA Rugby RFU.
Gail Tennant and Nelson Spencer are considered founders of the USA RFU and were deeply involved in creating the first set of Bylaws.
Tennant became the first USA RFU Treasurer and represented Texas honorably for many years.
More teams formed this year including the Houston Heathen Hearts.
USA RFU also hosted their first international match in Long Beach, Florida and Texas’ first International caps were earned by Barry Walter (Houston Old Boys RFC) and Manus O’Donnell (Houston RFC).
Tennant was named the first USARFU Chairman and traveled with the Eagles to England in 1997.
The Houston Heathen Hearts were just beginning to organize in 1977 and were required to partner with an established men’s team (TRU requirement). They practiced at Memorial Park after the local Houston Heathens men’s rugby club. The Heathens agreed to support our bid which required us to use their name. So, in 1978, we became the Houston Heathen Hearts (Suzanne Cobarruvias)