HISTORIC BOTTLE MATCH RETURNS TO PENRYN
By Ben Gilby
Penryn Rugby Club will be hosting the latest encounter of the second oldest inter-university rugby match on 20th February when Camborne School of Mines take on the Royal School of Mines once more. The first recorded match between the two sides took place on 16th December 1902, and ended in a draw. Only the annual Oxford v Cambridge match has a longer history than the Bottle Match.
The fixture has been played on an annual basis since 1921. Indeed, during the Second World War, Royal School of Mines students were evacuated to Cornwall and their players played in local Cornish leagues. The Camborne v Royal School fixture is referred to as ‘the bottle match’ due to large tin bottle trophy being awarded to the winners. This ‘trophy’ was somehow got hold of by Royal School of Mines students from a beer lorry belonging to Bass-Charrington in 1946! Another amusing story related to the fixture took place in 1966 when Camborne School of Mines long serving mascot, a teddy bear dressed in their colours of Silver, Gold and Navy, and known as Colonel George (after a former Principle of the School, Colonel George Whitworth) was ‘abducted’ by the London school, never to be seen again.
Looking ahead to the game, present Camborne School of Mines vice-captain Matt Helfet is hopeful that his side’s strong season which has seen them top Cornwall One, will stand them in good stead: “Our recent record in it hasn’t been great, we haven’t won since 2010 when we scraped a 5-3 victory. Inherently, we are always against the odds simply due to a much smaller pool of players to choose from, but, despite this, our league season so far has been the best in our history”.
Photo the 1959 CSM side with the “Bottle” & Col. George
Turning to the opposition, Helfet observed: “The Royal School of Mines team are a bit unusual in their make-up. From what I understand, at the start of each academic year, anyone who initially wants to play for them who exhibit signs of talent are immediately snapped up by Imperial College London’s 1st/2nd XV for pre-Christmas. Then after the Christmas holidays they are released back to the Royal School of Mines so that they can train and prepare for Bottle Match before disbanding once again so it’s quite hard to gauge how good they will be this year, and so we can only focus on ourselves.
The Camborne School of Mines v Royal School of Mines fixture remains the high point in the seasons of both sides, and messages of support for the teams are expected to come in from around the globe from alumni.
Postscript: Camborne School of Mines RFC formed in 1896 has produced five England Internationals G. Gordon-Smith 1900 (3 caps). J G Milton 1904-07 (5 caps), C H Milton 1 cap (1906), A J Wilson 1909 (1 cap) and R D Kennedy 1948 (3 caps). Also K R F Bearne played for Scotland in 1960 (2 caps).