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Rugby School make spectacular start to Webb Ellis bicentenary celebrations

08 December 2006

Rugby School began a weekend of celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of William Webb Ellis, widely-credited with being the originator of the game of rugby football, with a 67-0 victory over Menton Cadets on The Close this afternoon.
Menton is the town where Webb Ellis died in 1872 and where he is buried. The club from the French Riviera made the journey over to England this morning and their young side, who changed on the bus and who had little time to warm-up, looked travel-weary.
Menton's senior side will play a Rugby Lions XV on The Close tomorrow (Saturday December 9) in the second game to celebrate the bicentenary of Webb Ellis, who was born in Salford on November 24 1806.
Rugby School brought in temporary floodlights to illuminate The Close, the ground where Webb Ellis reportedly first picked up and ran with a football "with fine disregard" for the rules of the day  in a game in 1823. A plaque and statue have since been erected at the school to commemorate the game.
Rugby School's first XV still play on the pitch - Old Big Side - and they were in impressive form in front of a large crowd for their final match of the term.
Fly-half Ollie Grove was in particularly impressive form, scoring 20 of Rugby's points including a spectacular long range try. Grove is the younger brother of former school centre Alex, who made his senior debut for Worcester Warriors in last Saturday's EDF Energy Cup victory over Newport.
Wingers Patrick Holton and Ricky Thompson along with centre Greg Taylor scored two tries apiece as Rugby scored at more than a point-a-minute in game of 30 minute halves.
Teams from Rugby and Menton met in France in 1972 in a game to mark the centenary of Webb Ellis's death. Webb Ellis became a clergyman after he graduated from Oxford University and worked in London and Essex before he moved to France.
"At Rugby School we are very proud of the fact that it was here on The Close that the great game of Rugby Football started," said Patrick Derham, headmaster of Rugby School.