Back In the Day - The Boxing Day Match

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Boxing day Match 2003 Boxing day Match 2003

In this article we look back at the origins of the Annual Match v OPMs and the close relationship between the two clubs. In the early part of the century Argaum were used to travelling on Boxing Day including visits to the likes of Exeter Reserves and Teignmouth. However, our story takes us back over 85 years to the season 1926-27, when seven Argaum players left the club to form the new OPMs side including one George Wakeham, later to become President of both Plymouth Albion and Devon RFU.

A match was played on Christmas Eve of the following season which ended in a 3-3 draw in which Wakeham himself grabbed Old Boys equalizing try! Whilst there were regular matches between the sides, the Boxing day fixture was still not in place as in 1928-29 Argaum, somewhat amazingly, travelled to Penzance and came away with a highly creditable 24 all draw.

Moving into the next decade and the first recorded match on Boxing Day against OPMs resulted in a 9-0 victory for Argaum in 1935, whilst in 1937-38 the match was abandoned with the no score after an OPM player, Westcott, suffered a broken leg following a tackle. The fixture survived after the War, a 3-3 draw in 1946-47 and Argaum winning 12-5 in 1947-48. Then in 1949-50 two fixtures and honours even with Argaum taking the 1st XV fixture with six unanswered points and OPMs the 2nd XV fixture with 16 unanswered points. Argaum continued to have the better of the spoils into the 1950s wining both fixtures 1st and 2nd XV matches in 1950-51 and 1951-52 but honours even in 1952-53, OPMs again taking the A XV match. The pattern continued through the decade but OPMs did record wins in both 1955-56 and 1959-60.

A match programme survives from the 1960 Boxing Day Match(es) and what is quite remarkable is that there were no less than 4 matches taking place that day at Bickleigh Down. In the morning the 1st XV and A XV of the two clubs met with Argaum running out winners in both, 8-3 and 6-0 respectively. In the afternoon there was a match between the Argaum Colts and an Exiles side, made up of players from schools both local and afar, Argaum again victorious by 6 points to nil. The Bickleigh Down side couldn't complete a clean sweep however as the Extra A XV, effectively the 3rd team lost 11-3 to local side Devisors, who were competing in their first season. As if that wasnt enough, Argaum also had a match the following day against Old Bonifacians at the long since dissapeared PennyCross Stadium. The Old Boys side, which contained several Argaum players themselves, won by 10 unanswered points.

The matches continued in similar vein throughout the 1960s albeit the matches in 1962-63 were completely wiped out due to the big freeze of that artic winter. Not all the rugby was festive with a 0-0 being recorded in 1964-65, a scoreline not untypical of the time. The 1st and 2nd XV match tradition continued, although Prince Rock provided the opposition for the Wanderers in 1967-68, Wanderers running out 28-nil winners. In the 1st XV fixture OPMs snatched victory in the dying seconds with an Elliot try converted by Griffiths. The 1970-71 fixture was cancelled, DHSOB provided some opposition for the Wanderers. It is noticeable that at this stage Argaum had become a very powerful side with a strong fixture list, resulting in some one-sided scorelines, 45-nil in 1972-73. 

There is not much record of the matches during the 1970s but by the mid 1980s OPMs had fallen on hard times and were forced to abandon both their clubhouse and ground. Argaum offered them refuge at Bickleigh Down, which the Old Boys were happy to accept, continuing of course, as a completely separate Club - George Wakeham would have approved! The sharing of the facilities continued off an on until OPMs emerged as a stronger side in the early 1990s, incorporating another local side Jesters into their ranks.

The match continued very successfully as a social game even if the rugby during this period was not always vintage, there were some fine port-fuelled Boxing Day afternoons spent at the Argaum clubhouse. OPMs meanwhile continued to rise up the ranks to Western Counties level in the 2000s whilst Argaum struggled in Devon Two and Three. The fixture was in danger of dissappearing at this time as the pressures of league rugby and the disparity between the sides took its toll but a concerted effort was made within both clubs to create a more-competitive fixture so that by the end of the decade the game was flourishing again.

With OPMs utilising their Plymouth College pitch and excellent clubhouse, and the match alternating between there and Bickleigh down the attendance at matches has risen once again. The match was played there in two consecutive years when in 2009 the match was switched there to help as part of a Fund Raiser for OPMs Chairman Simon Adams MND Charity. Last year's match featured so many players that it had to be played in quarters to fit everyone in, Argaum's squad ranging from the ages of 17 to 62! It is good to report that in 2012 the fixture appears to be in good health once again, Argaum's resurgent young side will be looking to make it 3 wins in a row but OPMs, going very well in Devon & Cornwall League this season will be equally determined to get their hands back on the Bob Harris Trophy.

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