Somerton Rugby Club came into being in early 1998 when Jon Rapley who was in the Navy stationed at Yeovilton and playing rugby for HMS Heron, Fleet Air Arm and Sherborne and Eirian Williams who had played rugby in Somerset since 1969 and playing for clubs such as Bridgwater Albion and Tor. Both Jon and Eirian had settled in Somerton due to their respective occupations.
Jon Rapley was anxious to start a rugby club in Somerton which was a staunch soccer town, Jon worked extremely hard to get funding from the various organisations in Somerton, negotiations between Jon and the Somerton Recreation Ground Management Trust secured a pitch on the local recreation ground and also obtained rugby posts donated by the Town Council, this created the interest of local based players.
Jon was responsible for the administration side of the club at the start whilst Eirian was given the task of recruitment along with Mark Patten and the help of Paul Coombes in order to field a side. The recruiting of the team was based on people living in Somerton and playing Saturday rugby for local sides so a decision was made to play Sunday morning rugby. Additional players were found from amongst those who had not played since their school days and in some cases those that had retired a long time ago.
A small committee was set up Chaired by Gordon Adams, the owner of the Royal Oak public house in Somerton, with Bill Evans as the club President, they were later joined by Annya Patten and Robbie Robinson. Funding was soon found and soon the kit arrived, it was then, as now, blue and yellow which was the historical traditional town colours. Jon begged and borrowed some equipment from Somerset RFU RDO and the word got out. Somerton had their first game against Butleigh thanks to Mark Patten liaising with Ashley Maunder. Somerton consisted of a scratch side of some old and new players from around Somerton. Some old Aller players and some from Yeovilton Air Base, and others that played for clubs on Saturdays. The first game was played on a cold murky Sunday morning with Bruce Weddell scoring the first ever Somerton try! After a few more Sunday fixtures, North Wooton, Blake Bears, Butleigh, Jon applied to join the Somerset RFC league for the 1999-2000 season. It was during the initial stage of the club’s development that we drew Taunton 1st XV in the Somerset Cup. The first twenty minutes of the game was a pointless encounter but subsequently Taunton showed their class and run out comfortable winners. The after match event was one of the best socials in the clubs history.
Somerton have not only used local players but also Scottish, Australian, New Zealand, French, Italian and Welsh players amongst their ranks. There was a season when we had as many as eight Fijian players on the field, this was a period of very free running rugby in the clubs history and caused concern to many of our opponents when they saw the side take to the field.
The last game of the 2006 season saw a victory away against Castle Cary resulting in Somerton being promoted to Somerset League 1. This proved a step too far and the competition and travel saw many players making the 2006-7 games their last for Somerton and a rebuilding process was started against far superior opposition with the inevitable consequences which saw relegation at the end of the season.
Somerton as a club will always be grateful for the support shown by Ivel, Martock, Crewkerne, Wyvern, Bridgwater & Albion, North Petherton, Morganians,Castle Cary, Wiveliscombe, The Black Dog public house Weymouth, Butleigh and North Wotton. The Blake Bears and Puddletown rugby clubs always made us welcome on our visits to them. Our connection with Puddletown RFC was for the Kingman Cup in memory of one of their stalwart committee members.
The highlight of the club was the visit of Richie McCaw to the club whilst staying with a close friend one of our New Zealand players at the time. Richie at this time had just completed a grand slam tour of the UK with the All Blacks and had been named
IRB World Player of the season.
To be continued………..