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McGill Downs Rugby Club, 6-3, Century After Original Game


Its memory stinging with the dubious distinction of having lost North America's first rugby-football contest to Harvard just a century before, McGill University's fired-up rugby squad took revenge last Saturday in Montreal, squashing its original rival, 6-3.

It was the schools' first meeting in 92 years and was arranged to commemorate what Harvard says is "the REAL football centennial."

Free Kick

Senior second row Steve Niemi accounted for Harvard's only tally on a free kick, which made the score 3-3 at the halftime break. But McGill made good a second free kick after intermission to provide the margin of victory.

"It was a close match," inside center Sam Pillsbury said yesterday. "They blew two tries and we blew one."

Saturday's game, Pillsbury said, was "pretty similar" to the sport Harvard and McGill devised in Cambridge a century ago. Harvard's Athletic Department says that contest gave rise to modern American football. For that reason Harvard is touting this season as the centennial.

Original plans called for a regular football game between Harvard and McGill this fall, rugby club members said, but the Montreal college's athletic department could not produce the necessary funds.

So a McGill professor organized the rugby contest. After the game McGill hosted the Harvard club at a banquet, and gave captain Joel McLafferty a commemorative plaque to present to president Bok.

"It was the biggest thing Harvard rugby has seen in quite a while," McLafferty said yesterday. One team member estimated the crowd at 1000.

McGill's win was its first of the long-dormant series. Harvard ran up a total of seven points in the series's seven previous contests, all between 1874 and 1882, winning five and tying two.

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