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#ThursdayTales: Floodlights

#ThursdayTales: Floodlights
SHEDDING LIGHT ON GLOUCESTER RUGBY

Gloucester first tried playing a match under floodlights in 1879, when the Club was based on the Council-owned Spa. Four electric floodlights were erected, but one failed completely, and another flickered on and off. In the prevailing gloom, Gloucester managed a good win against Rockleaze from Bristol, but the two thousand spectators stumbled around in the dark, and did substantial damage to the park’s shrubbery. Although the Club regarded the occasion as a great and novel success at the time, the Parks Committee temporarily banned the Club from the Spa, so the experiment was not repeated.

The best part of a century passed before floodlights were installed at Kingsholm. They were formally switched on for a charity match to raise money for the Star Centre. The opposition were the Bosuns, an invitational side composed of international, trial and county players.

A determined, energetic and well organised Gloucester, led by Don Rutherford, giving his usual cultured performance at full-back, outplayed them. Mickey Booth and Terry Hopson showed their mastery at half-back, whilst John Bayliss and Ron Pitt exuded a bristling threat in the centre. Dick Smith, Gary White, Alan Brinn and Dave Owen gained control in the loose, Jim Jarrett ruled the line-outs, and Mike Burton and Jack Fowke dominated their opponents in the set scrums.

Mickey Booth opened the scoring with a trademark try scuttling round the blind side of a scrum, before Foice ran one in behind the posts; Rutherford converted both. The Bosuns fought back to score a try in the corner, but Booth dropped a goal from 35 yards to give Gloucester a comfortable cushion at half-time.

Gloucester added to their lead with tries from Booth and Hopson, and any remote prospect of a Bosuns revival was scotched as they lost two players to injury. In the last 15 minutes, White kicked through to score, John Groves went over from a tapped penalty, and Bayliss from a slick passing move, although the Bosuns had the last word with a converted try.

Gloucester thus enjoyed a comfortable win, 34-8, scoring seven tries to two, the lights worked well, were regarded as a considerable feather in the Club’s cap, and led to an expansion of the fixture list in subsequent seasons as more midweek games could be played.

The expansion of rugby coverage on television contributed to a new and better set of floodlights being installed in 1994, and they in turn were replaced when the new stadium was built in 2007. Kingsholm having been selected as a venue for RWC 2015, various improvements to the ground were funded by the tournament organisers, which were afterwards left in place if the Club so wished. Amongst these were new bulbs for the floodlights with twice the previous luminosity. These are quite acceptable at reduced power, but can be turned up fully as required for televised matches, which certainly adds to the sense of theatre at a night time match.

With thanks to Gloucester Rugby Heritage for the words and imagery.
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