OVER forty years ago Hereford RFC showcased their talents in a rare international tour of California in America.
Rugby club historian John Escott looked back on the tour as part of his 125 Years of Hereford Rugby Club book published in 1996.
On April 5, 1980, 32 players, four officials and a dozen supporters were about to depart Rockfield Road en route to Heathrow Airport for the flight to San Francisco.
“Please check that you have your passports, and I hope you’ve got an up to date visa,” said a coach.
“A what!” exclaimed Guy Griffiths who hadn’t. A dash to the American Embassy by car and another dash to Heathrow saw Guy eventually ready to travel.
The standard of rugby in the States was high at the time and it was just as well that apart from Hereford’s scrum half Paul Lewis and centre Ralston Bevan who didn’t travel, the firsts was at full strength.
In the first game against San Fransisco they went down 27-28, when the standard of refereeing was described as ‘dreadful’.
It was an Irish referee who was infamous around that time as England could testify when he refereed them on tour.
From San Fransisco the team travelled to Calusa County. This was real farming country, and those farmers in the side savoured being amongst like minded people.
A large crowd saw Hereford win its first tour match by 18-9 with five penalties from John Watkins and a dropped goal by Gus Grisman.
The party then travelled down along the Pacific Coast to participate in the Santa Barbara 15-a-side tournament at the University of Southern California.
Some 64 teams took part in the tournament and it was a tremendous achievement for Hereford to reach the semi-final rounds in intense heat.
Hereford won the first round match 12-10 and a second round 15-10.
In the third round Hereford saw off Fifa 9-7 before going down 4-3 to Eagle Rock in a tough semi-final.
Some of the team had such badly blistered feet that they were unable to take part in the play-offs.
In a play-off for third and fourth place the club lost 22-15 to San Fransisco while Los Angeles won the final.
San Diego on the Mexican border was the next port of call for the tourists.
The setting provided a good rest and plenty of sun bathing on the beach before meeting Old Mission Beach in the next match.
Old Mission had been to Hereford on their British Tour some months before and had beaten them 18-6, so it was sweet revenge for Hereford who ran out 12-7 victors.
Martin Heiron who had joined the Hereford party in San Diego was described as having an ‘outstanding’ match.
There was a short trip to Los Angeles for the final match of the tour against Santa Monica.
The tour finished on a high note with a well-earned 12-3 victory. The pitch was described as ‘lush’ and conductive to running rugby and despite the tourists looking jaded they clinched the match.