1920 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team
It was 1920, less than two years had passed since the end of WWI. A team of Californians, some of who had only recently returned from the war, set sail for Europe. Their destination was Antwerp, Belgium; the host of the 1920 Olympic Games, picked because of the devastation it had experienced in the war. The team’s mission, though most considered it futile, was to return as Rugby Olympic champions and bring home a gold medal.
The US would have to beat one team, France, in the final 80-minute game, set for Sunday, September 5th, 5:00pm. The favor laid with France. One year earlier, at the Inter-Allied Cup, France had won over the US with a score of 8-3.
A crowd of 20,000 spectators filled the Antwerp Stadium despite the rain; weather that caused a soggy field and slippery ball. Both sides showed discipline and patience in the first half, with little advancement by either team. The play remained bogged down, resulting in a halftime score of 0-0. With the start of the second half, the French team began to fumble the wet ball while the US was able to maintain their disciplined play. Weather, in addition to the American forwards easily out weighing their opponents, turned the play against France.
Recounting the second half of that hard-fought game, US player Rudy Scholz said: “Our backfield didn’t have one passing rush, but our defense was superb and Templeton [the last line of that defense at fullback] did not have one tackle to make.” In the middle of the half, with the US forwards powering to gain ground, Dink Templeton made a drop-kick from fifty-five yards. Score: 3-0.
In order to maintain their lead, the US had to continue to stifle France’s play. Kicking to advance the ball was not only safer in the wet conditions, but also seemed to panic the French. In the latter part of the half, through a disciplined and steady increase of pressure by the Americans, France fumbled the ball on their five-yard line. Joseph Hunter was there to retrieve it and score the only try of the game. Dink Templeton converted from a difficult angle and brought the score to 8-0*. In the remaining minutes of the match, the US continued to shut down France, resulting in victory and Olympic gold for the Americans.
*Rugby has evolved throughout the years, and in 1920 the scoring system was different than it is today. Three points were awarded for a drop goal, three points for a try and two points