May 17, 1924
After initially deciding not to send a team to defend their rugby gold medal from 1920, the U.S. scrambled to pull a squad together and it paid off on this day in rugby history when the U.S. defeated France to win their second rugby gold medal. It was the last time rugby was contested at the Olympics.
The team had many obstacles to get to France for that year’s Olympics. After putting together the team, which was again mainly composed of players from California, the US Olympic Committee was unwilling to fund the trip but the OC club stepped in with their president calling a meeting of local business men and quickly raised the $25,000 needed.
With the details worked out, the U.S. team focused on getting the job done on the field. The squad was interesting as it was made up of both traditional rugby players as well as great athletes whose primary sport was American football.
After France and the U.S. defeated Romania, the only other team competing, the gold medal was down to one match.
The French were heavy favorites. They were the best team in the world at the time and had the bookmakers giving them 20-1 odds. The home support was also behind Les Bleus. A crowd of 40,000 were on hand at Colombes Stadium to watch the glorious coronation. The French fans were still bitter that the U.S. won the gold over them 4 years earlier in Antwerp.
France was led by the legendary Adolphe Juarraguy, who was thought to be the fastest player in the game, but he was quickly contained and eventually had to be taken of the pitch “like a sack of potatoes” according to Charlie Doe.
The shocker was on and to the dismay of the French crowd. The U.S. team manager commented on the match saying, “The French were 20-1 favorites – for about five minutes.” The reception at the final whistle was not good either with several U.S. players beaten by fans while the team could not hear the national anthem being played due to the boos and continuing taunts from the stands.
1959 – Marcelo Loffreda, Argentine rugby player and coach