Venue: Rosedale Field
Location: Toronto, ON
Date: December 4
Winning Coach: Harry Griffith
The Grey Cup’s legacy began in 1909, although it wasn’t the first time a Dominion senior rugby champion was declared. Teams from Eastern Canada had battled for the national championship since 1892, when Osgoode Hall defeated Montreal 45-5.
Albert Henry George Grey, Canada’s governor general from 1904-1911, wanted to donate a trophy to Canada’s senior hockey champions, but Sir H. Montagu Allan beat him to it. Lord Grey was convinced to donate a trophy to the national rugby champions instead, and thus the Grey Cup was born.
The first game for the new trophy featured the University of Toronto against the Parkdale Canoe Club, although more people were interested in the semi-final between Varsity and Ottawa a week earlier. Despite a seating capacity of 3,400 an estimated 12,000 watched Varsity defeat Ottawa 31-7 at Rosedale Field. Only 3,800 would be at the venue a week later to watch history in the making.
Many believed Parkdale wasn’t in the same league as Varsity but they were proven wrong, at least in the opening half. The students would never be behind in this game, but held just a slim 6-5 lead at halftime. Hugh Gall opened the scoring for Varsity with a 65-yard rouge, followed by the first try in Grey Cup history (a precursor to a touchdown).
Gall would later give one back to Parkdale in the second quarter, as he mishandled a lateral pass deep in the Varsity zone. Tom Meigham broke through the line and grabbed the ball, crossing the goal line for a try.
Parkdale was given an ovation at halftime for its surprising play, but any hopes for an upset were dashed in the third quarter. Varsity outscored Parkdale 9-1, highlighted by Murray Thompson’s major.
The collegians went on to add six more rouges in the final quarter before Smirle Lawson evaded four or five tackles 50 yards to the end zone on the final play of the game. George Barber was praised for his efforts in keeping Lawson, one of Varsity’s better players, in check for most of the contest.
Varsity players, who finished the season with a perfect 8-0 record, had to wait until the following March to officially celebrate with the new $48 trophy, as Grey’s staff forgot to have it made before the game. They would get to celebrate with the mug for a few more years to come.