Gordon Sargent

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Long serving captain of Gloucester and Lydney. International and Barbarian

By John Theyers

Gordon Sargent was a prop from the Forest of Dean who in a long and notable career with Gloucester and Lydney captained both clubs. He made 200 appearances for Gloucester between 1976 and 1987, started in every round of the successful 1978 cup campaign, and came off the bench to play in the 1982 cup final. He played regularly for Gloucestershire throughout his career, appearing in three County Championship Finals, and captained the county in 1985-86. Sargent played for England at Under 23 and B levels and gained one full international cap. He played for the Barbarians in the 1981 Mobbs Memorial match and on the 1981 and 1982 Easter tours of South Wales.

Gordon Alan Frank Sargent was born in Lydney on 18 October 1949 and educated at LydneySecondary School, where he was first XV captain in 1965-66. Sargent also played for Whitecroft Under 16s and then for Lydney RFC for nine years from the age of 16. He was Lydney RFC club captain for two years 1974-76.

He had represented England at Under 23 level and had already played for Gloucestershire in two County Championship semi-finals (1973 and 1976) when he joined Gloucester at the age of 26. He made his debut at Kingsholm against Stroud on 8 September 1976, on return from touring South Africa with Gloucestershire.

Initially it was not easy as he was competing against the established loose head Keith Richardson, who had played in 48 of the 53 games the previous season and the up and coming Phil Blakeway, who could play either side. Gaining a regular place in January, he was an ever present for the next two months, but was injured in the John Player Cup ¼ final at Gosforth on March 12 and was out for the rest of the season.

The following season he established himself in the Gloucester side, increasing his reputation as a robust and mobile loose head prop. A typical comment appeared in The Times, reporting on Gloucester’s 39-6 demolition of a weakened Leicester side at Kingsholm on January 14. “Boyle and Sargent ran as hard and straight, if not as fast, as anybody. Leicester would vouch for that with feeling.” He was one of the fifteen who started for Gloucester in every round of their successful 1978 John Player Cup campaign; he toured Romania with England B that summer.

Sargent started the 1978-79 season by playing for Gloucestershire against a President’s XV containing thirteen internationals in a match at Kingsholm to celebrate the centenary of the county union. He was in and out of the county side, but played 39 games for Gloucester in a second successful season under John Watkins’ captaincy.

More young props were coming to the fore and, in addition to Phil Blakeway, Steve Ashmead and Malcolm Preedy were vying for first team places. Sargent played for Gloucestershire throughout the 1979-80 championship campaign, appearing in the losing final against Lancashire at Vale of Lune, while struggling to keep his Gloucester place. Despite his limited appearances for his club, he was chosen as a travelling reserve for the England v Ireland game at Twickenham in January and was again the only prop on the bench for the Grand Slam decider against Wales (the first choice props were Fran Cotton and Gloucester’s Phil Blakeway)

1980-81 saw the peak of Gordon Sargent’s rugby career.  He played for England B against Ireland B at Twickenham on December 8 1980 and for South and South West v London on December 20. This was followed by selection for The Rest against England in the final trial on January 3. When Fran Cotton announced his retirement after the trial Sargent was thought to be his logical successor but Colin Smart was recalled and Sargent assigned to the bench for the internationals. However, on March 7 Phil Blakeway pinched a nerve in his neck playing for England v Ireland at Dublin and, with Smart switching to tight head, Sargent finally came on for his only cap. He received his first Barbarians cap against East Midlands in the Mobbs Memorial match on March 25 and was then chosen for the annual Barbarians Easter tour of South Wales. He also played for Gloucestershire in their 15-6 defeat by Northumberland at Kingsholm on January 31 at Kingsholm in the County Championship Final.

His appearances were restricted to 16 in the record breaking 1981-82 season when Malcolm Preedy was first choice at loose head. However, he came off the bench at half time in the John Player Cup Final at Twickenham when Preedy was injured and played again for the Barbarians on their Easter tour.

With limited opportunities at Kingsholm. Sargent returned to Lydney for a season in 1982-83. While with Lydney, he played for a star-studded Major Stanley’s XV in the annual match against OxfordUniversity in November, scoring two tries. The Times suggested he had “a good story to take back to the front row union at Kingsholm.” (Perhaps they should have said Regentsholme!). He was on the bench for Gloucestershire’s 19-7 victory over Yorkshire in the County Championship Final at Bristol in January and was persuaded to return to Gloucester briefly at Easter 1983 when the club found themselves short of props.

Sargent was elected by the Gloucester players to captain the side in 1983-84, probably the only example of a Gloucester captain being elected from outside the club. He persuaded Phil Blakeway to come out of retirement to form an all-international front row with Steve Mills. He played 33 games for Gloucester in a successful season and was on the bench in the semi-final and final of the County Championship.

For the next three seasons, he played occasional first team games while appearing mainly for Gloucester United.   In 1985-86, the first season in which the majority of senior club players made themselves unavailable for the County Championship, he captained a very young Gloucestershire side, now drawn mainly from junior clubs, to the championship semi-finals. He played his final 1st XV game at Kingsholm against New Brighton on Easter Saturday 18 April 1987. 

Following retirement as a player Gordon Sargent remained involved with the game as coach and then director of rugby at Lydney RFC. He continued to serve on the club committee until his untimely death on 24 June 2013 after a short illness.

 

This page was added by John Theyers on 23/12/2012.

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