For over a century, the unwavering focus of the Royal School of Mines has been on a black, battered, metal bottle….

The annual gathering of two packs of miners all began in London one blustery December day over a 15-a-side oval ball game. Since 1902, members of the Royal School of Mines have been meeting their rivals from Cornwall, the Camborne School of Mines, almost every year to valiantly face-off at rugby­—an English invention that historically has been the chosen game of Home Nations miners.

While the very first game finished in an “honourable draw”, the competition—now the second oldest rugby varsity match in the world—grew in prominence each year with both teams vying for the respect and glory of winning. Held alternatively in London and in Falmouth, the game includes waggish subplots and shenanigans as part of the mayhem. This was no exception in 1926 when a group of RSM students ‘acquired’ a 3-foot tall tin bottle from the top of a Bass-Charrington lorry. From that day forward, it has been known as “The Bottle Match” with the proud winning team retaining not only the title, but possession of the now rather battered and beloved bottle for another year.

Traditionally held during the month of February, the mud-splattered fields are not the only place the teams challenge each other. As time passed, additional sports were added to showcase the diversity of the colleges, and now includes football, mens and ladies hockey, squash, golf, netball and basketball. Despite this, the winner of the bottle hinges entirely on the outcome of the rugby match, with 2014 seeing the bottle retained by our very own miners.

RSM Rugby team photo 1903-04

1. RSM rugby team 1903-04, winners of the U.E.R.F.C Challenge Cup (College Archive).

Student team photo of  the Rugger tour 1948

2. 1948 Imperial College rugger tour, student club Delft, Holland (Union Archive).

Bottle Match 1948 black and white photo of match

3. Bottle Match 1978. Image from the RSM Student Associations Annual Report (Union Arhcive).

A streaker

4. Streaking is a well-known rugby tradition, Bottle Match 2009 (Photo by Will Turner).

Bottle Match winners 2009 holding bottle

5. Bottle Match winners 2009 (Photo by Will Turner).

RSM fans parading the bottle 2009

6. RSM fans parade he Bottle, 2009 (Photo by Will Turner).

RSM student scores a try at the Bottle Match

7. RSM student scores a try at the Bottle Match (Union archive, year unknown).

RSM team celebrating with bottle

8. RSM team celebrate with the Bottle (Union archive, year unknown).

RSM captain receives the bottle

9. RSM captain celebrates victory. (Union archive, year unknown).

RSM Bottle Match team photo

10. RSM Bottle Match team photo (Union Archive, year unknown).

RSM fans with the Bottle 2012

11. Left: RSM students drink from the bottle 2012. Right: Fan showcases the Bottle

Stats and Facts

  • Age before beauty
    Royal School of Mines established : 1851
    Camborne School of Mines established : 1888
  • Getting blotto
    Since the 1950s, players on the winning side were presented with personal tankards from Union Corporation/Gencor. This tradition continues with the tankards provided by Michael West and the Mining Journal.
  • Celebrate keeping the bottle where it belongs
    Stop by the Union Bar for a pint and to view the Bottle’s place of honor among the Union’s
    impressive historic tankard collection.
  • Some top RSM winning final scores
    1998  •  26–0
    1980  •  24–0
    2012  •  22–0
    1938  •  20–8