The first tournament was held in Van Cortland Park in the Bronx in 1958 and was won by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's A side who beat their own B side. From 1961 through 1964 the tournament was held in the Spring and the Fall at the Madison Ave Armory at 95th Street in Manhattan. The Spring tournament was developed to keep the New York rugby teams in shape during the off season. A different team would be invited each Saturday and an eventual winner would be decided. The Fall tournament has always been held on the Saturday following Thanksgiving and traditionally marks the end of the Fall rugby season in the New York Metropolitan area.
With the destruction of the Armory, the tournament was moved outside in 1967 to Randall's Island, which is located beneath the Triborough Bridge between the three city boroughs of Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. During the 1970's the finals were often held in Downing Stadium, which had long been connected with rugby. In the 1930's the NYRFC played its matches there and it had also been the site of several international matches, including the Met NY Union against the Fiji National side in the 1960's and more recently, the US Eagles against the Irish National side on September 9, 1989, and the Met Union vs. Roodeport, a South African side, on November 23, 1993.
The NYRC hosted 50 sides in 1988 and 51 in 1989 (despite 5 inches of snow) and 56 in 1990, including the first appearance of a Soviet rugby team in a tournament in the United States. In 1991 the tournament grew to 59 sides and further grew to 84 sides in 1992, including a side from the Cayman Islands. The expansion to 84 sides in 1992 was made possible with the use of pitches at two different venues-Randall's Island and Central Park. In 1993 the club increased the number of pitches to 10, five in Central Park, four on Ward's Island and Downing Stadium. The Collegiate and Social division semifinals and finals were played in the stadium.
The clubs use of Central Park has been instrumental in further expanding the popularity of the tournament-there is something special about playing in the middle of the "Big Apple" during the holiday weekend. The 1993 Tournament also featured the introduction of the Premier Division which was won by Sydney University of Australia. Sydney won the championship in an incredible comeback victory over the New York Aliens, a side comprised of players from around the world including Australia, England, Scotland, South Africa, Wales and the US Eagles. In 1994 the Aliens avenged their loss to Sydney with a comeback from two tries down to win.
The 1995 New York Sevens Tournament welcomed back a stacked Aliens side which featured Canada's Al Charron, Gary Hein of The Eagles, Eagle Captain Andre Bachelet, and John Gallagher, the renowned fullback who formerly played for the invincible New Zealand All Blacks side. The Aliens successfully defended their championship title once again.
The 38th Annual Sevens Tournament was once again a huge success, with 96 sides competing in 5 different divisions. This year the tournament, in addition to the usual contingent of sides from throughout the United States and Canada, also hosted clubs from Holland, Lithuania, Venezuela and England, as well as the Hong Kong's Women's Side. The Aliens again prevailed in the Premier Division.
The 39th Annual Sevens Tournament saw a new side crowned victor of the Premier Division, with the Australian Legends taking the crown from the New York Aliens in a tough battle under the lights of Downing Stadium. Once again, some 96 teams enjoyed a full day of first-caliber sevens rugby and, for the first time, the championship matches for all five divisions were played in front of a large crowd of players and fans in Downing Stadium.
In the 1998 tournament, held on November 28, 1998, the NYRFC invited clubs from all across the world in the hopes of establishing an entire division of international competition. The Australian Legends returned to defend their hard-earned Premier trophy. The Premier division playoff and championship matches saw world class competition under the lights of Downing Stadium before a packed crowd. Making it to finals were select sides from the NE Union, the Met Union along with the Aliens and the Australian Legends.
In the 2000 tournament, Huriana Manuel played for the team Las Bandits and won MVP of the Women's Bracket - she went on to develop her game and play in the internationally acclaimed New Zealand 7s team who won the silver medal in the Rio 2016 Olympics! Nowhere else in the US can you find rugby games as exciting as those played in the finals of the Thanksgiving Tournament.
From 1958 to 2015, the New York Rugby Sevens Tournament has developed into a truly global event, improving and growing year after year. The tournament began with one division. Today there are ten divisions-Men's Premier, Club, Collegiate, and Social, Women's Premier, Club, Collegiate, and Social, and Boys and Girls High School. The tournament draws teams of all kinds from across the US, Canada, and worldwide.