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Mark Hoskins

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Posted Monday, May 11th 2020

Obituary: Eric Hopton

Bristol Bears regret to announce that former player Eric Hopton died at the age of 90 on Friday, May 8th.

Eric was a second row forward who played 73 first team games for Bristol and appeared in England trials. He was one of a dwindling group who could claim to have played for the club in the 1940s.

Eric George Hopton was born on April 4th, 1930. He was educated at Bristol Cathedral School and had happy memories of serving as a Cathedral chorister. He played for Old Cathedralians and made eleven appearances for Bristol United in the 1947-48 season. In the same season he made his first team debut, at the age of only seventeen. This was on December 27th, 1947 in Bristol’s 9-3 victory over Newbridge. He was awarded his Bristol United cap at the end of the following season and his first team cap a season later. 

Eric was the last surviving player from Bristol’s first post-war victory over Cardiff. This was a 3-0 win at the Memorial Ground on January 13th, 1951. He partnered Roy Muller in the Bristol second row, and retained vivid memories of his tussle with Cardiff prop Cliff Davies. As he recalled, “I could see Cliff Davies looking for our jumpers at the first lineout. He deliberately stood next to me and trod on my toe, hoping to niggle me. He wanted me to retaliate and get penalised, but I realised it was best to ignore him. Our little duel continued throughout the game.” A week after this seminal victory Bristol defeated Llanelli 10-3, with Eric scoring the second and last try of his Bristol career.

Eric was a regular player for Somerset in the County Championship, making 25 appearances for the county in total. When he was still only nineteen, he was selected for his first England trial, playing for the Colours against the Whites at Birkenhead Park in December 1949. A year later he was one of four Bristol players who appeared in an England trial at Otley, where he partnered teammate Dick Honeywell in the Whites second row.    

In the 1952-53 season there was strong competition for second row places at Bristol, and Eric moved to Bath in search of first team rugby. He made his Bath debut on Boxing Day 1952 against Old Blues and played a total of 125 games for his new club up to 1958. During his time as a Bath player he played for Western Counties against the touring All Blacks at the Memorial Ground in 1953, a match which the tourists won 11-0.

Eric Hopton was President of the Cathedralian Society in 1977 and Chairman of the Cathedralian Council for some years. He enjoyed keeping in touch with his playing contemporaries and regularly attended Bristol Rugby Former Players reunions. He spent his last years in a care home, and he succumbed to Covid-19 after a seven-day battle with the virus. His family had hoped to celebrate his recent 90th birthday at a later date, but sadly this was not to be. All at Bristol Bears send their sincere sympathy to Eric’s family at this desperately sad time.