KEIGHLEY RUFC are one of the most recognisable sporting clubs in Keighley, with them celebrating their 100th anniversary last year.

Formed in 1920 by a group of boys from Keighley Grammar School under the name Keighlians Old Boys RUFC, the club changed their name to Keighlians RUFC and later to Keighley RUFC in the 1960s.

In the early years, matches were played across a variety of local venues, before land was acquired from the council near to the gas works in Thwaites.

Steadily improving the facilities at their Thwaites ground, which included recovering from a devastating fire in the 1960s, Keighley settled at their present home in Utley in 1986.

The first match at their new ground was a famous one, with former Keighley Colts and Leicester Tigers player Martin Whitcombe making an impressive debut for Yorkshire against his hometown team.

That season proved to be a successful one for the county, with Yorkshire going on to win the County Championship final at Twickenham.

Whitcombe is not the only famous face to play for Keighley, with the club counting 1972 Rugby League World Cup winner David Jeanes and one-time rugby league world-record transfer Gary Moorby among their ranks over the years.

Twenty-two-year-old full back Ellie Kildunne, who started her career at the club, has also starred on the international stage, winning both the 2020 and 2021 Women’s Six Nations, and playing a part in the women’s Rugby Sevens team that qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.

But despite recent successes, the pinnacle of the club’s achievements came shortly after the end of the Second World War.

In the 1947-48 season, Keighley beat Sheffield 17-0 and Otley 14-6 to win both the Yorkshire Shield and Yorkshire Cup competitions, in an unprecedented feat that is unlikely to ever be matched.

Keighley began life in the rugby leagues alongside Wharfedale and Rotherham in North East One in 1987, until the restructure of the rugby union league structure in 2000 moved them to Yorkshire League One.

Relegated to Yorkshire Two the following season, the club returned to Yorkshire One as champions in 2003-04, where they would remain until 2012, when they were promoted to North One East after recording an 18-16 victory against Alnwick in the play-offs.

A turbulent few years followed, with Keighley missing out on survival in North One East by the slimmest of margins in their first season, and suffering successive relegations to Yorkshire Two.

As runners-up, they returned to Yorkshire One in 2015-16, where they remained until 2019-20.

In the present day, the club boast an excellent playing facility, replaced with artificial grass as part of the RFU’s Rugby 365 scheme in 2017, and a popular clubhouse that can be hired for various events.

One of the pioneers of rugby in the local area, Keighley field three senior sides that play on a Saturday – a first team, Stags and a third team – alongside a thriving junior section from Under-6s to Under-15s.

Their first XV go into the rugby union winter break unbeaten in Yorkshire Two, as they look to seal an immediate return to Yorkshire One after being relegated at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Keighley’s electric start to the season saw them pick up 12 straight wins, though their charge has stuttered somewhat over the past month, with draws against Leeds Corinthians and promotion rivals Hullensians seeing their lead at the top cut to five points.

But despite those disappointing results, there were still positives on the pitch for Keighley, with fly-half Alex Brown making his 300th first team appearance for the club, having progressed through the ranks since he was eight years old.

Keighley will be looking to put things right when they return to league action on January 8 against mid-table Wensleydale.