Deemed as the 'other' union, The Quebec Rugby Football Union (QRFU) was the first major and successful rugby union in Canada. The QRFU was established on January 16, 1883. The formation of the QRFU was in thanks to The Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU). Quebec just did not want to be out done by their English counterparts. While other unions in the coming years had clubs all over their respective province, the QRFU had clubs that that mostly resided in the Montreal area in the beginning, but in the upcoming years the QRFU accepted clubs from Ontario (Ottawa and Kingston), and Quebec City.
In the beginning days, each club accepted challenges from another club, and the winner of the game would move on to the next challenge, while the loser of the game will be done for the season. So back then it was very common to have a one game season. The first ever game of the QRFU were between the Britannia Football Club and the Montreal Football Club. The end result of this match ended in a draw, so in September of 1883, Montreal once again challenged Britannia, and Montreal outright won the match, thus winning the right to accept challenges from other clubs. Montreal's next challenge came from Quebec City in October, in which Montreal won the game 1-0. The final challenge of the 1883 season came from the students of McGill University, and the winner of this match would be the first ever QRFU champion. The match was tight, but Montreal beat out McGill 2-0 to claim the first ever QRFU championship.
Now for the 1884 season the QRFU decided on the point system in which the game must be won by 2 points, therefore eliminating tie games. With Montreal winning their second QRFU championship that season, The Montreal Football Club went on and challenged for the Dominion Title (this title was set up by the governing body of the Canadian Rugby Football Union) against The Toronto Argonauts to determine who had the best team in Ontario and Quebec. The first Dominion Title game was played on November 5, as Montreal won the first ever Dominion Title when they won 30-0.
Before the start the 1887 season, St. George College from Quebec City entered the union. In that season, Montreal won their fifth straight Quebec title, but yet again there was no Dominion title game (in the previous two seasons, an all-star game was played during the championship). The CRFU had little interest in playing the Dominion Cup game, therefore discrediting the CRFU. With this problem at hand the CRFU had no choice, but to end operations at the end of the season. With the CRFU gone, Quebec and Ontario decided to have a championship game in Montreal to determine the best team in Canada. This game was played between Ottawa College and Montreal Football Club, and at the end of the game Ottawa College defeated Montreal 10-5 all the while playing with Quebec rules.
Some changes was happening before the 1889 season. The first change is that Bishop's College returned after a three year hiatus. The second change is that the Challenge System is now part of the QRFU. The Challenge System is the champion accepting all challenges, and that is what Montreal did all season. Montreal accepted challenges from McGill, Bishop's College, & Britannia and easily defeating all three clubs with a combined score of 102-5, thereby winning another QRFU title.
In the 1890 season with Montreal winning championships yearly, and fan interest dwindling, the QRFU executives decided to make a change to the format of how games were played. The QRFU decided that the two finalists from last year which were Montreal and Britannia would play a total point series consisting of two games, and the winner of the series would challenge McGill for the QRFU championship. In the two game series, Montreal beat Britannia by a combined score of 37-27, and played McGill for the championship. In the QRFU championship, McGill upsetted Montreal 11-9, ending Montreal's dominance in the QRFU. McGill's celebration ended early when the QRFU decided that one more game should be played for the championship but the game was not against Montreal or Britannia; but the Victoria Football Club. While Victoria had no playing experience, McGill easily defeated Victoria 41-0, with a QRFU record five consecutive safeties.
In the 1891 season, McGill was ready to defend the QRFU championship, but the QRFU had decided on two rule changes in which it had to do with the value of points. Now the value of the goal-from-field was lowered from 6 to 5 points and the goal-from-try was lowered from 4 to 2 points. With fan support coming back, the challenge system came back as well. The first challenge that McGill had to endure was from Bishop's College. McGill proved to be too strong and easily won the game. As the season progressed McGill beat Montreal, but lost to Britannia, thus making Britannia the new QRFU champions, or so they thought. Britannia had one more challenge, and it was from The Montreal Football Club. Montreal easily defeated Britannia 48-3. Since Montreal is the new QRFU champion, they had to accept a challenge, but this is where the controversy began. The QRFU did not know if Britannia or McGill should challenge Montreal. Both teams had strong cases, but McGill had the honour of playing against Montreal because they made the challenge in writing. Nonetheless, Montreal beat McGill to recapture the QRFU championship. At the end of the season, Jack Campbell became the Canadian career scoring leader with 19 trys and 158 points. Next up for Montreal is The Dominion Title game in which was arranged by the clubs that was going to be played. The champions from Ontario, Osgoode Hall played in at the AAA grounds in Montreal. At the end of the day, Osgoods Hall won the match 21-10.
The next significant season was during the 1892 season, in which the QRFU decided that they should enforce a balanced schedule, in which each team would play each other once at their home field and one on theirs. Also during this season Bishop's College decided to leave the QRFU, so now the union is a three club union. And much like previous seasons, the Montreal Football Club was the winner of the QRFU. This was Montreal's ninth QRFU championship out of ten seasons. On November 10 in Toronto, the first CRU sanctioned championship game took place between Montreal and Osgoode Hall, and for the second time, Montreal fell in defeat against Osgoode Hall.
The next season in 1893, the QRFU decided to go return to the challenge system, meaning Montreal had a bye, because they were the last winners of the QRFU championship. The QRFU decided to add another club into the union, and this time it was the return of the Quebec City Football Club. The final match of the QRFU season was between McGill and Montreal in which McGill played hard but still lost 25-3. On November 23, at the AAA Grounds in Montreal, The Dominion Title was played between Montreal and Queen's University and like previous seasons Montreal fell to an Ontario team, this time Montreal lost 29-11 and could not win the Dominion Cup.
The 1894 season was a big one for the QRFU because this was the season that Ontario teams can play in the QRFU. The first two Ontario clubs to enter was Ottawa City and Ottawa College and the reason why Ontario clubs joined the QRFU is because Montreal was always winning provincial championships. With the Ottawa clubs entering the union, Quebec City decided to leave. At the QRFU championship that season, Ottawa College and Montreal met and Ottawa College won their first QRFU championship. At the Dominion title game, Ottawa College met Queens University, and for the first time since 1884 a QRFU club won the Dominion Cup when Ottawa College beat Queens 8-7. At the annual QRFU meeting, both Ottawa City and Ottawa College brought up suggestions to improve the game. Some suggestions that they mentioned at the meeting are that there should be interference for the runner, the team that has possession of the ball has three scrimmages to gain 5 yards, and if the club does not accomplish this, the other side gets the ball, the offensive side of the scrimmage can be allowed to hand off the ball, two umpires be allowed to help out the referee, and penalty kick points should be reduced from four points to two points. Every suggestion was defeated by the executives, except the penalty kick points.
After 1894 was such a great year season, with renewed fan interest and recapturing the Dominion Title, 1895 did not start well, and it had to do with Ottawa College. After the first game of the season between Montreal and Ottawa College ended in a tie, Ottawa College wanted to play Montreal again due to the tie. The executive at the QRFU decided to abide the referee's ruling and the tie was upheld and this is where the controversy starts. Ottawa College did not like the referee's call and wanted Montreal to replay the game or they will leave the QRFU. Montreal abided by the rules and Ottawa College decided to leave the QRFU. With Ottawa College out of the union for the season, it went back to four clubs, with Montreal winning another provincial championship and like seasons past, Montreal could not win the Dominion title, losing this year to the University of Toronto (U of T).
Before the 1896 season started, Ottawa College realized that they were wrong in the previous season, and wanted to re-join the QRFU. The executives gladly accepted back Ottawa College. During the season, Ottawa College won the championship and Ottawa College played against U of T, for the Dominion Title in Ottawa. At the end of the game, Ottawa College captured their third Dominion Title (second with the QRFU).
In 1897, Britannia decided to leave the QRFU, because of their constant losing, but this was not the biggest problem in the QRFU this year. One problem from 1897 was from another tie, this time between Ottawa City and Montreal. The match between the two had to be called off due to darkness which was the first time this had happen in the union. Both clubs complained that they should replay the match, because of the darkness, but the QRFU decided that the tie will stay. The second problem that arose from this season was bad blood between both Ottawa clubs. When the two clubs played each other on November 6, the referee warned them if they did not play football properly, he would walk off the field. Mr. Walters of Ottawa City protested a call that was made against him and the referee kicked him out of the match, then Mr. Walters then outright punched the referee. The umpire tried to restrain Walters, but then he punched him and kicked him in the groin before leaving the field. Upon leaving the match, the referee decided to call the game a tie. Not because of the misbehaviour conducted by the Ottawa clubs, but because darkness was looming. Following the events of the match between both Ottawa teams, the QRFU decided to suspend Ottawa City, but he consequences for Mr. Walters were much more severe as he was expelled from the QRFU and prohibited from playing for any other club in Quebec. At the end of this season, Ottawa College won the provincial championship and during the Dominion Cup, Ottawa College beat out ORFU champions, the Hamilton Tigers 14-10. At the annual meeting, McGill decided that they should leave the QRFU and join Inter-Collegiate Rugby Football Union (CIRFU).
Joining Montreal and Ottawa College was the Kingston Granites for the 1898 season. Like years previous, problems have plagued the season. One problem had to deal with players who were seen playing in university games some time before, so on October 8, the executives decided that players of the CIRFU can not play on any team in the QRFU. The second problem had to deal with Kingston and a certain referee, during the last game of the season to determine the champions of the QRFU for the 1898 season. Kingston refused to play with ex-Ottawa college player Joe McDougall being the referee. Some time had passed, and the referee decided to start the game, Kingston still refused to play, so therefore Ottawa College was awarding the victory and became the QRFU champions for that year. With the controversy behind Ottawa College, their next opponent for The Dominion Cup was a team they played before, the Ottawa Rough Riders (previously known as Ottawa City) who is now part of the ORFU. And like times before, The Ottawa Rough Riders defeated Ottawa College 11-1 and won the Dominion Title. At the annual meeting, Kingston decided to leave the QRFU and join the ORFU instead. Britannia decided to come back to the QRFU, and Brockville entered the union thus making it a four club union for the 1899 season.
In the 1899 season, Brockville and Ottawa College played for the QRFU championship, with Ottawa beating Brockville 11-9. But like seasons before there would not be a Dominion Title Game due to politics, Ottawa College, and Kingston who was the ORFU champions. Father Fallon, the manager of the club refused to let Ottawa play after November 25, stating that rugby football is not a winter sport. Once Kingston won the ORFU championship, they refused to play any games in Montreal after November 25.
The next significant season was in 1901, but that seasson started with another controversy. This time the QRFU had to deal with Ottawa College and Britannia. Britannia protested the match due to what they believed that one of Ottawa's wing man was a non-resident, and the QRFU believed that as well. So on October 16, the match was awarded to Britannia. These two teams met again to determine the QRFU champion, and this time Ottawa College defeated Britannia to capture their fourth championship in the QRFU. In the Dominion Cup match against The Toronto Argonauts the match was called off due to darkness, so the CRU wanted a replay of the match. The replay took place on November 30, in Montreal and this time Ottawa College defeated The Toronto Argonauts 18-3.
The next significant season was during the 1903 season when the Burnside Rules came into effect. Before the seaon started, the Rough Riders decided to return to the QRFU, citing that the competition from the ORFU was not good enough for them but they would not play under The Burnside Rules. Also, Ottawa heard that Brockville did not have enough players to form a club, so they have to resign from the union. At the end of the season, the Rough Riders won the QRFU championship. As for the Dominion Cup, there was none this year due to the fact the ORFU champion Hamilton Tigers were using the Burnside Rules, and that Ottawa refused to play with those types of rules.
The Westmount Football Club replacing Britannia in the QRFU in 1904, the season was underway. By the end of the season, Ottawa College was on top to win the QRFU championship. Like last year, there was no Dominion Title Match because Ottawa College and Hamilton wanted the match to play under each own rules, but neither side budge.
In 1905, Ottawa College left the QRFU so they can join the Inter-Collegiate Union. Ottawa College felt that they have proved that their college style of play was better. In Ottawa College's place, The St. Patrick Pats decided to take their spot. With the Pats now in the QRFU, another development towards the style of the game took place between Montreal and Westmount. This was the first time in history that a game was going to be played in quarters. At the end of the season, The Ottawa Rough Riders won the QRFU championship, and there is going to be a Dominion Cup game, but the question remain who was it going to be against. Ottawa was supposed to play against The Hamilton Tigers, but Hamilton did not want to travel and only wanted to play the match in Hamilton. So, the CRU banned Hamilton, and promoted U of T to play. The style of play that was used in the match was that Ottawa was going to be playing under Quebec Rules (no wing players, and 14 players on the field) in the first half, and in the second half Inter-Collegiate rules (14 players on the field) was enforced. With each team playing under their rules, U of T came out on top, to capture The Dominion Title.
In the 1906 season, Montreal finished the season perfect and captured the QRFU title, but lost to The Hamilton Tigers in the Dominion Title match.
In 1907, Westmount left to join the ORFU, Ottawa and St. Patrick merged to become one club to join Montreal, Toronto, and Hamilton in the new Inter-Provincial Rugby Football Union (IRFU), thus ending the QRFU.