Rugby Union: WHITES IN CRISIS: Much to Be Proud of in 130 Years of History; WHITES IN CRISIS: Swansea RFC Call in the Administrators as Future Funding of Welsh Rugby Hits Home

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 11, 2003 | Go to article overview

Rugby Union: WHITES IN CRISIS: Much to Be Proud of in 130 Years of History; WHITES IN CRISIS: Swansea RFC Call in the Administrators as Future Funding of Welsh Rugby Hits Home


Byline: HOWARD EVAN S

TIME was yesterday called on more than 130 years of top-flight rugby for Swansea rugby club.

The decision of All Whites chiefs to put them into administration will be viewed as among the saddest moments in Welsh club rugby's hist ory.

But there is much for Swansea fans to look back on with pride and here The Western Mail highlights a glittering history.

Swansea RFC was founded in 1872 and in 1935 became the first club side to defeat Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, when the triple was completed with a magnificent 11-3 win over the All Blacks.

It was probably the greatest day in the history of Swansea Rugby Club as All Black captain Jack Manchester telephoned home and said, "Tell them we lost, but don't say we were beaten by schoolboys." It was cousins Willie Davies and Haydn Tanner, the Gowerton school half-back pair, who played in a huge part in a win. This was Welsh back play at its very best and sadly, both skipper Claude Davey at centre and Davies have passed away in the last few years.

Swansea had a history of strong forwards, who supplied clever Welsh backs with enough ball to win matches. They had the outstanding brothers Dai and Evan James in the late 1800s and then men such as Dicky Owen, Billy Trew and the fabulous Bancroft brothers at full back.

In the first South Wales Challenge Cup of 1877/78, Swansea lost in the final to Newport, but won it in 1879/ 80 over Lampeter College at Ystrad, near Carmarthen. They then lost in the 1882/83 final to Newport, but regained it in 1886/87 by defeating Llanelli at Newport.

Their first meeting with an overseas team was when the Maoris of 1888 won 11-0 and New Zealand sneaked in by 4-3 in 1905.

Then came the first Australians of 1908 and the `Jacks' won 6-0 and followed it up four years later by defeating the Springboks by 3-0.

In the latter game, a crowd of 35,000 paid pounds 1,600 to watch the Welsh champions gain a try by forward DJ Thomas in the first-half.

It was 24 years later that the club completed the hat-trick and when the Australians of 1992 came to St Helen's a year after winning the World Cup, they were also downed.

This time it was a 21-6 scoreline as Scott Gibbs and Garin Jenkins provided the tries for a magnificent side, led by Stuart Davies. It was one of the last great days at St Helen's, which had seen the first home international played by Wales in 1882, playing there until 1954, on a day when Dicky Owen's Welsh record of 35 caps was equalled by Ken Jones of Newport and Billy Bancroft was there to shake Ken's hand.

It was not the last international match played there, however, as Tonga were defeated on a very wet night in 1997 before just 6,589 paying customers - the smallest home crowd in the twentieth century. …

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