THE STORY OF SWANSEA RFC
IN THE 1904-05 SEASON
Club Captain : Genny Gordon
Playing Record : P31, W27, D4, L0, Pts for 525, Pts against 51.
Leading Try Scorer : Dan Rees 30
Leading Points Scorer : Not Known
Club Honours : Champions, Anglo Welsh Champions and ‘Invincibles’
Capped v England : George Davies, Dicky Owen, Will Joseph, Dick Jones, Dan Rees
Capped v Scotland : George Davies, Dicky Owen, Will Joseph, Dan Rees, Billy Trew
Capped v Ireland : George Davies, Dicky Owen, Will Joseph
This is a contemporary collage from the end of the historic 1904-05 season showing the Swansea 1st team players and Committee. The original picture is at the Clubhouse in St Helens. In this version, the original text and portraits which were much faded, have been digitally restored (Nov 2010).
1904-05 Swansea RFC 1st XV – “INVINCIBLES”
A recently discovered and restored photo of the 1st XV in 1904-05 under Frank ‘Genny’ Gordon.
Back row (L to R): Bob Dowdle (Trainer), Dai “Port Tennant” Davies, W H Hunt, Dai “Mumbles” Davies, F E Perkins (Sec.), Will Joesph, J Aubrey Smith, W Cole, Fred Scrine, W J Bancroft (Touch judge).
2nd Row (L to R): T Lancey, Dan Rees, W J Trew, F J Gordon (C), Willie Arnold, Will Parker, D J Thomas.
Front Row (L to R): R M Owen, George Davies, R H Jones. (Club Archive).
This is the season of Swansea’s famous ‘Invincibles’. The team captained by Frank ‘Genny’ Gordon went undefeated throught the whole season and finished squarely atop the Anglo-Welsh table with a record of 28 wins, 4 draws and NO DEFEATS in 32 matches. In 21 of the matches, the opposition failed to register any points against Swansea. A look at the fixtures and results image below illustrates the scale of Swansea’s dominance in this season and the magnitude of the achievement.
Frank Gordon joined Swansea’s 1st XV in 1894, and spent several seasons playing for the “All whites” before succeeding Billy Bancroft as the captain of the first XV for 1901-02. . He would captain Swansea over four seasons (1901-02, 1902-03, 1904-05 & 1905-06) when Swansea won the Welsh championship twice, including the 1904/05 “invincible” season when Swansea finished unbeaten by all club opposition. His captaincy in 1902-03 saw Swansea finish as runners up. Gordon stood aside in 1903-04 to allow long serving Will Parker the honour of captaincy. (Club Archive)
T C Palmer, taylors of Swansea, announced that they would be providing suits for the town’s champion rugby team, this marking the team’s dominance in sport and presumably their own desire to associate with such success. But would the Swansea team be able to justify this accolade and retain the title again?
Frank “Genny” Gordon who was elected captain of the 1st XV, had stood aside in 1903-04 to allow long serving ‘All White’ Will Parker the honour. Parker had raised the bar for the Swansea team and Gordon was the only choice to attempt to match the previous season’s success.
With the level of expectation so high, it was generally accepted that opponents were raising their game when playing Swansea and visitors Gloucester bore this out at St Helens in October with the home side winning by a single Dan Rees unconverted try. Following this, Swansea played Llanelli away and this game marked the opening of the West Wales side’s new home at Stradey Park. The day’s honours however went to the visitors by a goal and a try to nil. A mark of this season was to be the great defensive record established and Cardiff in the next match exemplified this by failing to score at all with Swansea’s Billy Trew and Dick Jones in fine form. After beating Aberavon (2 goals & 2 tries to nil), 2,000 Swansea supporters took the train to Newport to see their side mesmerise the Usksiders with a dazzling display of combination and accuracy. Another clean sheet and a win resulted. After eight matches, Swansea were yet to concede a single point!
These ‘Mourning Cards’ were a traditional novelty at this period and though printed prior to the match, in this case proved prophetic as Swansea won by 2 goals & 2 tries to nil. (Club Archive)
The annual West Country tour began with leading English side Devonport Albion becoming the first side to score points (a first half try) against the ‘All Whites’ and though the visitors rallied in the second half, Albion achieved a creditable draw. Plymouth felt the backlash as Swansea won by 3 goals and 2 tries to a single try, George Davies in fine form with the boot. His move from centre to full-back apon the retirement of the great Billy Bancroft had seen him gain Welsh caps in 1900 and 1901 at centre. His play this season was to see this Swansea stonemason’s deserved recall to the National side for all three internationals, this time at full-back. A drawn match at Leicester ended in controversy as the home side were awarded a scrum ON the goal line instead of 5 yards out. The resulting ‘try’ was disallowed but a later appeal by Leicester was upheld denying Swansea a win. Leicester complained that they’d not been given the opportunity to convert the try but the try had been contrary to the laws of the game in the first place.
Back in Wales, Newport’s visit to St Helens ended in a 3 tries to one victory for the home side despite Swansea playing with 14 men for most of the game. Three-quarter Willie Arnold – now living and working in London but returning to turn out for Swansea when he could – suffered a severe break of the leg early on which absented him for some time from the Swansea side. Fred Scrine, that versatile wing forward, stepped in to fill the gap in the three-quarter line to his great credit.
With Watsonians making their annual Christmas visit from Scotland (and losing by 2 goals and 5 tries to nil), Swansea ended the year atop the Anglo-Welsh table above Devonport Albion and Blackheath – still unbeaten!
A Stand season ticket from the Invincible 1904-05 season (Club Archive).
Bristol were put to the sword in the New Year (47 – 3) as were Llanelli and Newport. Cardiff’s visit to St Helens proved to be a tougher prospect though with the ‘Blue and Blackings’ in a rich vein of form themselves. Swansea skipper Frank Gordon sealed a home win with a solo try, pursued by half the Cardff side. On 25th February, Devonport Albion came to Swansea as confirmed English Champions in a match billed (prematurely) as a clash between English and Welsh Champions. The match which drew a crowd of 25,000 saw Swansea win by 11 points to nil!
In April a strong Stade Francais side were to trace the footsteps of earlier Stade sides in visiting St Helens only to succumb (5 goals and 2 tries to a single try) to a rampant Swansea side. This was followed by wins over English heavyweights Gloucester and Bristol, both of whom failed to score in return. The visiting Barbarians were beaten at St Helens on 22nd April by 26 points to 6.
So it was that Irish visitors Belfast Collegians had the dubious honour of being Swansea’s last opponents of the 1904-05 season. With Swansea winning, the referee stopped the game at St Helens with only a minute left for play. The crowd thought the match had ended but the stoppage was to allow both the referee and the Belfast Collegians to congratulate the Swansea team!
Dan Rees had ended the season as top try scorer (30 tries).
The fixtures & results from 1904-05 emphasise the dominance of Swansea, especially in the few points conceeded and number of clean sheets kept. (Club Archive)
“The Height Of Their Ambition!” reads this newspaper cartoon of the period, emphasising the impression the “Invincible” season had in the press. (Club Archive)
On the international scene,six Swansea players had turned out for Wales this season. On 14th January 1905 Wales scored 7 tries to humble England by 25 points to nil at Cardiff Arms Park in front of 30,000. George Davies at full-back converted two of them. He was joined by Swansea team mates Dick Jones and Dicky Owen at half-back and Will Joseph in the forwards. Dick Jones had especially shone, creating multiple scoring chances for Wales that day and scoring one try himself.
Scotland were beaten at Inverleith, Edinburgh by 6 points to 3 on 4th February 1905. George Davies was again joined by Will Joseph but Dick Jones had broken his instep at Newport two weeks after the England match and was not to play rugby again till 2nd November 1907. He was replaced at outside-half by Swansea’s Billy Trew who partnered his Swansea team mate Dicky Owen. Dan Rees played in the centre. This was to be his last International as he went to professional side Hull Kingstone Rovers in October 1905.
George Davies made his Swansea debut in 1896-97 as a centre but took the full-back mantle over when Billy Bancroft finally retired (1902-03). He played 9 times for Wales, as a centre in 1900 and 1901, then at full-back in the Triple Crown side of 1905. he played in Six Championship winning Swansea sides and was top points scorer for the club in 1897-98 with 61 points. (Club Archive)
On 11th March 1905 Wales beat Ireland at St Helens by 10 points to 3 and so claimed their fourth Triple Crown (following from 1893, 1900 & 1902). Wales had come back from an early Irish try to score twice in the first half with the wind behind them. Will Joseph was again chosen to play in the pack and George Davies gained the last of his nine caps for Wales this day. With Dan Rees and Billy Trew out injured, Mountain Ash fly-half Wyndham Jones partnered Swansea’s Dicky Owen and scored a try in his only match for Wales. Controversy has surrounded the match as Dan Rees had withdrawn from the centre position ‘injured’ to allow the popular but uncapped Swansea skipper Frank Gordon to gain a cap at his home ground. The Welsh selectors though, took umbrance at the well meaning but irregular stance of the Swansea Club. The great Cardiff three-quarter, Gwyn Nicholls was persuaded out of retirement to fill the position. Although roughly received by Swansea elements in the crowd during the pre-match photograph, he played well to nullify the Irish threat. Poor Frank Gordon, perhaps as a result of his team mates’ well meant interventions, never did gain a Welsh cap but captained Swansea in this great season for the Club and for Wales.
Above: A pull out in a supplementary edition of the South Wales Daily News on 26 April 1905 celebrated Swansea’s great achievement in their Invincible Season of 1904-05. (Club Archive)
The Wales team, captained by Willie Llewellyn( middle row 3rd from left) that beat Ireland at St Helens on 11th March 1905 to claim the Triple Crown for the fourth time. Will Joseph stands 2nd from right in the back row. Dicky Owen is first left in the front row with George Davies, centre of front row. (Club Archive)
The Irish team, captained by C. E. Allen (middle row, 4th from left) pose for a photograph by the Pavilion at St Helens prior to the match which saw Wales win their fourth Triple Crown. (Club Archive)