Playing Record : P32, W30, D1, L1, Pts for 571, Pts against 38.
Club Captain : Will Parker
Leading Try Scorer : Fred Jowett and Billy Trew 29
Leading Points Scorer : Billy Trew 128
Club Honours : Champions
Capped v England : Dicky Owen, Will Joseph, Dick Jones, DJ Thomas (d)
Capped v Scotland : Dicky Owen, Will Joseph, Dick Jones
Capped v Ireland : Dicky Owen, Dick Jones, Sid Bevan (d)
(d) = International debut, (c) = captain of international side.
The Swansea RFC 1st XV team of 1903-04. The club ended up as champions for the 5th occasion in 6 seasons. The only defeat came at Newport in December. (Club Archive).
At the AGM prior to the 1903-04 season, “The General” Frank Gordon stood aside after two seasons at the helm in favour of Will Parker. After 10 years service as a forward for the club, it was felt Parker deserved the honour. Centre Dan Rees (who some had suggested should take the post) also stood aside pointing out Parker’s greater experience.
The Swansea faithful need not have worried unduly however as Parker led the 1st XV to reclaim the Welsh Championship title they had relinquished to rivals Newport the previous season after four consecutive seasons as Champions. More than this, the playing record of 30 wins from 32 matches with just 1 loss and a draw was the best since the Championship winning side of 1899-1900 (P:32 W:31 D:0 L:1) under W J Bancroft’s guidance. Although the 1904-05 season is remembered as the “Invincible” season, it may be noted that Will Parker’s side won a higher percentage of their games and their record of only 38 points conceded in a season is a club record that remains still and is unlikely to be bettered. Moreover, with Billy Bancroft recently retired but heavily involved in the training of the players, there was experience on and off the field of play.
By the end of October with Neath beaten (30 – 0) and Llaneli at home and then Cardiff away both succumbed by 20 points without reply, Swansea had an account of Played 6, won 6 with 166 points for and nil against. Swansea were winning well and racking up the points but the record shows they were obviously defending stubbornly. Crack English side, Gloucester were beaten by 25 to nil by a Swansea side fielding 10 full international players. Then rivals Newport were beaten at St Helens in front of a crowd of 20,000 supporters, though the Usksiders did besmirch the record books by scoring the first points against the ‘All Whites’ of the season (Pts for: 185 ag: 5). Following this, Neath again, then Cardiff and Leicester all lost to Swansea.
By December Swansea were still unbeaten with 11 wins from 11 matches (pts for: 122, ag: 8) but the record was finally lost away to Newport in a disappointing game by a drop goal to nil in the first match in which Swansea had failed to score. December ended with Devonport Albion being beaten at St Helens followed by another win against traditional Christmas visitors Watsonians.
In 1903-04 Willie Arnold scored 32 tries for Swansea in his first season after moving from Llanelli where he’d scored 35 the previous season. He won his only Welsh cap against Scotland in 1903 as a Llanelli player.
In January 1904, Aberavon were beaten in freezing conditions followed by a win away at Llanelli in front of a crowd of 8,000. Then Newport and Swansea again locked horns, this time at St Helens. With outside half Dick Jones not fully fit, his half back partner Dickie Owen had to cover for him and the diminutive scrum half received much of the attention of the Newport forwards and was unable to distribute to the three quarters, his usual swift service. However, Fred Jowett cheered the home crowd, taking the ball near his own goal line and running the length of the field to score.
In February Swansea beat Cardiff at an Arms Park which resembled a ploughed field with wing forward Fred Scrine injured and Swansea playing with seven forwards for most of the match. All France (built around a core of the Stade Français side) were beaten at the “Princes Park Ground” by 24 points to nil echoing an earlier triumph on French soil at the end of the 1898-99 season. Gloucester’s colours were lowered again before a drubbing of Llanelli by 6 goals and 5 tries (45 – 0). The fourth and final fixture with Newport was won away at Rodney Parade.
There then followed a sterner test as the ‘All Whites’ played 5 matches in 8 days beating Bristol away (15 – 3), Cardiff at home , then Rockliff Bristol at home (40 – 0) followed on 4th April by a Barbarians side (won 23 – 0) and London Welsh at St Helens. It is not surprising then, that the next match which was played away to the high flying Cornish side Devonport Albion resulted in a scoreless draw with a somewhat lacklustre Swansea struggling to overcome the powerful West Country forwards.
The last game of the season which was away to Aberavon was in fact an extra fixture arranged through Will Parker to help the cash struck Aberavon Clubs coffers. The hosts benefited from a large gate though they lost the match to Swansea who had regained the title of “Welsh Champions”. Fred Jowett had finished as top try scorer jointly with Billy Trew on 29 tries each. Trew was the top points scorer with 128.
Earlier in the season, Billy Trew, along with Dicky Owen and Dick Jones had been invited to put their names forward for the English Rugby Union Tour to New Zealand along with Sid Bevan and Fred Jowett. All had originally accepted but in the strictly amateur days of this era, few could afford to leave home and their work for the five months or more of such an extensive tour. Owen, Jones and Trew all had to withdraw. Fred Jowett and Sid Bevan did however go and thus became Swansea’s first ‘Lions’.
William James Parker was a forward who played on two occasions for Wales against England and Scotland in 1899. Will made his debut for Swansea in 1893 and captained the club in the 1903-04 season when they reclaimed the Championship they had held for four consecutive seasons, being runners up to Newport in 1902-03. He was a member of the Swansea side that narrowly lost(4 – 3) to the first All Blacks in 1905. After he retired, he served on the committee of the club.
On 9th January 1904 England and Wales drew 14 all at Welford Road in the first international of the season. Swansea was represented in the Wales team by Dickie Owen and Dick Jones at in the half back positions and Will Joseph and D J Thomas in the forwards. Thomas, a Collier hailing from Dunvant was gaining his first of 10 caps. The Welsh players, who had a match winning try by London Welsh wing Teddy Morgan disallowed, felt that referee J Crawford Findlay of Scotland, was over enthusiastic in penalising them. Dickie Owen who was repeatedly penalised for “crooked feeds” to the scrum, finally asked his opposite number Walter Butcher to perform the task.
Wales beat Scotland at the St Helens Ground on February 6th 1904 by 21 points to 3 in a game partially marred by spectators invading the pitch. Owen and Jones again provided the half back pairing, Dick Jones scoring a try. Will Joseph played in the pack.
Ireland beat Wales for the first time since 1899 in their meeting at Balmoral, Belfast by 14 points to 12. Dick Jones and Dickie Owen were joined by Swansea team mate, forward Sid Bevan who gained his only Welsh cap this day. Wales again fell foul of referee Findlay who disallowed Dick Jones’ potentially match winning try and forward Alfred Brice of Aberavon consequently received an 8 month ban for swearing at the referee!