After 4 seasons as champions, the club ended up as runners-up in 1902/03.
Playing Record : P28, W24, D0, L4, Pts for 619, Pts against 68.
Club Captain : Genny Gordon
Leading Try Scorer : Fred Jowett 42 (all time club record)
Leading Points Scorer : Fred Jowett 126
Club Honours : Runners-Up
Capped v England : Dicky Owen, Will Joseph, Fred Jowett (d), Dan Rees
Capped v Scotland : Dicky Owen, Will Joseph, Dan Rees, Billy Trew
Capped v Ireland : Dicky Owen, Will Joseph
Swansea RFC 1st XV 1902-03.
Back row : D Davies, AE Freear, DJ Thomas, Sam Rice (touch judge),
FE Perkins(secretary), JA Smith, E Morgan, H Ball.
Middle row : Sid Bevan, Geo Davies (vice captain), FJ Gordon (captain),
Dan Rees, F Scrine, W Joseph.
Front row : W Cole, WJ Bancroft, R Owen, R Jones, WJ Parker, WJ Trew.
Frank Gordon was re-elected for his second term as captain for 1902-03. After four seasons as Champions, the message was to just keep on playing football the ‘Swansea Way’ with flair. Fellow three-quarter, the Welsh International George Davies was elected Vice captain and the services of Billy Bancroft were promised should both of these players fall injured but Bancroft saw himself as only playing in emergencies after twelve seasons service with Swansea and his involvement in the Cricket side of things at St Helens increased. The spectre of “northern poachers” reared its head again with former All White wing Billy McCutcheon down south, acting as agent for Oldham RLFC. South Wales had regularly been a happy hunting ground for talented players in need of money and Swansea had their share of losses to the cash books of Rugby League.
On the field, early wins were secured against Bridgend (44 – nil) and Llanelli (17 – nil). In the latter game Dickie Owen scored his first try for two years, a surprising acknowledgement of his unselfish play. Big crowds were now queuing to see Swansea play and the match away to Gloucester produced a ground record for the season. Cardiff were destroyed at St Helens by two goals and four tries to nil, the fourth being a sensational effort from Billy Trew.
In mid November Llanelli were beaten by ten points and hopes of a fifth successive Championship ran high in the town. However, defeat came at the hands of regular opponents Devonport Albion by a try to nil in the first game of the annual West Country Tour. Owen had to leave the field for some time in this game with a cut above the eye needing treatment . The All Whites had been at full strength for this fixture and it was a warning that retention of the title could not be taken for granted. Despite having most of the play, Swansea failed to score.But as the season progressed, wing Fred Jowett in his second season at St Helens, was amassing a fair tally of tries which would see him end the season as top points scorer ( a record dominated by Bancroft for over a decade) with 126 points and Swansea’s all time record try scorer with an astonishing 42 tries for 1902-03. Plymouth were played and beaten on the West Country Tour and Owen was again a casualty in the game against Newport and though he returned to play, head swathed in bandages, the game was lost. Over the Christmas period the Irish side Cork Constitutional were played and beaten at St Helens (42 – nil) despite having arrived with a reputation.
The English side Bristol fell prey to a Swansea side back in its stride and in mid January another first was recorded at St Helens as a Canadian touring side were beaten on a freezing cold day by six tries to nil. The game was enabled to proceed due to the diligence of the groundsman and staff who had laid tons of straw on the pitch to prevent it freezing. It was the only game played in Wales that day. Bancroft is recorded as having played though it was memorable for him only in that he missed all six attempts at goal (one in front of the posts!) none of the six tries being majorised. Neath were beaten at The Gnoll by 26 point to nil before Swansea again fell foul of Championship rivals Newport at Rodney Parade at the end of February by a drop goal to nil. This left the Championship wide open again as a two horse race. The Midlands Tour saw further wins over Leicester and Northampton with Jowett again in fine scoring form. Then London Welsh and Bristol were both heavily defeated and with confidence high, The Whites went to Cardiff only to lose at the Arms Park whilst Newport went on winning. Newport were declared Welsh Champions after Swansea had held the title for four consecutive seasons. The blow was softened however by a win over the visiting Barbarians on April 11th (28 – 0) and the defeat of the newly crowned ‘Black & Ambers’ at St Helens in the third meeting of these two rivals at season’s end.
This condolence card is one of many distributed at sporting events of the time. It marks the defeat of New Welsh Champions Newport on their end of season visit to St Helens. The sentiment that the Championship was only “on loan” after 4 consecutive seasons in the hands of Swansea, was echoed in the printed text –
Newport – “Who, though winning two out of the three matches played during the season, were soundly whacked at Swansea on Saturday April 4th.”
” Oh Championship, Oh Championship, Newport claimeth thee, From Swansea who have for four years Champions been, And though today were beaten, how sad, how sad are we, That we had not crossed your line once in season 1903.”
In a rout of England by 21 points to 5 at St Helens on 10th January 1903 – Newport forward Jehoida Hodges moved to the wing after the captain Pearson left injured and scored a hat trick of tries – Dickie Owen also got on the score sheet with a try. Will Joseph played in the pack and Dan Rees got his second cap of five at centre. February 7th saw four Swansea players (Billy Trew, Dan Rees, Dickie Owen and Will Joseph) in the Welsh side that lost to a Scottish fifteen in foul weather in their own Triple Crown year. Willie Arnold who was to join Swansea in the following season and score 32 tries, won his only Welsh cap in this game but as a Llanelli player. Wales beat Ireland on 14thMarch by 18 points to nil. Owen and Joseph represented Swansea in the Welsh side that scored six tries in the mud at Cardiff this despite Newport forward Boots breaking his collar bone (he played on till half time).
William Frederick Jowett first played for Swansea in the 1900-01 season and his 42 tries scored for Swansea in the 1902-03 season is still a club record. He won his only Welsh cap in this season and in 1904 became Swansea’s first ‘Lion’ along with Sid Bevan on the tour to Austarlia and New Zealand.
The Canadian Touring team of 1902-03. They lost at St Helens to Swansea on 11th January 1903 by 18 – 0. (Courtesy Frederic Humbert – http://rugby-pioneers.blogs.com/ ).