Playing Record : P32, W25, D4, L3, Pts for 503, Pts against 62.
Club Captain : Genny Gordon
Leading Try Scorer : Dan Rees 20
Leading Points Scorer : Billy Bancroft 86
Club Honours : Champions
Capped v England : Dick Jones, Dicky Owen, Will Joseph (d)
Capped v Scotland : Dicky Owen, Will Joseph
Capped v Ireland : Dicky Owen, Will Joseph
(d) = International debut, (c) = captain of international side.
Swansea RFC 1st XV 1901-02 Season
P32, W25, D4, L3. Pts for: 503, ag: 62
Honours: Welsh Club Champions for 4th consecutive season.
Back Row (standing) L to R: Sam Rice (touch judge), D [Mumbles] Davies, F E Perkins (Sec), W J Bancroft, D Davies, W T Farr (Treas), D J Thomas, W R Arnold, Will Joseph, Harry Ball (trainer).
2nd Row (sitting) L to R: Sid Bevan, Fred Scrine, Dan Rees, F J Gordon (captain), George Davies, A E Freer, W J Trew.
Front Row L to R: W J Parker, R M Owen, P Lockman, R Jones. (Club Archive).
Having completed his apprenticeship as Vice-captain, Frank Gordon was elected to the captaincy of the 1st XV for the 1901-02 season, a position he was to retain for 4 of the following 5 seasons as Swansea stood almost untouchable as the most consistently strong side in Britain. Both he and Billy Trew had missed large parts of the previous season injured, when the All Whites had been crowned Welsh Champions nonetheless. Now both were fully fit and though forward Bob Thomas had retired, Billy Bancroft continued to be available having called it a day on his International career after 33 consecutive caps at full back (11 times as captain). In fact the irrepressible Bancroft was again to end the season as Swansea’s top points scorer. The Swansea half back pairing of Dickie Owen and Dick Jones and by now been baptized (Ireland 1901) as an International pairing as well.
Early games reflected the optimism of an established side with Bridgend beaten by 59 points to nil (10 tries). Then Dick Jones was injured at St Helens against Mountain Ash with full back George Davies injured in the same game. Billy Trew’s stop start early career took another turn as he was whisked off to Cardiff to see a specialist and a new face, Irish international A E Freer joined the All Whites to cover his position on the wing. His value was immediately evident as he was prominent in wins over Llanelli and then Neath (41 – nil). 2000 supporters travelled to Cardiff contributing to a then record club gate at the Arms Park but a nil nil draw resulted on the scoreboard. With 10,000 watching the next game at Stradey Park, Swansea were attracting big crowds wherever they played as every opponent raised their game to try and beat the Champions. At this time the South Wales Daily post mentions Dickie Owen by his nickname “the bullet” for the first time as Swansea played with 14 men for most of this game. Other sobriquets were to follow (“the Swansea marvel”, “pocket hercules” and “Swansea oracle” due to his predictions of final scores).
A. E. (Albert) Freear was an Irish international wing who moved to Swansea and played for the All Whites from 1901 to 1905. He arrived in time to temporarily replace the injured Billy Trew in the 1st XV and made a sound impression on the Swansea supporters with his nose for the tryline. His last international cap for Ireland had been against Wales at his future home ground of St Helens where he scored a try. He later moved to Hull Kingston Rovers and professional rugby.
Swansea’s form in November and December was not considered by the faithfull to be at its best but the team continued to win and stood at the top of the table at the end of 1901 with 11 wins from 14 games and NO DEFEATS. A large crowd attended the traditional Christmas visit south of Watsonians to St Helens where they were beaten. The Old Wesley Club from Dublin received a drubbing on Boxing Day. Reigning Glamorgan League Champions Pontypridd also fell victim over the holiday period. January saw a hard fought win away at Leicester where Swansea’s pack were reduced at one point to 6, Fred Scrine being sidelined by a kick to the head. This month also saw the unbeaten record fall to Newport in a close match by a 3 point margin. Next up were Neath, who succumbed in no small part to an outrageous drop goal from by Will Joseph from near the touchline on his own 25. The second defeat of the season then followed as Llanelli took the honours, injuries forcing the All Whites into a different pattern of play. ‘Genny’ Gordon, refusing to allow this to deflect him, rallied his team for the run-in to the end of the season. Aberavon were beaten and a draw resulted from the return fixture with Newport. A convincing win over Cardiff was only that team’s second defeat of the season. In this game, Swansea full back Lockman played most of the game with a dislocated jaw! Despite a narrow loss to the powefull Devonport Albion side on the annual West Country Tour, the last 5 games were all won including an emphatic victory over the Barbarians at Easter by 1 goal and 4 tries to nil.
Wing three-quarter Peter Lockman first played for Swansea’s 1st XV in the 1898-99 season, moving up from the 2nd XV at the same time as his more illustrious team mates Dick Jones and Dicky Owen. Although not as well known as some of the Swansea backs and uncapped, he contributed to the Championship winning side that season as well as that of 1901-02 when injuries hit the team. His dedication was emphasised by his continuing to play at full-back (covering for injury to George Davies) with a dislocated jaw, in a match against Cardiff. (Club Archive).
Swansea were crowned Welsh Club Champions for the FOURTH SUCCESSIVE season having lost just 3 matches and managed without influential players for substantial periods. Centre Dan Rees finished as top try scorer with 20 and Billy Bancroft marked his last full season by finishing as top points scorer for the last time with 86 points. The strength in depth at St Helens was evident in the ability to fill the places of proven Internationals and in no small part due to the success of the 2nd XV who had a superb season themselves with 17 wins from 21 matches and only 2 defeats and 2 draws (340 points for with just 47 against in 1901-02).
Will Joseph was a powerfull Swansea forward with great skills for such a tall man. A tin plate worker by trade, he graduated to the Swansea 1st XV from Morriston RFC, first playing for the All Whites in 1899. He won the first of his 16 Welsh caps aged 25 in 1902 against England at Blackheath. He can lay claim to having played the 1905 All Blacks three times within a fortnight! He turned out for Glamorgan, Swansea and for Wales in the famous 3 – 0 win. He was an undeserved casualty in the aftermath of the unexpected Welsh loss to South Africa in 1906 having been one of the few forwards to play well.
On 11th January 1902 Wales beat England at Blackheath by 9 points to 8 with the winning goal kick awarded after Dickie Owen had enticed his opposite number offside with a feint to pass late in the game. Owen’s cousin and Swansea team mate, steelworker Will Joseph played in the pack, making his international debut, and his Swansea half back partner Dick Jones joined him at outside half in this game. 1st February saw Wales win in Cardiff against Scotland by 14 points to 5 with Owen and Joseph again playing but Newport skipper George Llewellyn Lloyd preferred to partner Owen at half back. Will Joseph and Dickie Owen both played in the Triple Crown winning match at Lansdowne Road Dublin, on 8th March when Wales beat Ireland by 15 points to nil.