1897-98 Season

Playing Record : P32, W28, D2, L2, Pts for 467, Pts against 81.

Club Captain : Billy Bancroft

Leading Try Scorer : Dan Rees 20

Leading Points Scorer :< Billy Bancroft 82

Club Honours : Champions

Capped v England : Billy Bancroft (c), Billy Trew, George Davies, Bob Thomas

Capped v Scotland : Billy Bancroft (c), Billy Trew, George Davies, Hopkin Davies

Capped v Ireland : Billy Bancroft (c), Fred Scrine, Hopkin Davies, George Davies, Dicky Owen (d), Dick Jones (d)

(d) = International debut, (c) = captain of international side.

Billy Bancroft was captain for the fifth consecutive season and sixth time overall. This was an achievement equalled only by the great Billy Trew until the professional era a century later. As Welsh Champions, the team was fast maturing into a classic side but could the title be retained by Swansea’s first side of the new century and a ‘hat-trick’ achieved?

W. J. (Billy) Bancroft captained Swansea for a fifth consecutive season in 1900-01. It was his sixth season as captain overall going back to 1893-94, a tremendous record of service. He was also top points scorer in 12 of the 14 seasons he played from 1888 to 1901. He continued to turn out for Swansea when required right into the 1902-03 season. (Club Archive).

With the first defeat coming in November against Newport, Bancroft echoed the players’ thoughts by expressing relief that that the record was gone and a determination to turn the pressure onto opponents for the remainder of the season. In fact Swansea remained undefeated until the final game following this early reverse. In the very next game, Leicester succumbed 16 – 4 with Billy Trew scoring a ‘hat-trick’. 14,000 were present to see Devonport, then Plymouth (13 – 0) beaten on the West Country tour. Neath and Llanelli were overwhelmed on return to Wales though ‘Genny’ Gordon received a traumatic injury as his arm was broken for the second time this season in the game against Llanelli and he was absent for some time from the 1st XV. With further injuries to Bancroft and Trew, the quality of players coming through the 2nd XV was evident as the winning run continued unabated. At the Christmas fixtures, wins over Tudhoe (from County Durham) and Watsonians set up a trouncing of Edinburgh University at New Year by a Swansea side playing fluent football.

These players medals belonged to Bob Thomas and Dickie Owen and relate to the 1900-01 season. Swansea RFC was crowned Welsh Club Champions for the third consecutive season in 1900-01 (Club Archive).



Though visitors Devonport Albion achieved a draw at St Helens in January, the side was back on song for the arrival of Newport at the end of February and the ‘Black and Ambers’ were beaten by 2 tries to nil in front of a huge crowd of nearly 18,000 at St Helens. Newport had arrived unbeaten in the season and were strong challengers for Swansea’s title. Again the ‘Dancing Dicks’ were prominent, outshining their opposing half backs and pushing for International selection.

Swansea emerged from the Midlands tour match against Leicester with a scoreless draw which, under the circumstances – they played most of the game with 14 men – was commendable against the strong English side. Trew was again injured (damaged knee) in this game and was finding himself increasingly the target of defenses unable to hold him otherwise. Owen and Jones again played well at half back and were finally rewarded with International caps against Ireland as Wales half back pairing.

Llanelli were beaten 19 – 3 with the now recovered Gordon scoring a fine try. But Bancroft was absent through injury with the years of service taking their toll. Swansea triumphed away to Cardiff (14 – 8) with centre Dan Rees dropping a goal. The home side took exception to the referee’s performance and he required an escort to leave the Arms Park safely.

The first ever Barbarians side to visit St Helens (click on image below for more information) were beaten at Easter despite fielding a strong contingent from the English national side. This came on the back of Swansea wins over Rockliffe and Belfast College.


The team captained by Newport’s Reg Skrimshire, that played the first Barbarians fixture against Swansea on Easter Sunday, 9th April 1901 at St Helens. Swansea won 11 – 0.
Players, Back Row(L to R): Edgar Elliot, Cecil Boyd, W.N.G. Douglas, George Fraser.
2nd Row(L to R): Jock Hartley, Reginald Forrest, Reg Skrimshire (captain), Tufton Beamish, Herbert Dudgeon, James Franks.
Front Row(L to R): S. G. Wood, Arthur Brettargh, Harry Corley, A. Brown, T. Drysdale. (David Dow Collection).

Whilst the final game was lost to Gloucester (1 try to 2), Swansea had retained their title and achieved a ‘hat-trick’ of Welsh Championships and this despite the frequent injury to key players. Billy Bancroft announced he would not play a full part in next season’s campaign but would be available if injuries required. Forward Bob Thomas also finished playing this season but Bancroft was to contribute with appearances in the 1901-02 season.

Cardiff’s Bert Winfield was called on to play at full-back for Wales in the game against England in 1901 as the Welsh Union had received a telegram supposedly from the 30 cap incumbent Billy Bancroft, (“Regret cannot play tomorrow; influenza – Bancroft”). It was a hoax and Winfield did not gain his first cap till 1903. Bancroft played on and with all his caps consecutive, the hoax telegram must have seemed the only way to dislodge him from the Welsh full back position.

Wales beat England 13 – 0 in Cardiff on 5th January 1901 with Bancroft as captain kicking a conversion. He was joined that day by fellow Swansea team mates George Davies, Billy Trew and Bob Thomas.

On 9th February Scotland put paid to Welsh hopes of a Triple Crown with an 18 – 8 win in Edinburgh. Backs George Davies and Trew along with forward Bob Thomas again joined Billy Bancroft (1 conversion) who skippered the side.

R. M. (Dicky) Owen (left) made his international debut this season for Wales against Ireland at his home ground of St Helens. It was to be the start of an illustrious career on the big stage that would see him win 35 caps as scrum-half, a record for the position that stood till the time of Gareth Edwards. Outside-half R. H. (Dick) Jones (right) joined Dicky Owen in making his international debut in 1901 at St Helens against Ireland. He had an international career spanning the decade, last playing in 1910 and gaining 15 caps. His rugby career was interrupted by a serious foot injury in 1905, keeping him out of action till November 1907. Both players progressed from Swansea’s 2nd XV to the first team in 1899. (Club Archive).

Ireland were visitors at St Helens on 16th March where they were beaten 10 – 9 in front of a crowd of 35,000 by a Wales side sporting 6 Swansea players. Billy Bancroft made his final appearance for Wales, the last of an incredible 33 consecutive caps for his country, all at full back. There were also final caps for forwards Fred Scrine and Hopkin Davies. Centre George Davies gained his 6th cap (of a total of 9 caps) and was joined by the Swansea half back pairing of Dick Jones and Dickie Owen both of who at last got to make their International debut in this game. Arthur Freer who scored a try for Ireland this day was later to play for Aberavon and Swansea.

(Above) Fred Scrine’s Glamorgan cap from 1901 (Club Archive)


This is a dinner menu from the post match Dinner given by the Welsh Football Union to the Irish team and officials at the Royal Hotel in swansea. (Courtesy Ellis Rugby).