Playing Record : P31, W23, D2, L6, Pts for 392, Pts against 82.
Club Captain : Billy Bancroft
Leading Try Scorer : Genny Gordon 15
Leading Points Scorer : George Davies 61
Capped v Ireland : Billy Bancroft (c), Hopkin Davies (d)
Capped v England : Billy Bancroft (c), Hopkin Davies
(d) = International debut, (c) = captain of international side.
Swansea RFC 1st XV 1897-98 Season
Back Row L to R: Harry Ball (Trainer), Livingstone Davies, fred Scrine, Sam Rice, Tom Jackson, David Harries, D Mainwaring ?, Hopkin Davies, W Bowen (Umpire).
2nd Row L to R:Aubrey Jones, Evan James, Frank Gordon, W J Bancroft (captain), Bob Thomas, Will Parker.
Front Row L to R: W J Trew, Dan Rees, George Davies, David James.
With Billy Bancroft retaining the captaincy, scrum half Evan James was elected as his Vice Captain. The appointments scotched rumours of both their departures to the Northern Union. Bancroft was absent from the side till late October through injury and work commitments and was badly missed as the team struggled to play in combination. His return was marked by a scrappy win over Devonport Albion and then Cardiff were defeated at St Helens in front of a crowd of 14,000. The Blue and Blacks were in good form and had been expected to turn Swansea over on their own ground. But Swansea failed to shine against Newport.
The annual tour to the Midlands was traditionally a watershed in the season and with the players together for an extended period, two excellent wins resulted though in very bad weather. Both Leicester and Northampton were beaten and Bancroft’s men returned to Swansea undefeated and in good spirits. The Welsh Trials were held at St Helens and the brothers James made strong claims for their first selection since reinstatement by the WFU and RFU. Evan James took over the captaincy as Bancroft was forced to convalesce for a few weeks following injury in a game against Neath in early December. He reappeared at the fixture at St Helens against traditional Christmas opponents Watsonians.
Wing Frank “Genny” Gordon who was Swansea’s top try scorer in 1897-98 with 15 tries. He made his debut in 1894 and later, went on to captain the club for 5 seasons including the “Invincible” season of 1904-05.
The New Year saw Swansea turn on the style with Bancroft fit and the James’ playing well. London visitors Old Merchant Taylors were well beaten at St Helens and that day also saw a future star of the three quarter line catch the eye as W J (‘Billy’) Trew impressed with his sure handling and support play. Gloucester lost their unbeaten record to Swansea and Bristol were overwhelmed at St Helens in front of 13,000. This rich vein of form at last ended with losses away to Llanelli and at home to a strong Newport side. In March revenge was gained over Llanelli and Cardiff beaten at the Arms Park. Rockliffe and Leicester followed at Easter. Centre George Davies ended the season as leading points scorer (61) largely due to taking over kicking duties from the injured Bancroft. With ‘Genny’ Gordon as leading try scorer (15) and Trew continuing to impress, an exciting side was being built. Surely they could now challenge for honours.
Swansea forward Hopkin Davies made his debut for Wales in 1898 against Ireland. He was to win 4 Welsh caps, the last being in 1901. He first played for Swansea in 1892.
Normal relations were resumed this season with the Irish Rugby Union who had refused to play Wales the previous season due to the ‘Gould Affair’ (see previous season’s introduction text). Scotland still held out and did not play Wales this season but were to resume fixtures in the following season. Forward Hopkin Davies played with Bancroft in the away loss to England (14 -7) having made his International debut in the away win against Ireland (11 – 3), again with Bancroft. Billy Bancroft had captained the Welsh fifteen in both internationals this year and was the second Swansea player to do so, following in the footsteps of Billy Bowen.