1879-80 Season


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Club Captain : A. H. Richardson
Club Honours :South Wales Challenge Cup Winners (1st occasion)

Swansea RFC 1st XV 1879-80 Season

This is the oldest known image of the Swansea Rugby Football team.

The Swansea team who won the South Wales Challenge Cup for the first time in 1880. They beat Lampeter College at Carmarthen on Saturday 3rd March 1880 by 2 tries and 3 touch downs to 1 touch in goal. Swansea beat Newport in the first round by a disputed try. Due to the disagreement over this result, Newport refused to pass back the SWCC trophy which explains why it has been superimposed in this photograph by the original photographer a Mr Andrews from Swansea (1880). The photograph was taken at the St Helens Ground, Swansea with the pavilion in the background.
Back Row (L to R): F J Carlyle, C L Bath, F F Meager, W M Roberts, Wm Bancroft (senr).
2nd Row (L to R):J Doggett, F C Jones, R H BrownA H Richardson (captain), D Gwynn, W H A Walters, E M Jones, T Clarke.
Front Row (L to R): W H Gwynn, E Clark, S Croot. (Image courtesy of City & County of Swansea: Swansea Museum Collection).

A H Richardson was elected as captain for the 1879-80 season which was to be the most successful to date. Richardson had played in the Club’s very first rugby game in 1874 and was very active in Swansea Cricket Club which gave birth to Swansea Football Club. He also represented Swansea at the founding in September 1875, of the South Wales Football Club (SWFC) along with previous Swansea captains Charlie Chambers and Fred Meager (see 1875-76 season).

In February 1880 Swansea defeated Lampeter College by 2 tries to nil at Ystrad near Carmarthen to win the South Wales Challenge Cup, forerunner of the WRU Challenge cup. On their arrival back in Swansea the team were met by a band and cheered through the Town’s streets to the Workingmen’s Institute which most belonged to and which had stood as an unofficial Clubhouse for Swansea Rugby Football Club in earlier days. The Swansea’s second XV grew out of the Workingmen’s XV following Swansea’s departure to St Helens. Swansea had beaten Neath after a replay at St Helens to lay to rest the dissapointment of losing at the seventh attempt by both sides to settle the tie the previous season. Cup holders Newport were also beaten in the competition at Bridgend in awful weather to illustrate the improved form of the Swansea side who had been expected to succumb to the powerfull Gwent side. A telegram was sent to Swansea at the final whistle and skipper Richardson was carried by team mates down Swansea High Street when the train with team and supporters returned.

This was the medal presented to the Swansea team on winning the South Wales Challenge Cup in 1880. The names of the players on the medal are as follows: Left hand column: C L Bath, R H Brown, F J Carlisle, E Clark, T Clark, S Croot, J Doggett and D Gwynn.  Right hand column: W H Gwynn, E M Jones, P C Jones, F F MeagerA H Richardson (Captain), W M Roberts and WHS Walters.  Umpire: J C James. (Club Archive).

A Cambrian match report of 27th Feb 1880 tells of a close game against Llanelli (19th Feb) in which David Gwynn, in his second match for Swansea, broke the deadlock with a dropped goal and advises that despite his youth (17 or 18 yrs old) he would surely keep his place in the first XV. The observer had been right – David had now made his entrance in senior club rugby and became the leading Swansea try scorer in 1887-8,8 leaving for Oldham in 1890 with 6 Welsh caps. Swansea ended the season with their first piece of silverware, the South Wales Challenge Cup having knocked out Newport, winners of the first two finals, early on. 10 wins from 12 games perhaps, better illustrated the improved performance this season under Richardson’s stewardship. At the AGM that September, Secretary H R Knill was able to look back on the season and announce that the Club had scored 13 goals, 21 tries, “over 70 touches down” and 5 touches in goal – whilst conceding just 2 goals, 4 tries, 11 touches down and 1 touch in goal.

In March of 1880 a significant meeting was held at the Tenby Hotel in Swansea and attended by representatives from Swansea, Newport, Cardiff, Neath, Llanelli, Pontypridd, Chepstow, Haverford West and Llandaff. Moves to instigate a full international match against England were discussed. The existing South Wales Football Union (successor to the SWFC) was failing to orchestrate its representative matches and Club games were coinciding with SWFU games preventing the best players representing the Union side. Records were not kept but an understanding was reached that a Welsh team was to be raised to play England. This planned action was to undermine the existing Welsh governing body and hasten the metamorphosis into the WFU (WRU). The Welsh Rugby Football Union (WRFU) which later officially formed at the Castle Hotel Neath (12th Mar1881) was thus preceeded by the first Welsh International match ( v England at Blackheath – 19th Feb 1881). So for convenience, it has always been accepted that the modern WRFU was formed in March 1880 at the Tenby Hotel Swansea, thus legitimising the caps awarded for the game. This was a significant honour for the Swansea Club which, along with Newport was the moving force in the creation of the WRFU and this was reflected in the choice of St Helens as the venue for the first home Welsh International game (1882).

This Swansea cap is dated 1880 and belonged to forward, Tom Clark. It is the earliest dated cap in the Club’s possesion. Tom made his debut for Swansea in 1875.