THE STORY OF SWANSEA RFC
IN THE 1906-07 SEASON
Playing Record : P30, W24, D3, L3, Pts for 304, Pts against 63.
Club Captain : Billy Trew
Leading Try Scorer : Billy Trew 13
Leading Points Scorer : Jack Bancroft 81
Capped v South Africa : Dicky Owen, Will Joseph
Capped v England : Dicky Owen (c), Billy Trew
Capped v Scotland : Dicky Owen, Billy Trew (C)
Capped v Ireland : None *
(d) = International debut, (c) = captain of international side.
Swansea RFC 1st XV 1906-07 Season
Back Row L to R: R Dowdle, F J Gordon, M H Hunt, D J Thomas, George Hayward, F E Perkins(Sec.), Ivor Morgan, D Davies, W J Davies.
2nd Row L to R: J A Smith, P Hopkins, L Davies, W J Trew(Capt.), J Bancroft, F Scrine, W Arnold, W Joseph(Vice Capt.).
Front Row L to R: R M Owen, H Toft. (Club Archive)
Billy Trew had been in the first team as a youngster since 1898 and was now ready to assume the mantle of captain at St Helens. This was to be the start of a five season run in that role. Trew stood down in 1911-12 to pass the honour to Dickie Owen in his last season, then resumed the captaincy for a record 6th season (equalled only by Billy Bancroft) in 1912-13. But now at the start of his first term, Trew announced his intention to encourage fast and open play at every opportunity. It was what everyone, players, committee and supporters wanted to hear. But it would not be easy with the disruption of the intuitive half-back pairing of Dickie Owen and Dick Jones with continuing trouble to outside-half Jones' foot injury. Also record try scorer Fred Jowett was being lured away by scouts in the professional game 'up north'. Other players were said to be in their sights too as Swansea's star Internationals were all approached with offers.
An early season victory against title rivals Cardiff is marked by this mourning card. The cards were very popular at sporting events at the turn of the 20th century and being printed prior to the event, were not always accurate, but entirely so in this case. (Club Archive)
The first South African team to tour Britain and France in 1906-07. They played 29 matches, winning 26 and drawing with England. Only two matches were lost, to Scotland and Cardiff. (Club Archive)
On December 1st 1906 Wales lost to the first South African Touring Team who became known as the Springboks by 11 points to nil at St Helens in front of a crowd of 40,000. Wales had expected to overcome the tourists and the shock defeat marked the end for some experienced Welsh players as the selectors took out the public's wrath on the forwards. Swansea forward Will Joseph (16 caps) was a casualty who never played again for Wales, this despite the general acknowledgement that he and Newport's Cliff Pritchard were the only Welsh forwards to have played to their usual high standards. The other Swansea representative, Scrum half Dickie Owen however went on to amass 35 Caps . Owen and Cardiff's gifted fly-half Percy Bush were paired together at half back for this game amidst much criticism on the selection. Both players being innovators and influential players on the pitch, their clashing styles never complemented each other. The logic behind this pairing fell almost entirely apon the historic win over New Zealand the year before where they had been picked together. They were never to partner each other again for Wales though both gained further caps.In fact the South Africans were a very much better side than had been anticipated by a Wales team who had defeated New Zealand just a year before. The Springboks won 26 of their 29 matches played, losing only two and drawing one. Swansea were denied the opportunity to have a Club match against the Tourists due to so many Club applications to play them. This caused general surprise in South Wales as Swansea were the only undefeated Club side in Wales by this point in the season having beaten Cardiff (14 - 0) and Newport (6 - 0), both of whom gained fixtures with the Springboks. The Club made moves to negotiate themselves a fixture with South Africa but it could not be fitted in. The reason the International was played at St Helens was meant in some way to make ammends for this when most felt that the Swansea side would have given the tourists a better game than Wales.
Above is a collection of player autograohs from the first touring Springboks in 1906 including six players from the side who beat wales at St Helens captained by P J Roos. (Courtesy: Ellis Rygby)
On October 31st a Glamorgan side largely made up of established Welsh International players had played the tourists at Cardiff Arms Park and lost by 6 points to 3. Swansea's Will Joseph and Dickie Owen played in this game also and were joined by 'All Whites' team mates Billy Trew and Harry Toft. Will Joseph scored Glamorgan's try.
Swansea held their unbeaten record over Christmas and into the New Year, only losing it at last on the annual tour to the Midlands when they lost at Welford Road by 12 points to 3 to a determined Leicester side. A further defeat back in Wales to Neath meant that by the end of March when over 3,500 Swansea supporters travelled to the capital for the game with Cardiff, both sides had lost just twice and the Championship was at stake. Cardiff took the spoils on that day and Swansea would have to settle for the record of 24 wins and just 3 losses and 3 draws from 30 games. Billy Trew's doctrine in his first season as captain, of sticking to a style of flowing football had been vindicated despite the absence of such players as Dan Rees and Fred Jowett (gone to Hull Kingston Rovers and the proffessional game) and long term injury to Dick Jones. Centre, Harry Toft had stood in for him and showed himself a great clubman by willingly playing in whatever position asked.
This is a young supporters' autograph book with sketches, drawings and several unknown signiatures. But this page near the beginning has the autographs of the swansea Team which played Leicester at Welford Road in Feb 1907. Among the famous names seen here are (left column): Jack Bancroft, Fred Scrine, W H hunt, F J "Genny" Gordon, F E Perkins (Secretary), Billy Trew, Dickie Owen, D J Thomas, L Davies, Phil Hopkins, Edgar morgan, 'not known', Bob Dowdle (trainer), right column): Harry Toft, Ivor Morgan, J Davies, Aubrey Smith, W Bowen, Daniel Guy(?), Fred Rees, Will Joseph, M O Begley (?), D Ivor Lewis. The book's owner has written: "These autographs were made at the Grand Hotel Leicester after Swansea lost their Invincible record Feb 16 1907." The ''Invincible'' record refers to the 1906-7 season up to that point as opposed to the 1904-05 season when they were unbeaten throughout. But the famous Invincible Season was recent enough in this young supporter''s memory for the phrase to be appropriate. (Club Archive)
A Swansea veterans team from February 1907 at St Helens.
Back row (L to R): Mr E Copus, Billy Bowen, Eddie Morgan, D J Thomas, C Hughes, A Jones, Harry Bevan, W T Farr.
2nd Row (L to R): Syd Jones, Mr Matty, Thomas Russell, W Grey, A Lewis, L Davies, Arthur whapham, Will Parker, Fred Meager, J Prescott, Dr Reid.
3rd Row (L to R): Tom Jackson, J Davies, (Llandeilo), Teddy Thorogood, Frank "Genny" Gordon, T Chegwidden, Dick Jones, Hopkin Davies, Teddy Bishop.
Front Row (L to R): Harry Ball (Trainer)[ obscured], W Hill, Jack Davies (Pontardawe), Syd Bevan.
Some famous names are among the group of 'All Whites' who played a charity match in February 1907 at St Helens (raising £100). Among them were current players Dick Jones and D J Thomas. The image is restored from a badly damaged original donated from the family of Thomas Russell. (see below).
On 12th January 1907 Wales played England at St Helens and romped home scoring six tries to nil (22 - 0). A surprisingly small crowd were present to see local hero Dicky Owen captain Wales for the first time. Billy Trew played at outside half for Wales in this match ensuring intelligent distribution which allowed the two wings to grab four of the six tries scored (three in each half).
This is an original rogramme from the Wales v England match at St Helens on 12th January 1907 with Swansea's Dickie Owen depicted on the cover marking his first match as captain of Wales. (courtesy: Ellis Rugby)
Example of a mourning card such as were handed out at the Wales v England match at St Helens on 12th January 1907. Dickie Owen did "lead his team to fame" as England were put to the sword by six tries to nil. (Club Archive)
The international against Scotland at Inverleith, Edinburgh was lost 6 points to 3 with Cardiff full-back Bert Winfield having to leave the pitch injured and Wales down to fourteen. Winfield had scored Wales' points with a penalty. Wales had been playing with seven forwards and eight backs to a plan which Scotland destroyed with the extra man. Wales were never to field eight to seven again. Swansea's Billy Trew captained Wales for the first time this day and was joined at half back by Dickie Owen.
When Wales played Ireland at Cardiff Arms Park on 9th March 1907, * it was the first time since George Lockwood Morris became Swansea's first Welsh cap in 1882 that no Swansea player participated. Swansea's roving forward Fred Scrine had been selected to play but received a suspension for 'improper launguage' to a referee in a club match. Swansea and Wales captain Billy Trew had felt the suspension was excessive and withdrawn himself from selection in protest. He recommended his Swansea team mate Harry Toft, also an outside-half, to stand in for hmself. The Welsh selectors feeling, not for the first time (see 1904-05 season), pressurised by the Swansea club, decided to replace Fred Scrine with Cardiff's Reggie Gibbs in the 'roving' role. At this point, Dickie Owen, selected for the scrum-half position, unselfishly offered to withdraw knowing the Welsh Union's preference for club pairings at half back. So Percy Bush and Dickie David completed a Cardiff trio of replacements. Bush and Owen never really gelled as a half-back pairing, being both individualists. Dicky David, a skillfull and under rated scrum half was always in the shadow of Owen but won his only Welsh cap this day. Wales triumphed by 29 points to nil. Though Owen and Trew were swiftly reselected in future internationals, Fred Scrine never added to his 3 Welsh caps.