|Place Of Birth||Swansea|
Richard Morgan "Dicky" Owens (his name was always shortened to Owen in his lifetime) was born on November 17th 1876 in Swansea. He remains one of probably the three greatest scrum-halves that Wales have ever produced, along with Gareth Edwards and Haydn Tanner.
A diminutive figure at 5ft 2 inches and barely 9st 7lb at best, his achievements are the greater for the difficulties his lack of physical presence presented in an age when the game was as rough as it has ever been. Yet Dicky Owen confounded defences and along with his club partner Dick Jones, helped guide Swansea through an unprecedented period of success for the club in the early years of the 20th century. This success was transferred to the international stage where he won his first cap against Ireland in 1901.
Owen was a superb reader of the game but his supreme skill was as an innovator of scrum-half play. He is widely acknowledged as the originator and pefector of the reverse pass. His dummy pick up from behind a scrum in a game against England in 1902 enticed his opposite number Bernard Oughtred offside and gained Wales a penalty to give them a last gasp 9 - 8 win.
In 1905, in a Welsh team who were able to react to his quick thinking, the first All Blacks suffered their only reverse of the tour as Wales were winners by 3 points to nil. Owens took a terrible battering as he defended at the back of the scrum and the New Zealand roving back Gallagher tore into him time and again. At some point in these onslaughts, Owen severely damaged his ribs. It was from a rehearsed move that Wales scored the vital try. Owen had passed to Percy Bush consistently from the scrum but now feinted to do so and swung out a reverse pass to his left to the unguarded Cliff Pritchard. Unusually, it bounced before reaching him as Owen was in such discomfort. The ball passed swiftly through hands to Teddy Morgan who scored the try that won the game. Afterwards it was discovered Owen had displaced a cartilage in his chest.
This example serves to illustrate the endurance of the diminutive man from the Hafod in Swansea. His career began with local team Hafod Rangers and he progressed to the Swansea 1st XV alongside his outside half team mate Dick Jones. They became known as "The Dancing Dicks" as their almost telepathic play flourished in a classic Swansea line up. Owen played again against the 1905 All Blacks on December 31st for Swansea in a match they very nearly won (3 - 4) and he had a try disallowed. He also played in the Swansea win over the first Australian tourists on Boxing Day 1908 (6 - 0) and for Glamorgan (lost 3 - 16) and Wales against them when Wales won 9 - 6.
Dicky Owen amassed 35 Welsh caps winning 5 Triple Crowns and captaining Wales for the first time against England in 1907 at his home ground of St Helens. He played for Wales with Dick Jones as his half-back partner 13 times. The Welsh selectors had teamed him up with Cardiff's Percy Bush on occasion, notably in the 1905 All Blacks match. They were paired together again against South Africa the following year. But they were both innovative and influential in their own right and never gelled well together. This was the last time they were paired although Bush also went on to gain further Welsh caps. Owen's last cap was at St Helens in 1912 against Scotland where he was given the captaincy at the age of 34! The little giant was carried from the field on the shoulders of delirious supporters after a final victory in the jersey.
Dicky Owen was given the captaincy of Swansea in this his last season of 1911-12 as Billy Trew stood aside for him after 5 consecutive seasons at the helm. During his career Owen collected several soubriques:' The Pocket Hercules', 'The Bullet' and 'The Pocket Oracle' amongst them, the latter for his penchant for predicting scores and scorers prior to matches with great success. His 35 caps remained a welsh record until well into the 1950's when surpassed by Ken Jones.
Dicky Owen was a steelworker by trade and later a publican. He sadly took his own life in the Swansea pub he ran on February 27th 1932 aged 55.
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