|Place Of Birth||Swansea|
POSITION: half-back / three-quarter
CLUBS Morriston, Swansea, Llanelli, Glamorganshire.
HONOURS: Wales: 4 caps 1887-1888
BORN : Swansea 1863
DIED: Porthcawl 13 January 1919 (55 yrs)
George Einon Bowen was a stocky and powerful back who came to Swansea Rugby Club via the Morriston club. His speed off the mark and dexterity were often remarked upon but the overwhelming impression left upon observers was the sureness of his tackling, a feature that rightly brought him into the Welsh fifteen, where he more than justified his controversial inclusion in the epic battle against the Scots in 1888.
Having captained the Morriston Football Club during 1881-82, Bowen was elected Vice-captain for 1882-83 as well as filling the Treasurer’s role. He played mainly as a quarter back for that club but at the start of 1883-84 he swapped the chocolate and blue of Morriston for the white of Swansea where he filled the full-back berth ahead of the incumbent Tom Kneath, making eight appearances. His performance against Llanelli on 5th January 1884 drew nods of satisfaction from the St Helen’s faithful as he shunted Llanelli three-quarter J. Howell into touch, saving a certain try.
By the following season George Bowen was playing at three-quarter as Swansea tried a succession of full-backs, eventually settling on James Rosser. Bowen partnered several other promising three-quarters, being most successful with Teddy Bishop, Bowen’s power a counterpoint to Bishop’s elusive “corkscrew runs”. Bowen captained the Swansea team that beat Carmarthen and scored a try against Llandeilo in the Challenge Cup.
At the start of 1885-86 George Bowen was still a Swansea player but it seems he stood for, and was elected as captain for his old club at Morriston. However he never turned out for them, moving with work to Llanelli where he was an accountant and later manager at the Ashburnham Tinplate Works. So Bowen gravitated into the Llanelli first fifteen. Oddly, he still managed a couple of appearances for Swansea, on 7th November 1885 at Stradey Park against Llanelli in a game lost to his ‘new club’. He then turned out for Llanelli for the rest of the season, including two games against Swansea on 16th January (St. Helen’s – Llanelli won) and 20th February in the Challenge Cup at Stradey Park where Swansea were eliminated from the cup. Llanelli went on to defeat Newport 44 – nil in the final held at Swansea the following weekend, George Bowen nearly scoring as his drop goal attempt bounced back off the upright.
By 1886-87 Bowen was back in Swansea colours racking up 26 appearances and ending up as top try scorer with 14 tries. He scored two tries and a drop goal against the Cardiff Harlequins at the start of the season, the crowd rising as one to his play as he “made for the goal and three of his opponents tried to hold him, but before they succeeded, he dropped a goal in rare style.” Against Neath on 29th January 1887 George Bowen “again proved a tower of strength for Swansea” and pocketed 4 tries in an 8 goal and 3 try thrashing at St Helen’s of their local rivals. Such form saw him selected to play for Wales against Scotland in February 1887 where they were worsted by 12 tries and 4 conversions to nil in Edinburgh. Swansea’s Dai Gwynn, Billy Bowen, Evan Richards and Dai Morgan also played in this game. George Bowen kept his place for the match with Ireland in March, which was played at Birkenhead, the Irish unable to finance a trip all the way to Cardiff. Wales won despite being outscored by 3 tries to nil, Arthur Gould’s drop goal clinching it. George Bowen topped a fine season by playing his part in Swansea’s Challenge Cup final win over Llanelli, becoming the only player to have won the South Wales Challenge Cup with two different teams. He also made the odd appearance for his old club Morriston this season, once against Swansea seconds at St. Helen’s.
George Bowen continued to turn out for Swansea during 1887-88 and was selected twice more to represent Wales, against Scotland and Ireland. His selection against Scotland caused much dissatisfaction in East wales as Charlie Arthur of Cardiff had been considered a better choice. But Bowen justified his place with a superb defensive display at Rodney Parade as Wales beat Scotland for the first time. The Scottish captain, heavyweight forward Charles Reid was 15 to 16 stone and 6 foot 3 inches tall. At the end of the match he went over to Bowen to compliment him on his deadly tackling: “I shall never forget the way in which you pulled me up.” Bowen replied: “I shall never forget you either. You’ve knocked my shoulder all to bits.” The great Welsh three quarter Arthur Gould was to say of George Bowen that he was one of the greatest tacklers Wales ever produced. But the vagaries of Welsh selection are a a wonder to behold and Bowen lost his place after wales lost to Ireland in Dublin following a crossing in which many of the Welsh team succumbed to seasickness.
Bowen played the last of his 82 matches for Swansea against Gloucester at The Spa on 30 March 1889. It is possible he played a few matches for Aberavon that season, but not confirmed. He did play during his time at Swansea for the county side of Glamorganshire and on retirement became a committee member with both Swansea and the county. he had played cricket as well for the county team. Bowen also served on the committee of the Welsh football Union (WRU) for a number of years and was Umpire (touch judge) the international between wales and South Africa at St Helens I 1906. He was voted to the office of Mayor of Kidwelly in 1912 and again in 1913. George Bowen, who died on 13th January 1919, was uncle to Cliff Bowen who gained 4 welsh caps (1896-97).
Sources: South Wales Daily news, Western Mail, Cambrian, Evening Express, South wales echo. Special thanks to rugby historian Howard Evans in the compilation of this player profile.
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