Cardiff RFC Season Review 1883 – 1884

1883-4. P18, W7, L7, 04.


H. J. Simpson was the appointed captain for this season which was notable for an important change in the development of Rugby football, which was the adoption by the club of the “four three-quarter system “and it arose in this way. Cardiff being short of a threequarter to go to Cheltenham College, a very strong club at the time, secured the services of F. F. Hancock, who had then recently come to Cardiff from Wiveliscombe in Somerset. Hancock played an excellent game and obtained the only two tries scored. When the team came to be selected for the next match with Gloucester, away, on 23rd February 1884, the committee were in difficulty as to whom to select for the threequarter line. Not wishing to lose such an excellent player as F. E. Hancock and not daring to leave out one of the regular threequarters, they selected Hancock as a fourth threequarter and the named four were: W. B. Norton. Tom Williams, F. F. Hancock and A. J. Stuart.

Although there was no score in the Gloucester match, the combination was considered so successful that four threequarters were played in all of the six remaining matches of the season. Until this time the dominant idea in England, Scotland and Ireland was that Rugby football was a game chiefly for the forwards, and although the new system flourished exceedingly for Cardiff in 1885-6 under F. F. Hancock’s captaincy (only the very last match of the season was lost), it was not until 1888-9 that it was permanently adopted by the Welsh Rugby Union and in 18934 by the other Home Unions. The four threequarter system is universal in rugby football and has been since those early days. It is most unlikely ever to be changed.

The 1883-4 season was not a very successful one as the results show and only 24 tries were scored in 18 matches, 13 of them in the last seven matches when four threequarters were played. Tom Williams was top scorer with but four tries, but newcomers who were to give great service to the club were F. F. Hancock, A. J. Stewart. C. S. Arthur and A. F. Hill. Yet, in this disappointing season eight players were chosen for Wales against Ireland at Cardiff in April 1884 and it is more than probable that the Welsh selectors had seen the Cardiff players at work with the new threequarter system. The eight names are: T. M. Barlow (back), F. F. Hancock and W. B. Norton (threequarters), W. “Buller” Stadden (halt-back), W. D. Phillips. T. J. Hinton, H. J. Simpson and J. S. Smith (for. wards). Wales won by one drop goal two tries to nil—Stadden dropped the goal and Norton scored one of the tries.

Two interesting representative matches took place—the first ever encounter between Glamorgan and Monmouthshire at Cardiff and that between South Wales and “Old Monmouthians “ at Newport. The county match was won by Glamorgan by three tries to one. Eight Cardiff players were in the Glamorgan team and Herbert Jones and W. B. Norton each scored a try. It was reported that the Swansea half-back W. H. Gwynn played brilliantly. The Old Monmouthians beat the South Wales team containing four Cardiff players by three tries to one and at full-back for the county side was Arthur J. Gould who, as a half-back, was to become one of the greatest players in Welsh Rugby, gaining no fewer than twenty-seven international caps.

With regard to. Cardiff’s Second XV, this was captained by Cholton James, who was understood to be an architect in the town, but once more, regrettably, it was reported that “the Second XV played a goodly number of matches but no statistics were kept From an isolated news cutting I learned of the match between the Second XVs of Cardiff and Swansea at home on 19th January 1884 which was won by the homesters by two goals, two tries to nil. The Cardiff Second Team was quoted as follows:Edmunds (back), A. B. Thomas, Arthurs. and W. H. Morgan (threequarters), C. Jemim and 0. Jones (half backs), F. Wilson, J. A. Sant, A. Hybart. G. Dixon, C. Rood, I Taylor, W. Stadden, W. Franklyn and W. Rees (forwards). Thomas and Taylor each scored two tries and the captain (C. James) kicked the goals


Cardiff 16 13 0 3 396 243 61
Carmarthen Quins 17 10 3 4 372 278 54
Aberavon 16 11 0 5 371 272 53
Llandovery 16 9 2 5 344 285 48
Pontypridd 18 10 0 8 394 376 47
Merthyr 18 8 0 10 362 374 44
RGC 1404 17 8 1 8 409 381 43
Newport 15 7 0 8 294 278 37
Swansea 17 7 0 10 246 292 35
Llanelli 15 6 0 9 293 412 27
Ebbw Vale 17 4 2 11 283 351 27
Bridgend Ravens 18 3 0 15 271 493 19