1885-6. P27, W26, LI.
HANCOCK’S GREAT SEASON
ONE MATCH LOST—THE VERY LAST
Frank Hancock was Somersetshire born and at the early age of seventeen he captained his local club Wiveliscombe, a noted one at that time, for two seasons with an unbeaten home ground record. In fact he captained his county fifteen against such combinations as Blackheath, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Gloucestershire, Middlesex and Devon. He was one of a family of four Rugby playing brothers of whom three were to assist Cardiff, and he made his first team debut for Cardiff whom he joined late in the season 1883-4, against Cheltenham College on 9th February 1884, and he played the remaining matches of that season.
Under Hancock’s captaincy of Cardiff. the season 1885-6 was to become one of the three greatest in the club’s long history. He was a man of outstanding character and leadership, quite a brilliant threequarter and noted for his dodging, and corkscrew running. Idolised by his team he inspired them to achieve some of the most remarkable performances, based on team work and unselfishness. Incidentally, he was instrumental in Cardiff’s adoption of the “four threequarter system as the chapter on the season 1883-4 relates.
With the experience of this innovation behind him, he became the grand tutor of “the passing game” to his team of excellent performers over whom he exercised a real captain’s discipline. His dedication was to the winning of matches by try scoring. Conversely he disdained the dropped goal, and in one match he lectured’ one of his team for attempting a dropped goal against his orders, and, in the presence of the near spectators warned all his players that he would send anyone of them off the field if they disobeyed his orders. His team soon learned to respect and admire him as. their leader.
Hancock’s dedication to the passing game to score tries bore fruit. Not one dropped goal, nor one penalty or goal from a mark was scored—only tries, these to the tune of 131 with only four against. He must have had great faith in the ability of his goal kicker, H. “Sawdust” Hughes who was responsible for kicking all the season’s seventy converted goals. Press adulation was abundant; “never was better passing ever witnessed” is but one example, which reflected the brilliance of so-me remarkable victories.
Not one Welsh club scored a try against the Blue and Blacks, Cardiff’s -line was crossed only four times in all, thrice by Moseley in two matches and once by Gloucester. Swansea were beaten four times with a total of 4 goals, 8 tries, Newport by 10 goals, 3 tries in two matches, Llanelly 6 goals, 4 tries in one of two matches. Gloucester 4 goals, 6 tries to one try in two matches, Neath beaten 7 goals and a try to nil, and Cheltenham College destroyed by 7 goals, 5 tries to nil. Strong clubs from the North of England, who were later to secede to the Northern Union professional code, Runcorn, Dewsbury, and Castleford were also amongst the victims.
W. M. Douglas the top scorer, performed the feat of scoring four tries in the match with Newport at home on 7th November 1885, a feat, against Newport, emulated twice only since, both occasions at home, by Bleddyn Williams in 1947-48 and Alec Finlayson in 1973—74. All opposition had been overcome in 1885—86 until the very last match of the season at the Cardiff Arms Park, when, inexplicably, we lost at the hands (and foot) to Moseley, a strong team at the time by two goals to one try, To have suffered defeat at the very last hurdle must have been a great disappointment to the club, supporters, and players as preparations were being made to celebrate an unbeaten season, but it must have been most keenly felt by the captain, whose team, under his leadership, had demonstrated so well the four threequarter system, “the passing game ‘, which is to this day a tradition of the Cardiff Club; he was, in a manner of speaking, a Messiah, a Messiah of the “ Blue and Black magic ‘. His was now the best team in South Wales.
Some consolation was forthcoming from the Club, and its supporters, in the form the presentations to the most successful twenty players of caps—of all blue for the first time and medals; they were trophies well and truly earned in January of his season Hancock was honored with the captaincy of the Welsh team against Scotland.
The Second XV had an unbeaten season for the second time running, playing 1/ matches, winning 16 and drawing one: they scored 22 goals including one dropped, amid 44 tries to one goal and three tries. The new captain was Dan. E. Jones who becoming a most popular leader of the Second XV for no fewer than six consecutive seasons (188t,/(l 1890/1) a period during which the club was developing into what can be described as Cardiff’s first golden era—of success and fame.