1894-5. P30, W21, L7, D2.
A FROSTY SEASON AND A TRAGEDY
A. F. Hill, one of the club’s greatest forwards, who had served the club since 1883-4, was appointed captain for another term, and he appointed R. B. Sweet-Escott the experienced half-back as his vice-captain. Hill, probably the greatest Cardiff forward up to that time, was recognised by Wales on no fewer than fifteen occasions, and, in fact, captained the Welsh team that beat the first New Zealand Maori touring team, at Swansea on 22nd December 1888 by one goal, two tries to nil. A most able administrator, he served on the club committee, and as vice-president, and as hon. treasurer for a period of more than twenty years. Truly, a most valuable servant of Cardiff.
Excepting for Dai Fitzgerald who had “ gone North “ to Batley, all of last season’s players were available. E. Emery and E. Gwyn Nicholls were to establish themselves and gain First Team caps, as also did Frank Mills the international forward from Swansea (who gained three more Welsh caps with Cardiff), Alun Morgan the full-back from Pontypridd, and the three-quarter’ back D. Radley Thomas. On five occasions J. Conway Rees the Llanelly international three-quarter turned out for the Blue and Blacks.
Newcomers to the Cardiff Arms Park were the Edinburgh and Cambridge Universities who were beaten 11 points to nil and 8 points to nil respectively on the 12th and 15th of December. In the Edinburgh XV appeared G. Lloyd Roberts at halfback; he had been a regular player of ours in the 1891 -2 season.
Our Newport rivals again had the better of the four match series winning three of them, the other match, the first of them at Cardiff, was a scoreless draw, but Newport were again a very strong Rugby force in the land and lost only one match in the season, to Llanelly. Blackheath, The Barbarians and Swinton were the other clubs to succeed, and the great surprise was the defeat at the hands of Penarth by eight points to three at Cardiff. Three visits were made to the North of England, to meet Swinton, South Shields and Bradford in that order. Swinton beat us by two tries to nil, but we were successful in the other two matches, although by small margins as we were short of a few regular ‘stars’.
South Shields played on 12th January, “ considered the match the most important ever played there”, and a very hospitable welcome had been prepared. Unfortunately the weather conditions of the previous days had been extremely wintry, and large camp fires, and layers of peat litter on the previous evenings defeated the efforts of “Jack Frost” to prevent the match from being played. On the very same day as this match, a tragedy befell one of our forwards Richard Davies, who was drowned whilst skating on a frozen pond opposite Hancocks Brewery at Penarth Road, Cardiff. It is very probable that he was not available to travel to South Shields, as he was a very regular selection for the club, gaining his cap last season, and in all, played 76 first team games. A charity match with the United Valleys was played on 17th April in aid of this good player’s mother.
Except for big wins over Lansdowne on their first visit to the Arms Park and suffering defeat by 53 points to three, and over Gloucester by 32 points to nil, there were few spectacular results. Against Lansdowne, Pearson and Radley Thomas got three tries apiece and Norman Biggs converted seven tries: in the Gloucester game four tries were scored by Pearson and three by E. Gwyn Nicholls. In the international match against Ireland Pearson scored one of the greatest of tries in Welsh Rugby running in from near half-way, and as W. J. Bancroft of Swansea kicked the goal, Wales won by five points to one try three points. This great wing was also the’ club top try scorer with 19, followed by 14 from Norman Biggs. In the international arena, Pearson, Selwyn Biggs, W. J. Elsey and Frank Mills were honoured by Wales, and for the club, Pearson W. Davies the forward, and Alun Morgan, played in 28 of the 30 matches.
The Second XV under E. J. Rooney played only 25 games owing to frost cancellations, winning 21 with two lost and two drawn, quite a good, even if limited, season. On 3rd March 1895, one of the most active of the committee men, W. M. Shepherd, died. He had served since 1890-91 and was the club’s recognized touch judge. A memorial fund was organised and the club contributed a hundred guineas. The gate takings dropped, understandably, owing to fewer played matches, to £1.848.13.6d. but there were 1,258 members, and charities and local clubs were not overlooked. In the club’s annual report it was stated that: Owing to the kindness of the most Noble the Marquess of Bute, through Sir W. T. Lewis and other kind friends, the ground has been secured for the coming season
The late C. S. Arthur reported that the condition of the ground was causing the committee considerable trouble, especially the part in front of the grand stand, and after getting expert advice, it was decided to take up the whole of the playing surface and lay down a network of drain pipes, then a layer of ashes and a thin layer of new soil, the clay sub-soil being cast aside and the whole surface returfed. T. H. Waterman, carried out the work during the summer months of 1895 under the supervision of Messrs. J. P. Jones, Richards & Budgen, at a total cost of £1,055.18.d.