1897-8. P31, W25, 13, D3. Points 507 to 85.
FOGBOUND IN LONDON
NEWPORT BEATEN FOUR TIMES
This proved to be an excellent season for a great halfback, Selwyn Biggs, in fact the best since that of “ Hancock’s year” 1885-6. With Gwyn Nicholls as his vice-captain and most of last season’s players available, team selections were fairly consistent. Besides, Biggs and Elliott were probably the best half-back pair in the country, and these two, with Gwyn Nicholls, “ Pussy” Jones and Viv Huzzey in the three-quarter line, and Tom Dobson and Fred Cornish in the pack all played for Wales against Ireland at Limerick, and England at Blackheath. Interesting to relate, T. W. Pearson, Cardiff’s former star wing three-quarter now with Newport, made up the Welsh three-quarter line in the two internationals. The match with Scotland was not played as the “Gould dispute” had not been resolved in time.
Four Rhondda forwards of note, P. C. Dai Evans (Penygraig), W. H. Alexander and Bob Jones of Llwynypia played a number of matches for the club. They did not stay, although they were of international class, for the probable reason that the competition for places in Cardiff’s pack was too keen.
The season was one of high scoring, and Cardiff’s prize achievement was the winning for the first time, all four matches with Newport. It is true that Newport had lost a few experienced players, the great Arthur Gould was not available, nevertheless they lost only seven matches in this season. However, Newport were no match for Cardiff who amassed a total of 61 points to 12 in the series. In the third match Newport led by a penalty goal and two tries to nil at half time, but the Blue and Blacks came strongly in the second half and ran up a score of one goal, five tries to win by 20 points to nine.
In the second match of the season at home, Cardiff demoralised Neath with a score of eight goals (one dropped), five tries to, nil, a total of 54 points. It was Cardiff’s ninth successive win over the men from The Gnoll, they had chalked up a total of 134 points without a single point against them. But Neath recovered stature in the return match in February by winning by two tries and a penalty goal to nil over Cardiff’s best team, although losing their fullback T. J. Thomas injured after five minutes. Neath’s full-back Joe Davies, and an astute half-back named Powell were the stumbling blocks to another Cardiff victory, Neath’s captain W. Jones was very pleased at the result, and his team’s change of fortune.
Swansea, with the brothers James re-established at halfback won the first of two matches, at St. Helens, by three tries to a converted goal, the return match at the Arms Park resulted in a pointless draw. Gloucester was the only other club to beat us, which they did on the Arms Park by nine points, to five on 2nd April 1898.
The away match with Blackheath on 18th December was cancelled owing to fog. This, wrote the late C. S. Arthur, “conveyed little of what a London fog was like “ and he continued: “On this particular occasion we set off from Charring Cross about 11.30 p.m. and in the ordinary course should have arrived at Blackheath Station about 35 minutes later, but on this occasion we proceeded by such easy stages that we arrived at Black- heath about 4 p.m. It was as black as night there, so we immediately got into a train to go back to Charring Cross, which station we ultimately reached at 7 p.m., having practically been on the train for six hours.” Evidently a London fog is no respecter of persons, least of all Cardiff Rugby players. On New Year’s Day, the “ Heathens “ journeyed to Cardiff and played us to a draw of two goals and one try each.
This season’s top scorers were Viv Huzzey with 27 tries, Gwyn Nicholls and W. “Pussy” Jones 17, “ Hockey “ Driscoll 16, the captain and the forward Fred Cornish 9 each. In the home match with Penygraig on 8th January, Viv Huzzey bagged five tries. First XV caps were awarded to Jack Heaven and W. Mcintyre. Driscoll our excellent uncapped wing played in 30 out of the season’s 31 matches, and to emphasise the consistency of selections. I quote the number of appearances of members of the pack, which are: G. Abbott 28, Jerry Blake 24, F. Cornish 27, George Dobson 25, Tom Dobson 26, W. Phillips 24, W. J. Elsey 15, E. Emery 17 and W. McIntyre 14.
The Second XV was captained by A. M. Ricketts and E. H. Gunn was his deputy. They played 32 matches, wan 26, lost 6 and drew one and scored 433 points to 130. Ricketts and Jack Heaven were amongst the top scorers. Reserve XV caps were awarded to I. P. Jones, F. Lewis, C. Halliday, W. Williams, F. J. Box, Jim Batstone, C. Spackman, G. Bowler and W. W. Hughes.
The financial position was very satisfactory with receipts of £3,183.6.5d., £385.16.2d. went on grandstand improvements and £453.11.3d. was donated to charities of which £100 went to the Seaman’s Hospital and £90 to form a scholarship at the University College. Since 1891 £2,700 had been donated to charitable institutions. The club had a balance in hand of £1,500.