Cardiff RFC Season Review 1902 – 1903

1902-03. P32, W19, L12, D1. Points 291 to 176.


H. B. Winfield was re-appointed captain and D. L. Bowen vice-captain, but as the latter played only two first team games he was superseded by Charles Stranaghan. It turned out to be a very poor season. We had lost six of last season’s forwards including the pack leader A. F. Harding, D. L. Bowen and W. Carde, and very good backs in Wayne Morgan, Neville Thomas and W. A. Jones, and to add to our miseries, Gwyn Nicholls in our match at Blackheath on December the 13th, broke his collar bone at the end of a brilliant run, and he was able to play in only three more matches. R. T. Gabe the former Llanelly player had secured a post in Howard Gardens School Cardiff, but was only able to help us when not required by his own club.

In the backs, Percy Bush and Cecil Biggs were to be the mainstays, and in the pack we had Jack Brown, Billy Neill and Police/Sgt. Fred Smith developing. New half-backs, the brothers D. and J. Norton from the Caerphilly Club were tried and discarded after seven first team appearances, and Gruff Hughes and Charley Kestell were recalled. Interesting A. N. Others were tried and provided with humorous noms de plume such as Burleigh “, “A Ceit “, and less so, “A. Bevan “. But we could not prevent twelve defeats of which number Welsh clubs accounted for six. We were nearly “white-washed by Newport, losing three and drawing one, and singly we lost to Neath, Llanelly and Swansea. The English victors were Devonport Albion, twice, Moseley, Oxford University, Bristol, and the Barbarians on another unlucky day, April 13th. Our best achievements were the double victories over Blackheath, Gloucester and Leicester. and other good scalps were those of London Welsh, Neath, LIanelly, Hartlepool Rovers and the Canadian Tourists. The Canadians had played 11 and won five, lost five with one drawn before coming to Cardiff on 7th January 1903. They were enthusiastic but lacked expertise and were beaten by four goals, three tries to a penalty goal. They played in blue jerseys and shorts and red stockings. On this first visit to a Welsh ground, they declared ‘they had come to learn’.

Our top try scorers were Cecil Biggs with 16. and Percy Bush and D. Thomas 11 each. The four new caps were W. Jenkins, P. C. E. Owen, Sgt. F. Smith, the latter two being police officers, and 0. Thomas. The captain and A. Spackman each made 28 appearances, and only the former and Gwyn Nicholls were honoured by Wales, once, against Ireland. The Reserves under R. J. Auckland played 29, won 20, lost 7 and drew 2, their points being 313 to 89. W. Litchfield was top try scorer with 13 tries, there were 33 scorers in all which was indicative of the number of players tried. Seven Reserve caps went to F. Chapman, E. Couglin, D. Davis, E. Harding, R. Huggett, W. Litchfield and Reed.

There were three administrative features to. record. The first was the presentation to the Lord Bute on the attainment of his majority, of an illuminated address, and the sum of £500 to devote to any charity he wished to choose; this sum his Lordship ultimately gave to the Cardiff Royal Infirmary towards the expense of installing electric light in that institution. There was every reason for the Lord Bute to appreciate the club’s recognition of the exceptional terms on which it had been allowed to use the Cardiff Arms Park. The club was charged 1/- per annum provided it was used only for amateur sport.

The second important feature was the setting up, with the co-operation of schoolmasters in the town, of the Cardiff and District Schools Rugby Union, which today, is probably the strongest Schools Union in Great Britain. The Cardiff Club undertook to defray the expenses of providing for jerseys, knicks and boots for about 600 boys, the cost was £289.3.4d. The Schools Union flourishes well, and has provided the club with many great players.

The third was the fact that the committees of the Rugby and the Cricket Club, were co-operating well with the view to provision of a suitable pavilion and training quarters on the ground, dressing rooms, etc., which would benefit both clubs and result in the saving of hotel, etc., expenses. The project was soon to come to fruition. Notwithstanding the lack of team success, the total receipts came to £3,235.5.Od. No money was given to local charities, except the £500 given to Lord Bute for this purpose. A total of £3,746 had already been donated to local charities up to this time. Although the expenditure on ground and stands upkeep, gatemen, etc., was now considerable, the club still held a total of £1,440 in their accounts with Lloyds Bank.

There were four matches in 1902—3 which involved overnight trips, Devonport Albion— H.Q. Duke of Cornwall Hotel, Plymouth; Oxford University—H.Q. Randolph Hotel; Leicester —H.Q. Swan Hotel, Birmingham; and Blackheath—H.Q. Tavistock Hotel, Covent Garden. The Oxford trip was : outward Sunday, returning next evening after the match, the others meant leaving Friday, back on Sunday. The times taken on the outward journeys may be of interest: to Plymouth 5 hrs. 53 mins.; Oxford 5 hrs.; Birmingham 3 hrs. 48 mins. at least; Paddington 3 hrs. 45 mins. The hardy players of those days would have passed much time playing cards in the saloon coaches. We did in my time, happily enough, at Solo or Nap with the “Sharpies “, or at Bridge with the “ Elite “. After serving my time as a “ Rookie” with the former, I confess to have joined the latter at Bridge for cheaper sessions—3d. per 100.

At the annual general meeting held in August 1903, there was an interlude concerning the late appearances of our team on the Cardiff Arms Park, and it was reported thus : A member in the audience directed attention to the delay experienced before the start of the games on the Cardiff Arms Park. The speaker’s remarks found favour with the audience, and the chairman, who concurred with the sentiments expressed, with the hope that during the ensuing season the irksome delays would be discontinued. It was his experience that the late starts were not due to the team as a whole, but to a few individual members, and in his playing days he had frequently known of crowds kept waiting whilst a player was putting the finishing touches to a waxed moustache. (Loud cheers.)


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