Cardiff RFC Season Review 1903 – 1904

—04. P31, W23, L6, D2. Points 394—81



After the poor results of the previous season, Gwyn Nicholls was recalled to the captaincy for a fourth term, the only player to have been so honoured in the club’s history. He chose Cecil F. Biggs as his vice-captain, and he was also assisted by an intake of excellent and maturing players, such as Rhys Gabe who was to create such a grand centre three-quarter partnership with him, A. B. Timms a doctor who was a colleague of his on the British tour of Australia in 1899, and already a Scottish international, J. L. Williams as yet uncapped wing, Dicky David who as a serum half was to form a long half-back partnership with Percy Bush. and not least, AIf Bobby” Brice an already capped international forward whilst with Aberavon who was a member of the Glamorgan County Police. There was also Ernie Harding another forward from a well-known Canton family, and all these players gained their First XV caps for the season.

The halfbacks C. Kestell and Griff Hughes dropped out, but Percy Bush became the established outside half from December. The Swansea Club was responsible for four of the six defeats inflicted on us, although by narrow margins, the ‘ villains of the piece’ as it were. They were enjoying a very successful era and were currently Welsh Champions. well led by Will Parker already a Welsh international, playing to gates of 20,000 home and away with the larger clubs. Newport away, by a drop goal to nil, and Neath at The Gnoll by two goals to one try were the other two victors, but not one English club was successful over us.
We gained two excellent wins at Christmas time, the first against London Welsh on Christmas Eve by 23 points to five, the other on Boxing Day when we inflicted a most devastating defeat on the Barbarians by no less than five goals, one dropped, and four tries to one try—41 points to 3, the heaviest defeat suffered by the Barbarians in their history, a defeat not to be avenged until the season 1956-7 when at Easter time they gave Cardiff its heaviest defeat by five goals, five tries, 40 points to nil. Who dares say that history does not repeat itself? In the Boxing Day match our backs played brilliantly scoring eight of the nine tries, three coming from Gwyn Nicholls, two each from Rhys Gabe and Percy Bush, one from A. B. Timms and the other by one of the forwards, AIf Spackman.

The Barbarians’ victory of 1956—57 was the result of typical and inspired Barbarian Rugby with the whole team running with the ball, and all backing up in every movement.
Percy Bush produced some dazzling running in some of our matches, and on one occasion, against Lianelly at Stradey, very late in the game with Lianelly leading by a goal a try, he secured the ball from a scrum about 35 yards out and “doubled “ four men and en rounded the full-back Bob Richards to score a sensational try, for our full-back Winfield to convert and win the match. An East v. West match was held on the Cardiff Arms Park on 6th April and the strength of the Swansea Club was again emphasised by e selection of no fewer than eleven players, which included all the backs and four forwards. Cardiff had five players in the East XV, Gwyn Nicholls, R. T. Gabe, Percy Bush the backs and two forwards, Bobby Price and Billy Neill in the pack, the East XV won j 20 points to 6.

The season’s try scorers was headed by Cecil Biggs with 23, followed by Rhys Gabe ld J. L. Williams with 10 each, Percy Bush scored 9 and 8 were scored by Nicholls. Higgs made 29 appearances, Spackman 28 and Sgt. Fred Smith 27; Nicholls’ matches were reduced to 21 having suffered two injuries which kept him out of the games. Brice, Gabe, Nicholis, Winfield and Billy Neill were honoured by Wales, the latter gaining his first cap against Scotland at Swansea. The Reserves, with captain Wayne Morgan, and vice-captain

L. Evans played 28, won 16, lost 7 and drew five, scoring 236 points to 71. There were many try scorers, the highest number being six, from W. A. Jones, T. McLean and W. H. Harnison. No less than thirteen of the Reserves gained caps, they were: T. McLean, E. Rumbelow, J. Mcintyre, E. Lewis, H. Jennings, W. H. Gunstone, Fred Davies, D. Pike, Arthur Williams, W. Pullen, George McGrath, T. Franks and W. Ham.
With reference to the proposed new pavilion, consent of the Lord Bute for its erection as obtained, consequently the joint committee of the Cricket and Rugby Clubs proceeded nicely on the project, and agreed on a division of cost on the basis of 54% (fi,350) by e Rugby Club, and 46% (fi,150) by the Cricket Club of the first estimate of £2,500, and 1 the similar basis on any further increases of cost which might arise. The Rugby Club met a first initial payment of £662.17.Od. from its bank balances leaving therein some 1,340. Donations were made to Nazareth House, The Schools Union, local clubs and the district Junior Cup competition. One of the club’s pioneers, Mr. W. H. Treatt decided to sever his working connection with the club, he was duly praised, highly, for his great services to the club, as well he might be, having served from 1877 as a player, secretary, committee man, vice-president and president. In recognition of his services, a presentation 3lued at £21 .16,lld. was made to him.



The new pavilion, quite a beautiful structure, was completed and put to use. It provided excellent and comfortable facilities for changing, training and administrative needs of ) both the Cricket and Rugby Clubs. The Cricket Club actually used the front part of it their match with E. M. Grace’s Xl at the end of June 1904. The Rugby Club utilised it fuIly for the 1904-5 season, the wonder was how the club had managed without it for so long a time, having in the meanwhile used the Grand Hotel in Westgate Street for changing and as a ground H.Q. for our home matches.

The pavilion was erected on the southwest corner of the cricket field, it was a structure architectural merit, twin turreted, with a frontage of pleasing proportions, and tiered seating for members facing on to the cricket ground. At the rear of the building from which e Rugby players emerged to enter the field at the River Taff end, was the home dressing room which was equipped with kit lockers of ample size which also served as seating. siting teams changed in. an upstairs room, access to which was through our own changing room, consequently, their players had to run the gauntlet of banter from the Cardiff home am players when the former entered, and mounted the staircase.

Behind the pavilion was a stable for a horse and flat cart for use on both cricket and football grounds, but the great boon was. the spacious and lofty gymnasium for indoor dining. Physical exercises, hand-ball, ‘touch and pass’ were indulged in, and in one corner was erected a punch-ball for those players who fancied themselves “with the mits “. This gymnasium was put to excellent use on the 19th October 1904 when a smoking concert was held to welcome home the Welsh members of the British team which toured Australia and New Zealand, in whose party were two of Cardiff’s illustrious players, Percy Bush and Rhys Gabe. It was gaily decorated with flags and bunting, the evening was a great success, and the two Cardiff players together with Tommy Vile of Newport, and Willie Llewellyn, all spoke enthusiastically to the gathering of a thousand of our supporters.

In my time of the “twenties “, training nights were very pleasurable. We had field work, we could use spikes on the cinder track under the uncovered north stand which had been roughly made by our ground attendants from the residue of their boiler fires, and we could use the gymnasium. As winter wore on we were regaled with buttered rolls, and kippers roasted on the coke fire of the changing room. There was always. much banter amongst our players, and our attendants, old forwards Aubrey Baker and Dan Callan were not both to join in and tell us of their past glories and escapades. Happy days 1
Baker and Callan the attendants, club players prior to World War I, were known as trainers in those days, but this title was frowned upon by the Home Unions as implying a form of professionalism. Many of the top coaches of today are of the professional order. In our changing room on match days, the smell of camphorated oil strongly pervaded the air, the use of it was regarded as a panacea for all minor injuries and strains, and more often than not, an oily rub of the chest was sufficient to get the player on to the field. Not for our ‘trainers ‘ the expertise, and sophisticated medical kit of the Tom Holley’s of today. Both teams shared a communal bath which was about twelve feet or so square. We could wallow with the great, the Jack Wetters of Newport, the legendary Albert Jenkins of LlanelIy, the Englishmen A. T. Young of Blackheath, and W. W. Wakefield of the Harlequins (the present Lord Wakefield of Kendal), Irishmen, Scotsmen and Barbarians. There were showers, and they were needed, for the mud of the Cardiff Arms Park!

Many players from all over the Rugby world have been proud to use the pavilion, the greatest and the modest ones, equally sharing in pride of having changed in it, and of the honour of playing on the adjoining Cardiff Arms Park. The front of the pavilion was an ideal setting for taking photographs, many of the club’s annual team group photographs which adorn our clubhouse were taken there. There must exist many thousands of photographs of different kinds which, taken in front of this fine pavilion, adorn some clubhouse or other, and homes and treasured albums of the humble, and the great, players of the past.

Alas, this fine old structure was dismantled for the building of the first covered north stand which was officially opened on the occasion of the Wales/England match of January 1934, a tragic day for Wales in the sporting sense as she lost to England by three tries to nil. Most readers are now aware that the first covered north stand was demolished and replaced by the present new north stand in what is. now the Welsh Rugby Union National Stadium. It was officially opened on the occasion of the match between The President’s (Mr. Ken Harris) XV and Wales on the 17th October 1970.

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