1946—47. P41, W31, L6, 04. Points 549—200.
DR. JACK MATTHEWS’ SECOND TERM
CARDIFF MAKE FIRST JOURNEY BY AIR TO FRANCE
After the successful post-war season Jack Matthews was elected captain for a second term. During this season however, he was called up for army service as a doctor with the R.A.M.C. and he had to share his captaincy with his club and army units including the army itself. But in Les Manfield he had a most able deputy as vice-captain and these two great players did much to ensure another grand season of Rugby for Cardiff. Both were dedicated to open Rugby, the style named by our coaches of today as “fifteen man Rugby
Most of last season’s players were available, and we were strengthened by seven new- corners who were soon to establish themselves as great club and international players, and of these, Haydn Tanner was already recognised as one of the best international scrum halves from the time he played for Wales as a young schoolboy against the visiting All Blacks of 1935, and holding 14 Welsh caps. Gwyn Evans a former product of Clydach, Swansea, police officer with Cardiff’s City Police Force burst upon the scene and in his first season was to be capped for Wales as the best open side wing forward and eleven times in succession. Now chief superintendent in the South Wales Police, he was the very first of the former Cardiff City Police officers to gain a Welsh cap. Alec Finlayson was a police officer with the City Police force but gained his Welsh caps whilst serving with the Constituted South Wales Constabulary. We had R. F. Trott the full-back and Sid Judd who were both to earn caps, Howell Loveluck the wing, and Don Rees a hooker to challenge Mal James.
In the three Welsh trials and four international matches, Cardiff provided six or seven players on each occasion, and on the relevant dates we had fixtures with Wasps (A), Richmond (H), Bective Rangers and U.C. (A), Bath (A), Coventry (A) and St. Mary’s Hospital (H). The match with Bective was drawn, and those with Bath and Coventry were lost, the latter three fixtures would undoubtedly have resulted in victories had we been able to field our full strength. The fact that we lost only six matches in all illustrates perhaps the strength and quality of Cardiff’s standard of Rugby. The club was in much demand to tour and play additional and also charitable matches, but I was glad to be able to get Cambridge University back on Cardiff’s fixture list after an absence since December 1902. The fixtures with both Oxford and Cambridge Varsities were broken off because they could only play in mid-week and the match expenses and guarantees were too high.
The first of the season’s features was our visit to Bristol to celebrate that club’s silver jubilee of the opening of their new ground at Horfield. For this “ unofficial “ match, Bristol asked us to include Haydn Tanner who was then in Bristol holding a scholastic appointment. The club did, and this was really Haydn Tanner’s debut. As one of Cardiff’s team who had played when the ground was opened, I was invited to kick-off which I did. though perhaps not too successfully—I think I sliced my effort, stone sober. It was a very happy evening with our hospitable Bristol friends.
We had agreed to. fly to Nantes to play their club on Armistice Day, 11th November, a Monday. At home on the previous Saturday we had won a good match over Newport on the Park. and after tea in the cricket pavilion I was checking up on final arrangements with the team and actually issuing the passports for travelling next day from Pengam Airport when I received a phone call from Monsieur Picherit from Nantes, with the distressing news of gale force weather in France and the inability of our plane to get airborne. Imagine the disappointment to all of us ii Sadly, a number of the boys drank a few extra “jars “ before final dispersal home, a few of them to local hotels. At 7 am. next morning I was awakened by a phone call from Paris to where Monsieur Picherit had travelled overnight. “The weather has changed and the plane can fly, please get your party to Pengam Airport by 1 p.m. to meet the charter plane (a former German war plane J.U.52) to bring you to Nantes “. (Via Bristol Airport to clear customs.) I rounded up,
my previously made ‘contacts’, and got the party to Pengam in time. But there we waited, with our well wishers until gone two p.m. when we spotted the aircraft coming through dull cloud towards us, only to see it turning west towards St. Athan, from where through a contact made by Flying Officer Bleddyn Williams, it was diverted back to Pengam. The pilot with two officers explained that they had been delayed and that it was now getting too late to fly to Nantes that evening—the landing ground had been damaged. “too dangerous to land, tarmac war damaged
We got to Bristol Airport only to be told that the customs official had gone home, some five miles away, there must be further delay, we could not fly that Sunday night. Accommodation was found in Bristol for the team and the French air crew, and we were able to get away at 8 a.m. on Monday morning. Fair weather now prevailed, we had a smooth trip, crossing over Mulberry Harbour, the Normandy Beach-head, and Caen where so much bitter fighting had taken place during the war after “ D. Day “ landings. Nearing Nantes we were escorted by a French light plane and landed safely, very much to the relief of the French officials, the president Marcel Pedron and hon. secretary Henri Picherit in particular. We were informed that every ticket for our match had been sold. Brice Jenkins our hon. secretary and I, laid a wreath on the local war memorial, Bleddyn Williams and our captain Jack Matthews were both in their respective uniforms of the R.A.F. and R.A.M.C. respectively. Letters of greeting from Cardiff’s chairman and our Lord Mayor were duly handed over to their counterparts of Nantes. The match was won by 22 points to five and the remainder of the time was enjoyed in the splendid hospitality of the Nantes club officials. Then a safe journey home to Cardiff, where before landing, the pilot (all had now been forgiven) flew the plane around the city and over the Cardiff Arms Park. Such was the Cardiff Rugby Club’s first journey by air.
Early in January we broke new ground by making a short tour of Ireland to meet Bective Rangers on 4th January and County Dublin which included a number of Lansdowne players, on Monday 6th January. Wet conditions marred the first match which was a draw, we were short of Haydn Tanner,. Bleddyn Williams, Jack Matthews and Gwyn Evans who were engaged in the final Welsh trial, but these boys joined us to play County Dublin. This match was won by 18 points to six against a very good combination. The hospitality was tremendous, there was food in abundance. In Ireland and among men who joined in creating lasting friendships were Jimmy McMorrough, Archie Curtis and M. Douane of Bective, Eddie Muihern of Leinster, and G. P. S. “Scarcefield” Hogan and Nick Winter of Lansdowne-.
There were icy and arctic-like conditions in January and February. We played Newport (A) after their ground had been cleared by bull-dozers of the straw and frozen ice, and on a very slippery pitch at Cardiff Arms Park a fortnight later. On 15th March the Leicester team arrived to find the Park snow-covered, but both teams agreed to play to the delight of some brave and frozen supporters, in conditions never before or since experienced. The Athletic XV fared much worse than the First XV, they suffered seven cancellations in succession from 11th January to 15th March. The W.R.U. extended the season into May. We had a successful Easter period winning our matches with the Barbarians (only 3 points to nil on a very wet ground) and the Harlequins. These were followed by wins over Plymouth Albion, Devonport Services and Exeter on the Devon tour. There was lavish hospitality from the services, visits to the aircraft carrier Illustrious and the Royal Marine barracks where Stan Bowes met up with some of his former naval pals Captain Kelly, C.P.O. Jim Snowball and Captain Tom Lenham. Stan was in nostalgic singing form, with “Bobbing up and down like this” and “I’m a Sailor can’t you tell “. (But his language?)
On 12th March the club journeyed to play Tumble in West Wales to assist that club in its 50th jubilee season. On 30th April W. E. Tamplin’s Cardiff XV played the Monmouthshire Police in the cause of charity. For our last official match of the season with Penarth, the proceeds of the gate were donated to the “Western Mail ‘ fund for the relief of the dependants of the brave crew of eight men of the Mumbles lifeboat all of whom lost their lives going to the assistance of the ill-fated steamer “ Samtamper “ which was blown on to the rocky beach at Sker Point in a howling gale with the most cruel loss of the whole of her crew. To close the season an unofficial match was played at Bridgend to assist the home club’s finances, it took place on 5th May the result being in Cardiff’s favour by 12 points to six. The congestion of fixtures in April and early May added to end of the season staleness and LIanelly accounted for the Blue and Blacks twice in a fortnight.
The try scoring was indicative of many team changes through trials and internationals and the top was Howell Loveluck with 14, Billy Cleaver 12, Bleddyn Williams 12, Gwyn Porter 11, Hubert Jones 7, Cliff Davies 6, and five each came from Gwyn Martin, Dr. Jack Matthews and Roy Roberts. W. E. Tamplin was easily the top goal kicker scoring 52 in all. The new 1st XV caps were Stan Bowes, Gwyn Evans, Howell Loveluck, Don Rees and R. Frank Trott. Lyn Williams our versatile centre and outside half, who was capped for the first team in 1936—37 was appointed captain of the Athletic XV and he nominated a popular ‘prop’, Gordon “Gogga’ Williams as vice-captain. Lyn Williams’ fixtures were very much curtailed by rather arctic weather, severe frost and snow, consequently only 22 matches were played of which 19 were won, one only lost and two drawn, with 385 points scored to
This was a very fine record indeed and the solitary loss was at the hands of Maesteg (A) by a solitary goal kick, the score being two goals, two tries to, one goal, three tries.
The Newport United rivals were twice beaten, and solid victories were gained over tough Welsh clubs by more than 20 points, including Ystrad Rhondda, Briton Ferry, Treorchy and Tredegar. The Old Edwardians, Gloucester United and Cardiff Medicals were even more soundly beaten. Such excellent achievements reflected some excellent Rugby, and above all, indicated that “all was well in the nursery “. Over 70 players were tried and there were a goodly number of scorers, those with the most tries being Graham Hale 10, Dennis Prater 9, Lyn Williams 8, Selwyn Evans 7, Jim E. Carter 6 and Ian McJennett 5, with four or less downward from Haydn Wilkins. The goal kicking was very much shared, Gwyn Davies, R. F. Trott and Maldwyn James were the most successful. Athletic caps were awarded to J. E. Carter, T. Cavell, Gwyn Davies, J. G. Davies, R. M. Glover, Denis Prater, Haydn Wilkins and Godfrey Williams.
On the social side of the season, I attended the 80th annual dinner of “The Wasps at the Grosvenor Hotel, London. Our friend Henri Picherit from Nantes arrived in Cardiff and brought with him films, one showing Cardiff’s arrival at Nantes by air, and one of the wreath laid on behalf of Cardiff at the Nantes War Memorial. These films, together with a Rugby instructional one, were shown at a function organised by the Llandaff Rugby Club which was supported by myself, Hubert Johnson, Wilfred Wooller, G. V. Wynne Jones, Les Spence, Bleddyn Williams, Bryn Thomas of the “Western Mail “ and Monsieur Henri Picherit—a good night this, a real “ Entente Cordiale “. Jack Matthews married his young lady from Penzance. Presentations were made to Jack Powell, the “rub-a-dub “, for services rendered, and to myself for organising our visits to play at Nantes and Cognac. Our Rugby programmes were excellently edited by I. T. Austin—his 23rd season, in spite of the limitation of paper, to eight pages.