Cardiff RFC Season Review 1948 – 1949

1948—49. P44, W38, L3, D3. Points 630—213.




Sensibly, the talented Haydn Tanner was appointed captain for a second term, and again Bleddyn Williams was his vice-captain. The club enjoyed another remarkably successful season although there were a number of experienced personnel changes. Maldwyn James “the old gent” as Tanner had dubbed him, Les Manfield, W. G. Jones and the veteran Ray Bale, retired or phased out. Les Williams our international wing. turned professional and played his last match for the club against Bristol on 8th January. Selected for Wales against England at Cardiff on 15th January, he played and actually scored two tries. Secretly he had signed professional forms for Hunslet two days earlier, thus he created the unique instance of a Rugby League player who, as a “pro” actually played for his amateur Rugby Union, Wales.

As replacements we had new wings Terry Cook who gained two Welsh caps this season, and Russell Burn. At forward we had Ray Glover, Les Hayward, J. D. Nelson and John R. Phillips as hooker for Maldwyn James. At scrum half we had Rex Willis gaining his “ Rags ‘ cap, and replacing Tanner on the ten occasions when the captain was unavailable. They were all to make good, and the pack in particular was gradually and successively re-moulded, as the season’s results show. Not one Welsh club defeated us, and only Swansea and Newport succeeded in drawing with us, Swansea pointless in heavy rain, and Newport (A) three points each. Our scoring was not as high as that in our spectacular 1947-48 season, but we had excellent wins over Devonport Services 38—14, Neath 32—8, Plymouth Albion 32—0 and Coventry 27—3. For the third successive season the Black and Ambers of Newport had failed to beat the Blue and Blacks of Cardiff.

On 11th December not only did Cambridge University inflict our first defeat upon us, but, in so doing also took away our ground record which had lasted since 19th April 1947 when Llanelly had beaten us “ on the Park “. It was a thrilling game with the Light Blues who scored the winning try in the last few minutes after a brilliant round of passing. They included in their ranks W. B. Holmes at full back, J. V. Smith on the wing, who were shortly to be capped for England; at half back Glyn Davies already a Welsh cap, and Alan F. Dorward to be capped for Scotland 16 times. In the pack were John Gwilliam and R. C. C. “ Clem” Thomas both to be many times capped for Wales. We did not lose again until Easter Saturday, when, with Haydn Tanner, Jack Matthews and W. E. Tamplin absent owing to injuries, we went down to the Barbarians by one converted goal to two tries. Four days later—Easter Wednesday, we were forced to field a very weak team and lost to Northampton by 15 points to eight.

On 4th December at Blackheath, the captain, injured, saw a much weakened team beat the “ Heathens “ by eight points to three, we were much involved in the Welsh trial the same day. The final Welsh trial on 1st January involved Cardiff to the extent of seven players, Stan Bowes was propping for the Probables which was captained by Haydn Tanner, and in the Possibles, Billy Cleaver who was opposed at outside half by Glyn Davies, was captain, a rare event to have two captains from one club for a Welsh trial. On the same day as the Wales/England international we played and beat Bath (A) without seven of our regulars. London Welsh were beaten on the Wales/Scotland date. Late March saw a very interesting two-match tour for our players; Birkenhead Park were met on Thursday 24th, this was followed on the Friday with a visit to the Aintree racecourse for the Grand National, and, next day in London the Wasps were defeated by 11 points to 8. (A short head?)

Nine of our players were Welsh capped this season (Tamplin. James and Manfield had retired), our one new cap being Terry Cook who played against Scotland and Ireland. Our chief scorers were 25 tries from Bleddyn Williams, 23 including four in the match with Rosslyn Park, 23 from Terry cook, 20 by Russell Burn, 13 from Les Williams and 10 by Jack Matthews. The goal kicking was shared, mostly by W. E. Tamplin with 31 goals, Roy Roberts 25, and R. F. Trott. New First XV caps were Russell Burn, Terry Cook, R. M. Glover, Les Hayward, J. D. Nelson and John R. Phillips.

Len Evans the former Bargoed and R.A.F. forward was a most popular choice of captain, and an excellent season produced the following record : P38, W28, L8, D2, points 636—222. With some rebuilding and moulding into the 1st XV, the drain, on trial and international dates, and the fact that the “Rags” captain had to call upon no fewer than 80 players, it speaks well of Lea Evans. His best scorers were Dai Jones 22 tries, J. B. Neagle 16, W. Wakelin 9, W. Douglas 6; J. E. Carter, D. St. John Rees and Les Manfield who was sporting enough to help out the “Rags” on twelve occasions, each got five. There were no fewer than eleven Athletic XV new caps: Geoff Beckingham, K. E. Brookes, Peter Goodfellow, Gower Jenkins, Dai Jones, Sid Judd, Victor Keitch, K. C. Lloyd, J. B. Neagle, Ray Roberts and W. Rex Willis.
Again this season the club’s playing reputation drew record gates, e.g. Newport v. Cardiff, 19th February, a capacity crowd; our match with the Barbarians drew in some 30,000. The Rugby club was providing the basis of the necessary financial build-up which was to lead to the building of the new clubhouse. There was much need of it, our enthusiastic members were finding it difficult to get served with a “ pint” in the old one in the north stand after matches.

During the season, the damage to the north stand by enemy action was at last repaired and it was put in use on the occasion of our match with Newport on 5th March 1949, which we won by one converted goal to nil. Billy Cleaver scored the try which was converted by W. E. Tamplin. On 28th April Cardiff played a special match aimed at finalising sufficient funds with which to provide the beautiful Gwyn Nicholls Memorial Gates which now adorn the Quay Street entrance to the Cardiff Arms Park. The match between Cardiff and Captain Geoffrey Crawshays Rest of Wales XV was won by the home team by two tries to nil scored by Bleddyn Williams.

During the season, Wilfred Wooller invoked the displeasure of the Home Unions by writing an article in the “ News Chronicle “ of 21st December 1949 on the subject of broken time payment for players, he wrote : “ it seems reasonable to me that a Rugby football player should be able to claim that portion of his pay which may be lost when he takes time off for away matches.’ Wilfred is quite outspoken to this day, a fierce advocate to “ keep politics out of sport “.

The Welsh Rugby Union drew up a five point plan to stimulate and foster Rugby football in Wales, and one of its points was to ask clubs to assist by starting youth sections. It followed the W.R.U.’s formation of a Welsh Youth Rugby Union which I had proposed, Cardiff immediately set about helping the cause, and for 1949—50 organised a Youth XV named the Cardiff Juniors which flourishes strongly today. Young Cliff Morgan was in the news and this Tonyrefail County schoolboy captained the Welsh Secondary Schools against the Yorkshire Secondary/Grammar Schools. During the season, it was decided to wind up the Cardiff Voluntary Ladies Tea Committee. From during war time they had most conscientiously served the Rugby teams with the best of meager fare that rationing of food would allow. Often they raided their own larders to produce something for the after match tables of our players, meals of dehydrated potato (hot) with corned beef and pickled cabbage (even this fare was most acceptable) and these ladies of ours always tried to supplement them. Our post war players would remember these days. They will remember, I feel sure, the service devotedly given by them, in particular, Mrs. Peggy Waters, Mrs. Peggy Goldsmith and Mrs. Marie Smith (hale and hearty as I write). God bless the ladies.

Arthur Cornish died suddenly in July 1948 on a visit to see a personal friend in Llandaff, where he had collapsed from a heart attack. His colleagues and I were more than shocked as only two days previously we had sat together in committee. Arthur had served the club since 1914 as a player, captain, administrator and as a member of the Welsh Rugby Union. In the last war, he, with Norman Riches, acted as joint hon. secretaries of the club and organised as many matches as possible for war charities. Another popular figure also passed away. He was Gerald Heslop a most charming member of the Rugby committee for many years. In his younger days he had played for both Penarth and Cardiff and was selected for Glamorgan against the South Africans of 1912. Mr. Brice Jenkins who had acted as assistant hon. secretary succeeded to the office of hon. secretary to the club, and I was elected to serve on the Welsh Rugby Union in the place of Arthur Cornish.

Alas, too, Haydn Tanner decided to retire. It was at the end of his long Rugby career, and he wished to comment for “The Daily Graphic” on Rugby football, which he could not do at that time as a player or official. Haydn had a long and distinguished career on the Rugger field and had gained all possible honours. In his three seasons with Cardiff he served the club well. He contributed much towards the club’s post-war efforts to demonstrate Rugby football as it should be played, in possibly the best era of success in the whole of its history.

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