1896-7. P30, W24, L5, Dl. Points 409-114.
TWENTY-ONE YEARS’ OLD
OUR GROUND SUSPENDED
The Cardiff Club had now been founded twenty-one years and was recognized as one of the leading teams in the country. In reaching its high eminence the club had been served by great players, and very able administrators who had established friendly and sporting associations with the best Rugby clubs in Britain, and without doubt, contributed greatly to establish Rugby football as the national game in Wales. The club now had a stable administration in officers and committee. Its captains, appointed by the membership, were players of known ability and character, imbued with ideals of club loyalty. Of such traits was this season’s captain J. E. Elliott, who during seven seasons with the club gained three Welsh caps, and made 178 first team appearances, after which he retired and served the Rugby committee for several years.
As his vice-captain. Elliott chose one of the famous Biggs family, Selwyn, who was already established as one of the club’s outstanding halfbacks. Most of last season’s players were available excepting R. B. Sweet-Escott who had retired, and as most of the leading Clubs had been met up to this period, the only newcomers were the Watsonians who visited the Cardiff Arms Park on Boxing Day and were defeated by 22 points to 5. These old boys of Watson’s College continue our mutual relationship until this day, and many dismal Boxing Days on Cardiff Arms Park have been enlivened by sporting, often humorous, encounters since the first match in 1896.
Of our five defeats, three were at the hands of Newport for whose club our former star; T. W. Pearson was now playing. The other two were to Swansea and Moseley, in successive away games in November by the margins of one try to nil and one goal to a try respectively. The Press was critical of Cardiff’s performance against Moseley, allowing them to score with the only one chance they had. Of our three defeats by Newport, the late C. S. Arthur wrote, interestingly thus: Of our losses against Newport, Pearson was responsible for the first, he snapping the ball practically out of Driscoll’s hands and racing over for a great try. Another feature of this match was the duel between Norman Biggs and Pearson who were a well-matched pair in every way, but Pearson was the cooler and this enabled him to outplay Biggs to a small degree. A. J. Gould was chiefly responsible for our second by dropping two goals. The third match is chiefly remembered for the fact that the referee for the day, Mr. George Harnett, was mobbed, and as a result our ground was suspended for five weeks
As a consequence of the ground suspension the next five matches were all played away, yet all were won, Penarth beaten 12 points to nil, Devonport Albion 16-3, Swansea 9-7, Newport 3-0 and Treherbert 27-5. The remaining four matches at home provided another winning sequence of victories over Swansea 20 points to 8, Penarth 37-0, Barbarians 27-5 and Glamorgan League 31-0, a flourishing finish of 115 points in four matches, a great scoring performance by any standards and a most satisfactory finale to our 21st season.
Cardiff’s half-back combination of Elliott and Biggs earned much commendation for brilliant play during the season and in the match with Swansea on 3rd April, “ Biggs, from the Swansea twenty-five, so completely diddled the Swansea players that he actually walked the last twelve yards to the goal line, as cool a bit of play as ever has been seen.” The season’s top try scorers were Huzzey with 29, of which five were scored in one match against Neath, Gwyn Nicholls, W. “ Pussy” Jones and J. “ Hockey” Driscoll each scored five. First team cap awards were made to Jerry Blake, George Dobson, W. “Pussy” Jones, T. J. Thomas and H. E. Gunn. The captain made 29 appearances and G. Abbott a third season forward played 28 times.
E. M. Gunn was the Second XV captain with A. M. Ricketts as vice-captain. The record was: P29, W22, L5. Points 383 to 86. In a match against Penarth Seconds, won by ten goais to nil, J. Williams scored seven tries and A. R. Smith converted the ten goals. H. B. Winfield was making appearances for the second string. Second XV caps were voted to H. B. Winfield, R. M. Elliott, J. Heaven, W. McIntyre, H. Hall, Sergeant Leary, A. Owen, T. Davies, J. Mills and W. Williams.
Only one international match was played this season, that with England at Newport on 9th January 1897. This was due to the episode concerning the illustrious Arthur J. Gould of Newport. Now 32 years of age with 27 Welsh caps to his credit, his admirers contributed to a testimonial fund from which source he was presented with the deeds of his house by the President of the Welsh Rugby Union, Sir John Llewellyn, as a tribute to his great contribution to the game. Gould captained Wales in that match with England, and amongst others was supported by Gwyn Nicholls, T. W. Pearson then with Newport, and Selwyn Biggs and Fred Cornish from Cardiff. Scotland and Ireland considered the Gould episode as a breach of the amateur laws, an act of professionalism, and did not play Wales as a result of it. The great player Arthur J. Gould retired from the game.
During the season the club made a practical gesture to stimulate the interest in local Rugby football by donating a challenge cup for competition amongst boys under seventeen years of age. Sixteen teams entered the competition, the winners were Canton Crescents and each player received a silver medal. This competition is referred to in the chapter on ex-schoolboys, youth and junior Rugby.
As to the overall financial position, the receipts totalled £2,586.8.lOd., charities, and donations totalled E126.17.6d., the secretary’s salary was £100, income tax of £19.9.lOd. There was a balance of £1,151.3.5d. in hand, and the club had just on 1,100 members. The 1896-7 season was surely a happy twenty-first birthday for Cardiff.