1897 Wales v England: 9th January 1897: Rodney Parade ‘Newport’
In their quest for fast open play, Wales introduced heavier forwards at the expense of skill in the loose. Welsh philosophy was based on the principles of holding the scrimmage and heeling out for the halves and three-quarters to handle and run with the maximum of time and space in which to manoeuvre. Thus, in their search for stronger packs, the Welsh selectors turned to the ‘Rhondda-type forward’, who was, primarily, as hard as nails, and possibly a possessor of greater brawn than brain. This effect was never felt better than in this match – Wales’s first decisive victory over the English – and subsequent sides selected along similar guidelines, although not all were as successful.
Wales gave a wonderful performance on a heavy, wet surface. Pearson, Gould, Nicholls and Biggs each figured prominently in passing movements, and Nicholls nearly scored when, with the line at his mercy, he slipped on a wet surface while veering in to the English goal. Eventually, Pearson scored a classic threequarter try in the corner, and shortly afterwards, just before the interval, Boucher touched down after the Welsh forwards had rushed the ball over the line.
At the start of the second half, the English pack dominated in the tight and it looked, for a while, as if Wales would have to fight hard to retain their lead. Fookes, Taylor and Byrne all made attempts to score, before the home side again took the upper hand and, at length, sealed the victory with a fine try by Dan Jones which was converted by Bancroft.
English Captain E.W Taylor seen after the match, shrugged his shoulders when asked what he thought of the result, and simply remarked “Look at the state of the ground. It was no ground to play on”
Arthur Gould retired after this match and followers of the game in Wales contributed to a testimonial fund which enabled the Newport man to obtain the title deeds of his home. The other British Unions regarded this as an act of professionalism and a dispute arose, which ultimately led to the isolation of Wales from international competition for twelve months.
(Tom Pearson 1 try, Arthur Boucher 1 try, Dan Jones 1 try & Billy Bancroft 1 conversion)
Joseph T Magee (Ireland)
W.J Bancroft, C.A Bowen, E.G Nicholls, A.J Gould (Capt), T.W Pearson, S.H Biggs, D Jones, H Packer, A.W Boucher, W Morris, J Evans, R. Hellings, F.H Cornish, D Evans, J Rapps
J.F Byrne, E.F Fookes, T Fletcher, E.M Baker, F.A Byrne, C.M Wells, E.W Taylor (Capt), F Jacob, R.H Mangles, W Ashford, F.M Stout, P.J Ebdon, J.H Barron, R.F Oakes, W.B Stoddart
The Book of English International Rugby 1871-1982 – John Griffiths