Neath’s fifth Welsh championship win was perhaps their most unexpected as it came after the Blacks suffered heavy player losses – and the Welsh All Blacks came from nowhere to claim the title.
Neath were captained in 1934/35 by centre Glyn Daniels but he developed rheumatic fever at Christmas so co-centre Gwyn Moore was in charge as the season came to a climax.
When Neath lost 3-11 at Swansea on the last Saturday in March 1934, few would have given the All Blacks any chance of retaining the title won by Arthur Hickman’s team the previous season.
But Neath had completed most of their toughest fixtures and, as other clubs faltered and fell away, a series of wins against Old Paulines, Swansea, Newport, Devonport Services, Middlesex Hospital and Abertillery moved the All Blacks back to the top of the table.
So, on Saturday, April 27, 1935, the All Blacks travelled to Bridgend knowing that victory would assure them of the championship once more and, despite the absence of further injured stars like Eddie Youatt, T.H. Morgan and Glyn Prosser, here is how “Alert” viewed the triumph :-
– NEATH THE WELSH CHAMPIONS AGAIN –
– Vital Points in Final Minutes –
– GWYN MOORE’S TRIUMPH –
– TRY SAVES THE SITUATION –
Neath have closed a season full of ups and downs by becoming the unofficial Welsh champions for the second season in succession.
This achievement was brought about as a result of of their thrilling victory over Bridgend last Saturday by nine points to eight points.
It was a great game of Rugby played in a sporting spirit despite the issues involved, and attracted one of the largest crowds of the season.
Neath’s capabilities as a team were proved beyond a shadow of doubt by the fact that they won after being eight points in arrears.
Few teams could bring off such a spectacular victory against a team like Bridgend on their own ground and all credit must go to the All Blacks for their triumph which was achieved through clean and open football.
In particular praise must be accorded to Gwyn Moore, the Neath captain, who burst through for the winning try a few minutes before time,
He beat four men to crown a magnificent effort and was given a reception almost unparallelled in the history of Welsh rugby.
Although the game was unfinished spectators rushed on the field to shake him by the hand.
Neath were fully worthy of the honours and had the territorial advantage nearly all the way.
Their strength at forward was the main reason for this coupled with the powerful work of Gwyn Moore and Gwyn Thomas at centre.
The first Bridgend score caused some comment as Parfitt was considered to be off-side when he took a pass intended for a Neath man and sent C.V. Jeffreys over for W.J. Chilcott to convert.
This was a setback for Neath but their position was worsened when Chris Matthews crossed with an unconverted try after one of his typical speedy runs.
DETERMINATION AND TEAMWORK
It was then that Neath showed what they are made of. They played with fine determination and team work and, after the Bridgend team revealed themselves a beaten team, D.H. Davies and Harold Thomas scored tries.
It was hard going afterwards but Gwyn Moore gave Neath the lead and the championship.
The Neath forwards worked particularly hard and D.L. Thomas, Harold Thomas, Emrys Hill and D.M. Evans were good leaders while all played their part well.
D.H. Davies was the cleverer of the two wings and Randall Parker and Willie Lewis were good at half.
The Neath team was :- Vernon Friend; D.H. Davies, Gwyn Thomas, Gwyn Moore, W.J. Sandham; Willie Lewis, Randall Parker; PC Mog Rees, D.M. Evans, PC Fred Lewis, D.L. Thomas, Harold Thomas, Bob Jones, Emrys Hill, Allan McCarley
It really was a remarkable achievement by a Neath side shorn of so many players.
Even at the start of the season, Glyn Daniels seemed to have inherited a “poisoned chalice” for the summer of 1934 had seen the Welsh champions lose three key men to the northern code.
Top points scorer and previous year’s captain Arthur Hickman signed for Swinton who had also signed former Neath and Wales forward Gomer Hughes from Penarth, then 28-try Islwyn Davies joined St. Helen’s and full back Iorwerth Herbert went to Keighley.
After the first game, international forward D.R. Prosser fell for York’s charms while international wing Dan Jones, although “looking fit and like a greyhound” had retired, Harold Powell went to Swansea, PC Phil Thomas had been transferred to Cardiff.
Tom Arthur, then Neath’s most-capped international, retired in September and the mid-season absentees continued as outside-half Charlie Banfield headed to St. Helen’s RL, goal-kicking forward Glyn Davies emigrated to South Africa and Rayner Jones did not play after February.
The Christmas loss of captain Glyn Daniels was hugely unsettling but somehow deputies were found for odd games. Often these were fresh out of school – Horace Edwards, Allan McCarley (whose debut was against Bridgend above) and several Neath County Grammar School products among them.
Where there is youth there is hope and the newcomers usually played up to the mark and remarkably Neath came through it.
It was felicitous that other clubs struggled to show consistency but for sheer doggedness Neath deserved to finish on top of the final table which read :-
P W D L FOR AGST %
NEATH 45 33 1 11 412 208 74.44
Aberavon 48 33 3 12 509 217 71.88
Swansea 42 26 5 11 435 211 67.86
Cardiff 44 25 5 14 389 246 62.50
Abertillery 45 26 4 15 255 216 62.22
Llanelli 46 27 3 16 444 310 61.92
Bridgend 47 26 5 16 414 262 60.64
Pontypool 45 24 5 16 305 266 58.89
Newport 43 20 7 16 347 277 54.65
Cross Keys 38 15 5 18 285 256 46.05
Penarth 39 12 5 22 206 333 37.17
At the end of the season in an uncapped game for the King George V Jubilee Fund, Gwyn Moore and Gwyn Thomas at last played for “Wales” – Moore scored a try against the “Rest of Wales” who included Mog Rees.
Unfortunately, Neath’s splendid centres who had done as much as anyone to bring home the title were never to be capped properly !
The player losses of the 1930’s reflected the continued economic woes of Wales but again Neath had again shown tremendous resilience.