WELSH LEGEND ACCLAIMS NEATH
When Neath beat Newport to take the 1910 Welsh Championship, Welsh rugby legend Percy Bush, still playing at the time but dabbling in journalism, joined those who congratulated the All Blacks :-
“Evening Express” – April 30th, 1910
WHAT HAVE NEATH DONE?
A Roseate Future
STORY OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP
BY PERCY F. BUSH.
When the final kick had been taken in the great fight at Neath on April 16, 1910, and Newport had retired vanquished by the difference between a dropped goal, and a try, it was everywhere acknowledged that Neath had won the proud title of Welsh champions.
It is not to be wondered at that the acclamations of the sporting populace should have occupied the air of the town to the exclusion of everything else; it is not to be wondered at that every man in Neath felt at least two inches taller on the night of the date I have mentioned, for it is ever such a long time ago that the the Blacks were at the top of the tree – never before, in my recollection, have they stood where now they stand.
The only cause for wonderment is that the Neath players carried off their honours all have such modest demeanour, for, although they had accomplished something great in the football world, yet they never attempted to show anyone that they thought “shucks” about it.
Although I was far away from the actual scene of battle, yet I have channels of information open to me which are reliable, so I know what I am talking about. Now at the beginning of the season Neath did not give promise of being the great side they have proved themselves to be.
Early on they got beaten by Leicester away. But it is a well-known fact that Neath never get going until the season is about a month old, also the committee who quite evidently knew what their young team was made of didn’t worry, but simply smiled serenely.
The Game of His Life
An intimation that this placidity was not misplaced was soon forthcoming, and was given when the team met Newport at Newport and drew with the powerful Usksiders when the latter were going great guns. But. perhaps, the proudest moment of the season (bar, perhaps, the last Newport game) was when Cardiff were met at Cardiff.
That day the Neath forwards played grandly, and W. M. Edwards played the game of his life. Time after time he cleared and saved his forwards by great kicking. It was he also who kicked the penalty goal by which his side won the much-prized victory.
But in getting this goal Neath were most, distinctly lucky, for there is no doubt at all that the penalty should never have been given. It was just an instance of how Cardiff have suffered several times this season, another case being that try in the BaaBaas match at Easter, when a try was given against Tommy Beardon.
All the same, Neath won the match, and deserved to, but it was a pity the win wasn’t more conclusive. Up to Christmas things went on quite smoothly for the Blackies, and, then, notwithstanding the temptations of Christmas festivities, the team brought off a fine win against Edinburgh ‘Varsity, A great revenge came about, and it is not possible to over-estimate the value of it.
I refer to the return match with Leicester. This match, at Neath, was one of the greatest triumphs of the whole season, for it not only showed that the result of the first-game between the teams was not an equitable one, but it also clearly demonstrated the supremacy of Welsh football. The “Tigers” returned without the usual smile beloved of the caricaturist, and the honour of Neath was restored.
A Great Pity
All the time one could not help thinking what a great pity it was that Llanelly and Swansea were not being met. A tussle between Neath and Swansea would have been one well worth the seeing, and one cannot help thinking that it would have been better for all concerned if the teams could have met.
As far as rough play is concerned. I only hope that all teams in Wales and England will model their style on that of Neath’s present team in the future, for a nicer lot of players I do not think it possible to meet, and I do hope that next season we shall find Neath and Swansea in friendly rivalry once more; likewise Neath and Llanelly.
Another epoch-marking event was duly recorded at Neath later on in the season, for when the blue and blacks visited their former conquerors Neath won again after a most exciting time.
True, it was only by a single point, but the win this time was thoroughly conclusive, and I hope I shall not be accused of being traitorous to my old and loved team Cardiff when I say that the win should have been by 12 points instead of one.
Whether I am or not, I can’t help it. That is my opinion, anyway. The big beating Neath administered to Plymouth on the latter’s own ground came, at any rate to me, as a stupendous surprise, I knew what Neath could do, but Plymouth is a fearfully hard nut to crack at Plymouth and I never dreamed that the Welsh champions would do what they did over there.
Plymouth are justly regarded as one of the best of England’s clubs, and for Neath to win by such a big score was decidedly an achievement which stumped them as A1 at Lloyd’s.
Another Gaudy Plume in the caps of the men Castellnedd was obtained at the expense of Bridgend. This game provided the biggest total of points which Neath had gathered in one game throughout the season. This match must have given Neath quite a lot of misery, for it is well known that they loathe beating their near and dear neighbours. Bridgend.
However, they still kept smiling. The delight of the “best ‘referee in the kingdom” at seeing his pets thus ruthlessly destroyed may be more easily imagined than described.
Of course, we don’t think much of making big scores over here. For instance, when we played St. Nazaire the other day we bagged 71 points against 17; by “we” I mean Nantes. But, speaking offhand, I think that, next to Nantes, Neath hold the record this year for the biggest score in a single match.
And then came that awful, awful trip to London Who would ever have imagined that the London Welsh would have dared to succeed where Cardiff and Newport had failed? Yet that is precisely what they did dare, and, daring, did.
This is probably the only game of the season upon which Neath do not look back with joy. It even jeopardised their chances of winning the championship, for Newport were perilously close in the race for honours.
Consequently, the last match against the Usksiders was invested with unusual interest, and was most eagerly looked forward to by both sides. The game turned out to be one that will be handed down to posterity, and when the last tootle of the whistle was heard Neath had won a most exciting game, and the championship for 1909-10.
No One Grudges Them
I think that no one will grudge them the honour, for they have brought off so many really fine performances that they are justly entitled to the position they now hold. People will argue that, because Swansea and Llanelly were not met, it is impossible for Neath to be hailed as champions, and I must confess that I thought so too at one time, but it is problematical whether either of these sides would have beaten the blacks, and, if Neath played against them like they did against Cardiff at Neath, I don’t think there is much doubt that Neath would not have been beaten.
I am very glad that Neath have done so mighty well, simply and solely for the reason that they have won their matches by thoroughly clean and clever football.
They have not descended from the high standard of decent play which they set themselves at the beginning of the season, and there is no reason why they should in the future.
That future is roseate with promise, by the way, and the championship may go down to Neath again next year. Cardiff will not begrudge them the honour, for they held it in 1905-6, 1906-7, and 1908-9, and three times out of five seasons is not so bad. Here’s to you Frank Rees, and to all your merry men.