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Llanharan RFC

2003-04 wrote itself into the record books as Llanharan's most successful ever season since its formation in 1891.

Coaches Dennis John and John Phelps produced an exceptionally talented side that, under Gareth Edwards' leadership, won a thrilling race to the division one championship.

It gave the club a place in the top echelon of Welsh club rugby, fulfilling an ambition that had sustained players and members since the introduction of national leagues.

Llanharan RFC

It was a fitting culmination of a long and notable record in Welsh rugby, with the game having become formally established in the village in 1891-92 when it was little more than an agricultural hamlet. The earliest photograph on the club house wall is dated 1898. In 1919, Llanharan achieved the proud status of membership of the Welsh Rugby Union.

Unfortunately, injuries badly hit our small squad and, lacking the resources of the big town clubs, we failed to build on a promising start and were relegated to the first division in 2005 after just one season at the top.

Prior to the national leagues we had established a deserved reputation as great cup fighters. We ran the great clubs of the time such as Pontypool, Cardiff and Pontypridd close, losing once to Pontypridd on a penalty shoot out. But we also claimed the scalps of Glamorgan Wanderers, Tredegar, Penarth and Abertillery who were then part of the so called “first class” elite of Welsh rugby. Twice we reached the quarter finals, losing gallantly to Aberavon (1988) and Cardiff (1989), a remarkable achievement for a village club. It was a great era in our history, earning the title Whitbread and Rugby World Junior Club of the Year in 1989 after being runner up in 1988.

There have been many players of high quality associated with Llanharan, often gaining recognition with clubs such as Bridgend, Pontypridd, Newport and Cardiff.

Danny Pascoe became the club's first international player by earning caps for Wales playing against Ireland and France in 1923. Garfield Owen was the club's second international player gaining six caps in 1954/55. Other international players associated with Llanharan include Richard Donovan (1983) and the brothers Glyn and Gareth Llewellyn, the latter now the record caps holder for his country. Glyn returned to the club in a coaching capacity in 1999, a role he held until 2001. and with typical club spirit helped out as replacement in the promotion campaign.

It is worth noting too that Chris Davey, coach of the Wales Under 21s and Director of Rugby at UWIC, is a former captain and coach of the club.

In 1953 the Llanharan blazer badge was designed and introduced, its design symbolizing the history of the area. The four quarters show: Agriculture, Mining, Llanharan Spaniels, and the Church. The Black Cross dividing the badge is a reminder of the Llandow Air Disaster, when Llanharan bore the grief of eight victims who died as their plane crashed on landing returning from a Dublin international.

From this low point the Llanharan club, which had imported a wooden hut from same Llandow airfield to serve as its first on field changing rooms in 1948, surged forward with the first clubhouse being built in the early 1960’s and modernised dressing rooms appeared not long after.It was again a surplus MOD building that was transported from Stormy Down camp on the back of the coal lorry of our then president Joe David . The old wooden "hut" hosted some memorable nights, but further major developments followed in 1977, with the building of a new bar, lounge, and committee room. Until relatively recent times, teams lined up to do battle on the Welfare Ground, adjacent to the old clubhouse, and although still used today the First XV now play on the Dairy Field which has floodlights, covered terraces and a grandstand amongst other facilities. Showing great foresight and enterprise the committee of the late 1980's had bought the ground in anticipation of the changes about to affect Welsh rugby. The name came from the adjacent CWS Milk Depot which closed in the late 1960s after 50 years of milk processing and whose site now awaits development alongside the proposed location of Llanharan train station..

This switch co-incided with the arrival of league rugby in Wales, thus giving the ‘second-class’ clubs a chance of rising to the top. On the opening day of what was then the Heineken League on 23rd September 1990 Llanharan recorded the highest score of the day in defeating Aberavon Quins by 43 points to 18.

In this first season of league rugby Llanharan excelled, finishing second in their division. This led to the club being promoted, along with champions Dunvant, to Division Two. During that season another club player, Anthony Donovan, appeared for the Barbarians. The following year Llanharan RFC celebrated its centenary year, with games against Cardiff and Pontypridd a highlight on the field, and a grand dinner in City Hall the climax of off the field events.

Although the club finished third on try count in the league in 1992-93, hence just missing out on promotion to the top flight, following seasons proved disappointing culminating in Llanharan being relegated in the 1996-97 season. However, after another season of poor form 1998-99 ended with Llanharan once again being promoted back into Division One.The club subsequently retained its place in the First Division, finishing in mid table in the next four seasons.

However, the hugely ambitious move instigated by team manager Brian Mills in the capture of former Pontypridd, Bridgend and Wales A coach Dennis John in the summer of 2002 certainly paid dividends as did the recruitment of John Phelps as his right hand man, a hugely experienced player and coach with clubs such as Treorchy, Pontypridd and Bridgend.

The upsurge in playing fortunes that led to a place in the premier division was accompanied by the move to the new clubhouse at the former Royal British Legion premises at the start of 2002-03, giving Llanharan a playing and social complex the envy of many. The transformation of the old buildings into a plush new home owed much to the unstinting efforts of a dedicated band of members who toiled tirelessly to complete the work.

The club had come a long way from the early days when local pubs the High Corner and Turberville served as a base ,and committee men borrowed a trolley from the train station to haul churns of piping hot water from the old CWS Creamery up the road to the High Corner stables to fill the old tin baths!

These changes have enabled Llanharan to face the 21st century with ambition and confidence.

In the words of the club song:
"Black and Blue are the colours,
Rugby is the game,
We're all together,
And winning is our aim,
So cheer us on through the wind and rain,
Llanharan, Llanharan is our name."

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