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RUGBY IN PONTYPRIDD

Pontypridd RFC

Pontypridd Rugby Football Club was formed in 1876, and was sufficiently well established by March 1880 to be one of nine clubs that met at the Tenby Hotel, Swansea, to discuss the formation of a national union. One of its players, a nineteen-year-old year old medical student called Edward Llewellyn Treharne, played in the first international match between a Welsh XV and England at Blackheath on 19th February 1881.


In 1886-87 the headquarters of the club was the Maltsers Arms, near the old bridge that figures in the club’s badge, and it played its home matches at the Ynysangharad and Trallwn Fields. In 1890-91 the club moved to a field alongside the River Taff at Treforest, and began the development of the famous Taff Vale Park. The final Welsh trial was held there in December 1892 "to encourage the rising valley club." The club then moved to the People's Park in Mill Street in 1901, and it stayed there for three seasons. Then, on 1st October 1904, it played Caerphilly in the first game on a new pitch at Ynysangharad fields. Although the club later returned to Taff Vale Park for a short time, it was back at Ynysangharad by 1908 and stayed there for 66 years.

 


Many important figures emerged in the early years of the club's existence. Tom Williams was the club's second international, playing against Ireland at Lansdowne Road on 28th January 1882. He served on the WRU committee as a vice-president and selector, and was a representative on the International Board from 1901 to 1908. Ack Llewellyn also became an important figure in the Welsh game, as a referee and adminstrator. Ernest George was Pontypridd’s third international player, appearing forward in three matches against Ireland and Scotland in 1895 and against England in 1896. Duncan McGregor was captain of the Pontypridd side in 1906-07, and was selected in all Scotland's international matches in 1907, when they won the Triple Crown.

When it restarted after The Great War in the 1919-20 season Pontypridd had "no ground, no kit and not a penny to their name," but a small group of 'rugby fanatics' worked hard to get things going again. At this time the name of the club was briefly changed to Pontypridd United Football Club, but had reverted back to Pontypridd Rugby Football Club by 1921.

 

Although Pontypridd played many games against the top Welsh clubs between the wars, much of the fixture list was composed of 'junior' clubs. The man chiefly responsible for steering Pontypridd through these difficult years was D.G. ('Dai') Williams, who was Chairman of the club for over 30 years. He became a member of the WRU committee, and was one of  the 'Big Five' selectors for several years.

 

When games resumed after the Second World War, Pontypridd battled to maintain 'first class' status. There was also a constant battle with the local authorites to improve the facilities at Ynysangharad Park. The teams changed in the swimming baths, over two hundred yards from the field, and there was no proper terracing or grandstand.

 

Many Pontypridd players, then as now, came from the local schools out of the Pontypridd Youth XV (formed in 1954). The first ‘superstar’ after the war was Glyn Davies, who typified the 'Welsh' style of outside-half. He played in the two Victory Internationals in 1946 when he was still a schoolboy, and then got eleven caps between 1947 and 1951.

 

Glyn was followed into the Welsh team by Russell Robins, who got the first of his thirteen caps against Scotland in 1953, and also played in four tests for the British Lions in South Africa in 1955. Russell was capped at No. 8 and lock, and was regarded as a World class back row forward at the time. He played in more games than any other player on the British Lions tour to South Africa in the summer of 1955, and was selected for all four tests.

 

The third international after the war was Danny Harris, who appeared for the club between 1955 and 1960. Then Gareth Payne was capped in the second row against England, Scotland and Ireland in 1960. There were also a couple of international 'near misses' in this period, with the closest being Maurice Braithwaite, who figured in all three Welsh trials in the 1961-62 season and was selected as a reserve against France.

 

For many years the unofficial headquarters of the club was the Greyhound Inn, but in the 1960-61 season it opened a new clubhouse, Park View, near the northern entrance to Ynysangharad Park. This was the first time that the club had a home of its own, and it would remain its headquarters until May 1971. Although often regarded as an 'unfashionable' team in the fifties and sixties, Pontypridd regularly figured in the top ten of the unofficial championship, and won the competition for the first time in the 1962-63 season under skipper Eddie Jones in 1962-63.

 

The new A470 trunk road from Cardiff to Merthyr meant that Pontypridd would have to move from its clubhouse and pitch. A new ground was developed at Pwllgwaun, in the area known as 'Dan's Muck Hole,' after the colliery which used to be sited there. The game against Cross Keys on 28th April 1971 was supposed to be the last to be played at the Park, but the new pitch was not yet ready. However, it was found to be possible to fit a minimum size playing area into what was left the old pitch. So the club soldiered on, playing most of its games at the Park, a few at at Taff Vale Park, and some on grounds 'borrowed' from other local clubs.

 

The new clubhouse at Pwllgwaun was opened on 18th January 1974, but it was not until 4th September 1974 that the club played Maesteg in the first game on their new pitch, soon to be known to all of the rugby world simply as 'Sardis Road.' For the first half of the season the club had to operate with temporary dressing rooms, and without a grandstand or floodlights. The grandstand became available in February 1975, the dressing rooms in mid-March, and the floodlights on 14th March in a game against Ruthin.

 

There was a major change in the structure of Welsh rugby in the 1971-72 season, with the inauguration of the Welsh Cup. Pontypridd rarely did well in this competion, but did make it to the semi-final against Aberavon in the 1974-75 season.

 

Tommy David - the third Pontypridd 'superstar' after the war - made the first of his 404 appearances for the club on 1st September 1967, against Whitland. Although we loaned him to Llanelli for a couple of seasons so that they could beat the All Blacks, he was back at Pontypridd and in the Welsh team for the Centenary season in 1975-76.

 

The 1975-81 period in the Club's history was a golden era. Pontypridd won the Western Mail championship three times in six seasons, came third once and fourth twice. The club won the Merit Table competition once, came second twice, and fourth twice. The club also got to the final of the W.R.U. Cup for the first time in 1978-79, losing an exciting game to Bridgend. In six seasons the team played 326 games, winning 263 of them and drawing seven, a success rate of 85 per cent!

 

For some time we at Pontypridd have got used to the tag of having the best supporters in Welsh rugby, and evidence of this was starting to surface in press reports. In the 1974-75 season, against Aberavon in the Cup semi-final, the reports talked about Pontypridd’s "army of supporters." The following season, in his Western Mail report on the game against Bridgend in April, J.B.G. Thomas wrote that "the large crowd kept up an ear-splitting chant of 'Ponty, Ponty, Ponty' in support of their side."

 

The Australian touring team played at Sardis Road in December 1981, and Pontypridd narrowly lost a titanic struggle by three points to six.

 

Bob Penberthy finally made the last of his 877 appearances on 11th December 1985 in the game against Ystrad. Bob had played his last full season in 1981-82, but continued to turn out for the first XV and the Athletic when required. He represents the spirit of Pontypridd better than anyone else who has ever worn the black-and-white jersey.

 

The decision was made in 1988 to set up a league system in Welsh club rugby, to start in 1990-91 season. The eighteen 'first class' clubs would be divided up into two divisions on the basis of their performance in the three seasons from 1987 to 1990. Fortunately Pontypridd had the players and coaches to get into the top flight. The main architect of the success was coach Clive Jones, who brought with him a philosophy of rugby based on fitness, self-belief, and a fast rucking game.

 

Two players who would make the greatest impact on Pontypridd rugby over the next decade made their first appearances in the 1989-90 season. Dale 'The Chief' McIntosh made his first appearance against South Wales Police on 11th November 1989, and Neil Jenkins came in on 14th April 1990, also against the Police.

 

The nineties was the most successful period for the club since the 1970s, and given the intensity of competition at this time, it is fair to say that this 'golden age' was even brighter than the first. Furthermore, it would last for longer, see a host of Pontypridd players capped, see Pontypridd playing in a European competition, and see the rise of Neil Jenkins to world-class status. In this ten year period the club won the league in 1996-97, came second once, third three times, fourth twice and fifth twice.

 

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