Rugby football came early to Pentyrch largely because of the influence of Morgan Thomas the newly-arrived headmaster who, with a few others had experienced the sport at far away colleges. However the majority of the players were local colliers, ironworkers and farmers. There were twenty-a-side rough and tumble games on the Forlan fields during the spring and summer of 1882, but the following year a ‘Football Club’ was formally created at a meeting held at School House. The club was to enjoy the generous patronage of Col. Henry Lewis of Greenmeadow and other local dignitaries. The first ‘official’ match, against a Whitchurch team made up mostly of Melingriffith tinplate workers was played on a field which lay between the present houses at Bronllwyn and Parc St Catwg.
Pentyrch teams playing away took with them that element of notoriety which had characterised the community for centuries. The saying ‘Rhwng gwyr Pentyrch a’i gilydd’ (let it be between them only) indicated a special bond that set this 100% Welsh-speaking team apart from many in the area. They travelled in one of the local blacksmith’s brakes and became known as “William Mathews’ Donkeys”. The oral history of this period is littered with anecdotes about colourful personalities and incidents ... John Israel playing in his bare feet ... the brake turning over and the team falling out ... John Prys going straight to a match from haymaking carrying a scythe ... umbrella wielding women supporters ... Shoni Caewal tackling the referee by mistake ...
Rugby was somewhat limited by the demands of the Boer War but Pentyrch managed to play regularly and a victory in 1897 over Cardiff Electric Company (a David and Goliath affair) was talked about for years afterwards. The dawn of the new century brought about the club’s first ‘Golden Era’. The team’s alleged ‘robustness’ led to them being expelled for a time from the Cardiff District Union but within one year of joining the Pontypridd District they had secured the League Championship and won the knock-out shield!
The First World War took its toll on the volunteers who rushed to join up. The local hero Tom Llewellyn (Twm Lee the mountain fighter) came home from the Battle of the Somme with one leg amputated. Between the wars the club regained its prominence in local rugby and some players went on to a higher level. The most successful of these was Tom Lewis who played for Cardiff against the invincible All Blacks of 1924. The man who ran the club between the wars was long-time secretary Con Lewis.
Soon after the second world war there was another ‘golden era’. From 1949 onwards under the influence of the incomparable Ross Johnson they won the Mallett Cup three times in successive seasons. Ross was another who had played against a touring New Zealand side (he was in the Monmouthshire side that beat the Kiwis in 1946). Outstanding in this ‘Mallet Cup’ period were players like Basil Evans, Glyn (Ffaldau) Williams, the Murphy brothers Derek and Denis. The administrators were also of high calibre. Philip (Curly) Evans’ position as secretary was taken over by the exceptional Norman Follis who had lost his sight in a mining accident.
Pentyrch had by now moved to a new playing field (‘Y Dwrlyn’) and gained membership of the Welsh Rugby Union in 1957. The 1970s saw another massive increase in the fortunes of the club, largely due to the arrival of ex international Brian Davies who created an exciting culture of ‘running rugby’. Pentyrch played two memorable matches in the Welsh Cup during this decade ... firstly against Cardiff and then at Stradey Park against Llanelli. In the latter game Pentyrch scored a marvellous try shortly after the opening whistle. As Mike the club ‘wag’ said: “yes indeed, we were the only side in it until we cracked in the third minute”. We lost 53 – 7. Then Huw Llywelyn Davies the BBC rugby commentator joined and engendered more good feeling in the club. He began as resourceful player and has been for some time now the popular president of Pentyrch RFC.
Many benefactors helped the club survive various crises over the years – such as the plan for a new town that hung over the village for some time. The risk of losing pitch and premises was very real but thanks to the sterling efforts of several officers, in particular the then chairman Russell Howell, secretary Phil Bradshaw and later Ian Thomas and Brian Andrews, the future of the ground was guaranteed.
In 1983 the club published ‘A Club for all Reasons’ ... the story of the first 100 years. It was a limited edition which sold out in a week but is still seen for sale occasionally on the internet.
Pentyrch RFC has made many lasting friendships along the way – for instance the firm bond with the Isle of Bute which has stood the test of time. The club itself remained truly grateful for the countless examples of hard work and generosity of the presidents, patrons and supporters and particularly the players who made the club what it had become in 1983.
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