P40 W37D1 L2 : F538-A125
Capt : Ken J Jones
Back row : R Lewis (Hon Trainer), DAG Ackerman, T Sterry, LET Jones, B Edwards, P Davies, S Kimpton, R Hughes, J Lane, RT Carter (Match Hon Sec)
Middle row : B Williams, RT Evans (vice-capt), JJ Wetter (Chairman), KJ Jones (capt), WA Everson ( Football Hon Sec), G Ross, GR Hirst
Front row : RD Owen, R Burnett, WA Williams, L Davies
Wales and British Lion wing Ken Jones was elected captain for 1950/1 and what a season it turned out to be. Records were broken as Newport ended as unofficial Welsh Champions for the first time since 1922/3. This was no mean feat as Newport’s fixture list was always one of the toughest of all the Welsh clubs – playing Cardiff 4 times, Barbarians as well as all the top English sides. It was the way that the team played that was so exciting.
Crowds flocked to see Newport play and many were not originally Newport supporters and traveled distances to watch the team play their scintillating rugby. From the first match on Sept 2nd 1950 when they beat Penarth 24-0 (Roy Burnett scoring 4 tries) at Rodney Parade until Feb 24th 1951 when they beat Blackheath 20-8 at Rodney Parade they won all 26 matches – in fact it was really 27 as they were beating London Welsh 12-0 ie 4 tries to nil when the match was abandoned due to fog after 11 mins of the 2nd half with 25 mins being played jn the 1st half. They had already won the last 9 matches of the previous season. This set a new club record beating the long standing record of 1891-2-3 when 29 games were won consecutively. The next match on March 3rd 1951 was against the old enemy Cardiff and of course they were looking for he elusive 4th win. This proved to be the major disappointment of the season when Cardiff held out for a 3-3 draw. Twice the wizard Roy Burnett was put through and tries seemed certain but twice he weakly dropped for goal. It was learned later that Roy had played most of the 2nd half with a broken collar bone. Although Newport did not win the 4 matches they did prevent Cardiff from crossing their line in any of the matches. Incidentally a then World record crowd for a club match watched Newport beat Cardiff 8-3 On Feb 17th at Cardiff Arms Park. Two weeks later Newport’s magnificent unbeaten run ended at Teddington in the mud when Harlequins won by a single penalty 3-0 but Burnett was missing and wing Ken Jones was forced to play in the centre. Harlequins had much to thank their scrum-half that day – a certain former Newport player Norman Fryer who had a filed day in the mud. The only other defeat was at Exeter on April 24th – again by a single penalty 3-0. Newport’s record from March 11th 1950 to March 17th 1951 was P40 W38 D2 L0 while their home record from March 18th 1950 to Dec 1st 1951 was P37 W36 D1.
Incredibly Newport started the season without their captain Ken Jones and vice-captain RT (Bob) Evans as they were in New Zealand / Australia with the British Lions as was Malcolm Thomas. They made their first appearance on Oct 21st vs Leicester. Thomas only played 3 games during the season as he was in the Royal Navy and had become a Devonport Services player. Roy Burnett stood in as captain and after his 4 tries in the first match against Penarth he never looked back and was never in a beaten side during the season His runs and general play at outside-half were a delight to watch and how well he was supported by his scrum-half Billy Williams and centres Bryn Williams and Bobby Owen. Interestingly Newport won all their matches when these 4 played together as a unit.
No Welsh side beat Newport in the season and they only conceded 125 pts – 15 tries in 40 games ! The performance of the 2nd team Newport United under captain Roger Wade and the 3rd team the Extras has to be mentioned also. The United lost only 1 match – at Crumlin – and had a record of P28 W26 D1 L1 F425-A54 – this followed the previous season’s invincible record (P33 W29 D4) and the Extras were unbeaten with a record of P23 W18 D5 F265 A54. The three teams combined record was: P91 W81 D7 L3 F1228 A233.
Only 40 players were used during the season and there were some magnificent performances from full back Bob Hughes, wings John Lane, Graham Ross and Ken Jones, centres Bryn Williams and Bobby Owen, half-backs Roy Burnett and Billy Williams and forwards Geoff Hirst, Lyn Davies, Tom Sterry, Ben Edwards, LET Jones, Peter Davies, Doug Ackerman, Bob Evans and Stewart Kimpton. Wings Lane (27), Ross (15) and Jones (6) scored 48 of the 114 tries scored with John Lane leading the try scorers with 27 from his 34 games. Ben Edwards set a club points record of 159 from 25 pg and 42 conversions.
Doug Ackerman and Geoff Hirst played in 39 of the 40 matches with Bob Hughes 38.Peter Davies, Tom Sterry and Bryn Williams played 36 games while Lyn Davies Ben Edwards and LET Jones played 35 games It was a very settled team with 12 players all playing 32 games or more.
Interestingly in the match lost at Exeter on April 24th 1951 – which Newport should have won comfortably – Ben Edwards used a piece of plasticine as a kicking tee on the hard ground.. He missed and referee Les Evans refused permission to use it again. At the time sand was regularly used in the Southern hemisphere by place kickers!
As a footnote Newport RFC Chairman Jack Wetter, who captained the 1922-3 Invincible side said of the team “They would have beaten my team by at least 15 points”.
Ken Jones (4), Malcolm Thomas (3), Bob Evans (4), Ben Edwards (1) all played for Wales with Jones and Thomas scoring 2 tries in their matches while Edwards kicked a penalty in the 3-3 draw with Ireland. There was no place for the wonderful Burnett who was kept out of the side by G Davies (Pontypridd) and then the great Cliff Morgan of Cardiff. Former Newport player John Gwilliam captained Wales 3 times.