Cardiff v. Moseley 1886 

One of the greatest days in Moseley’s history was Saturday 17th April 1886 when the club travelled to the famous Arms Park ground to play Cardiff. Prior to this match, which was the last game of the season, Cardiff had played 26 times and won on every occasion. This tremendous run included a victory over Moseley at The Reddings by one goal and two tries to one goal. In fact the only other team to score against Cardiff had been Gloucester who managed a try at Kingsholm.

Such was the certainty that the home side would win that a subscription had already been started to provide medals bearing the word ‘Invincible’ which would be presented to the Cardiff players after the match. A band had also been engaged to play Cardiff off the field to the strains of ‘See The Conquering Hero Comes.’ In anticipation of a Cardiff win 4,000 spectators converged on the Arms Park.

The Cardiff side was a very strong one including five current Welsh internationals among whom was F.E. Hancock, the captain and pioneer of the four three-quarter system. The match was refereed by G. Rowland Hill, the secretary of the Rugby Football Union.

Moseley won the toss and decided to play with the wind in the first half. The first twenty minutes were very fast with some end-to-end play until Mylins, one of the visiting three-quarters scored a try following a misdirected kick out of defence by Cardiff and this score was converted by Mansell. Following the change of ends Cardiff, now playing with the wind, spent time in Moseley’s half and three-quarter Douglas scored a try in the corner following a mistake by Wallis, the Moseley fullback. However, the Cardiff score went unconverted. There then followed a period of pressure by the home side until, five minutes from full time, a weaving run by Mylins enabled him to score his second try, which was again, converted by Mansell. There were no further scores and thus Moseley became the only side to defeat Cardiff during the 1885/86 season.

The band rather than playing ‘See The Conquering Hero Comes’ had to content themselves with the National Anthem! Medals were still presented to the players at the following month’s annual dinner though presumably not bearing the word ‘invincible.’ Having said that in its review of Cardiff’s season the Western Mail opined that ‘The Invincibles’ was ‘a name which they have every right to claim!'

In later years when Moseley visited the Arms Park the crowd often carried banners bearing the words ‘Remember 1886’ and it seems that Cardiff did because Moseley did not win again in the Welsh capital until 1987, 101 years after their last victory. This Moseley victory helped to convince the London critics that there were players worthy of international recognition in clubs other than Richmond, Blackheath and the universities and four years later, J.H. Rogers became Moseley’s first England player. Such was the impact of Moseley’s win that nearly forty years later, in 1923, the magazine Rugby Football was still commenting that ‘the performance stands out as the greatest ever accomplished by an English club on Welsh soil.’

Cardiff v. Moseley 1886-A Postscript

Further research has yielded some interesting information about the earlier game at The Reddings.

The match took place on 5th December 1885 and at that stage of the season Moseley had defeated Kidderminster Harriers[1], Stoke, Leicester and Edgbaston Crusaders and had played two drawn games with Rugby. The victory over Leicester had been by three goals to nil while that over Stoke had been by the enormous margin of six goals and six tries to nil.

Moseley’s Welsh opponents had won all eight of their matches, which included wins against such strong teams as Swansea, Newport, Llanelly[2] and Gloucester. This unbeaten run included six goals and two tries against Newport, six goals and four tries in the match with Llanelly and four goals and four tries against Gloucester.

The match seems to have been greatly anticipated and a large and ‘aristocratic audience’ which included ‘a large number of ladies’ assembled at The Reddings.

Cardiff were known for their ‘unselfish passing game’ and after Moseley had taken the kick off the visitors were soon into their stride and within five minutes had scored an unconverted try by Arthur. The home team kicked the ball back into play and were soon under pressure again, Cardiff only being prevented from scoring by some good tackling. There then followed a Moseley break out but they were soon defending once more and this proved to be the pattern for the first half with the home side staging occasional forays into their visitors’ territory only to be pushed back on the defensive.

Towards the end of the first period some poor Moseley passing allowed Cardiff to regain possession and Arthur once more touched down for the visitors. At this point one of the many disputes that characterised rugby matches of the period erupted. Cardiff claimed that Moseley charged the conversion attempt too early and instead of claiming the goal carried on playing. Moseley, on the other hand, stopped playing which allowed Jarman to score an unopposed try for Cardiff. Under protest Moseley allowed their visitors to take the kick at goal, which was successful, and a disputed goal was recorded for the Welsh side. From what can be gathered from the newspaper reports there does not seem to have been any officials of any sort to control play and all decisions were left up to the two respective captains. It was, perhaps, hardly surprising that disputes arose.

[1]  This was Kidderminster Harriers’ last season as a rugby club, having ‘got to the top of the tree in rugby’ the club decided to switch to soccer.

[2]  The spelling was not changed to Llanelli until 1966.