Wales v. Midland Counties 

A ‘historic, scholastic, geographically diverse, but scarcely representative first Welsh XV’ represented the Principality in its first international match, on 8th January 1881, against England, at Richardson’s Field, Blackheath and was beaten by seven goals, one dropped goal and six tries to nil or 82-0 in current points.

In the following season, perhaps not surprisingly, the Rugby Football Union did not offer Wales a fixture with England but instead arranged games with the North of England and the Midland Counties. Having disposed of the North, Wales played the Midland Counties a week later, on 21st January 1882, at Newport, in front of about 2,000 spectators.

Moseley supplied the visitors with both halfbacks (P. Lea and F. Fowler) and one of the forwards (A.J. Otter).  The other clubs represented in the Midland Counties side were Burton (six players), Edgbaston Crusaders (one), Leicester (one), Rushden (one), Stratford (one) and Wolverhampton (two). The Western Mail reported that a stronger XV could have been selected, however, this seems to be at odds with the fact that nine of the Midland players came from the region’s two strongest clubs, Moseley and Burton.

Wales won the toss and dominated play as soon as the ball had been kicked off; they were, however, unable to get over their visitors’ line until Newport three quarter G. Harding managed to do so only to be called back by the umpires. Despite this setback the Welshmen continued to have much the better of the play, which chiefly consisted of scrummages, although at one point Lea, did manage to run the ball to ‘neutral ground’, which was presumably halfway.

At length the Wales captain, C.H. Newman (Newport) passed to his halfback partner, W.F. Evans (Rhymney) who scored a try by rolling over the line when tackled a little short. The conversion attempt was a difficult one and was unsuccessful. Shortly afterwards W.H. Norton, the Cardiff back, followed up a kick ahead and touched down in the Midland Counties in-goal area but was called back for offside. However, from the ensuing scrum Wales put a move together and Cardiff forward T. Williams scored a legitimate try. This conversion attempt was also unsuccessful and shortly afterwards half time was called.

The second half was again dominated by the home side and soon after the resumption of play Evans scored his second try and Wales’s third following a quickly taken throw in from touch. Evans had touched down immediately behind the posts and there was therefore no problem with the conversion attempt by G. Harding. The Midlands then briefly broke out of their half but Wales soon regained possession and Evans secured his hat trick with another try behind the posts, which Harding converted. A little while later following another throw in from touch Evans was able to touch down for his fourth try but on this occasion Harding was not able to convert it into a goal. Towards the end of the match Evans ran in for a fifth time and Harding converted to give Wales a victory by three goals and three tries to nil.

Following these victories Wales were once more granted fixtures with England although they did not defeat the English until 1890.