Played 35 Won 12 , Lost 19, Drawn 4. Points For 167, Against 276.
Keene’s Bath Journal 4th September 1897 reviewed prospects for the coming season. G G Vincent had taken up a post in London, but hoped to turn out for Bath for some of the early games. J McTier had departed for Ceylon to engage in tea cultivation; the same country and industry, which had claimed vice captain J D’Aguilar. There was disappointment that Lieut. F S Reeves, of the East Kent Regiment, would not be available, as he had been posted to the Punjab. Full-back F G Morgan was in Gibraltar. Norman Biggs was still in Batheaston and had signified his willingness to turn out for Bath when possible. Frank Soane was again captain, and would again have F C Belson, F Derrick, Lewis Fry, J Ruddick, G Knight, J Billett, G Ruddick, T B Timmins and C Williams in support.
RUGBY TRIAL 11/9/1897 – BEFORE MOVE TO RIVERSIDE (PRESENT) PITCH.
“H G Knight was on the ground, but had received one or two nasty bruises and cuts by falling on the stones which are to be met with on the riverside pitch, so reserved himself for Saturday next when business begins.
W F Long also had had enough of this rough piece of ground, and had the game been on the regular arena would have put on his jersey instead of skirting the touchline making notes.
I am glad to see that the new vice captain takes a keen interest in the duties of his post. It is about time somebody did. Both secretaries were still away. In their absence W T Davis, who is the embodiment of energy has been ably filling his place. It was a thousand pities he was dropped from the Match Committee.
Really the Club’s tenure of the Recreation Ground does not commence till September 15th. On Saturday the proper track will be available, and it looks in beautiful fettle. The Committee should never consent to being turned over to the other side of the field.” (Our highlighting)
v Weston-super-Mare, Home. Won 10-3. Team: Gooding, Stiles, W F Long, J Long, G G Vincent, R Awdry, E H Seers, F Soane, F C Belson, F Derrick, T B Timmins, G Ruddick, A Billett, H G Knight and C Williams.
“Everyone was admiring the spick and span appearance of the football pitch on Saturday; the barrier however, will have to be raised in some parts, being too low for anything like a crush.”
Bath opened their season in front of a goodly crowd, some £16 being taken at the gate. G G Vincent and R F Awdry soon scored unconverted tries and W F Long dropped a goal to cross-over ten points ahead. The second moiety was more evenly contested and Weston narrowed the gap with a penalty by Harraway. Both clubs fielded weakened sides, and Weston’s troubles were compounded when C Harper, a three-quarter, sustained a dislocated shoulder.
v Wellington, Home. Lost 8-10. Selected Team: F G Morgan, W F Long, A E Fry, B Clissold, J Long, G G Vincent, E H Seers, F Soane, F Derrick, A Billett, G Ruddick, T B Timmins, H G Knight, L J Fry and F Knight.
Described as a gloriously contested game, it was the first time Bath had lost to Wellington on home ground. In their vexation, the large crowd was said to have anathematised Doctor Jim (Long), for apparently dropping Fry’s pass with the line at his mercy.
“The visitors scored first, Disney making his mark cleverly in the home 25, and placing the ball for Hatton, who landed a goal. Then Perry registered an unconverted try. After this the homesters got a chance from a penalty in the corner, and Fry, from a splendid kick, scored three points; just before half-time Ruddick charged down a punt by Gamlin and scored right behind the posts. Fry converted and the teams crossed over with Bath leading by one point – 8 to 7. The game was even more exciting in the second half, for Blackmore getting an unconverted try for Wellington, put his side two points ahead. Bath made determined attacks on the visitors’ line, and it seemed towards the close that they were bound to score, but the end came with Wellington victoriously 10 points to 8. Soane had the misfortune to receive a nasty injury just before the close, tearing the cartilage of the bottom left rib.”
v Neath, Away. Lost 0-11. Team:- E F Gooding, A D Stiles, M B Clissold, A Osman, S W Rowse (Post Office) , G G Vincent, E H Seers, F Derrick, T B Timmins, A Billett, F Knight, G Ruddick, S Knight, W Puddy and E Watts (Lansdown Swifts).
For Bath’s first ‘out’ match, Bath were obliged to field a weakened team. There was a depressingly heavy sick list:- Soane with injured ribs; W F Long, with his shoulder painful and water on the knee; “Titch” Fry, with an arm in a sling; H G Knight, with a damaged eye; L J Fry, with a swollen face; Belson and J Ruddick still suffering from strains received in the close season, and J Long due for a medical examination for recurring problems. It might be noted here that ‘Titch’ Fry could seldom be relied upon for out of town fixtures.
Somewhat remarkably there was no score up to half time. Good performances from the brothers Knight, were highlighted by a South Wales paper. Neath won by a goal and two tries to nil.
v Cinderford, Away. Lost 0-16. Team: E F Gooding, A D Stiles, E Witham, A E Fry, A Osman, R F Awdry, E H Seers, G Ruddick, A Billett, T B Timmins, F Knight, S Duck, H Heath, A J Taylor, and W Puddy. There was a goodly crowd, enjoying the fine weather for Bath’s first ever visit.
There were cry-offs from :- Soane, Derrick, H G Knight, Belson, J Ruddick, C Williams and Lewis Fry. There was to be no game the following Saturday, so it was to be hoped that: “a goodly proportion of the invalids will have cast off their bandages and again be fit and eager for the fray.”
“Bath was penalised for off-side play by the halves, and Robins kicked a goal. Willstead got clean away but passed wrongly. Bath, by passing, got to the home 25 and, Martin kicking badly, the visitors pressed for the first time; Field relieved to the centre by smart passing.”
Gooding kept down the score with praiseworthy pluck.
All three Bath teams lost, with an aggregate score of 49 points without reply!
Commenting on the run of losses and the lengthening injured list:-
“When all these are in the swim again, and we have settled down to something like a regular outside combination, Bath may be regarded as up to concert pitch. As the team has been constituted of late. It is deplorably below par, and the trio of successive reverses is not much to be wondered at under the circumstances, especially when the calibre of the team who have beaten them is considered. Wellington, Neath, and Cinderford are all foemen worthy of our steel when it is the best metal – at present it may be likened to blades ‘Made in Germany.”
With a week’s lay-off, it was hoped that: “…a goodly proportion of the invalids will have cast off their bandages…..”
v Old Edwardians, Home. Won 10-0. Team: E F Gooding, W F Long, A E Fry, H Parker, J Long, E H Seers, R F Awdry, F Soane, F Belson, F Derrick, A Billett, J Ruddick, G Ruddick, H G Knight and F Knight. Uniquely, Bath took the field as selected! It was F C Belson’s first appearance of the season.
“Titch Fry” was the hero, although there was considerable doubt as to whether his drop goal, was really a punt. The visitors protested strongly.
“The Old Boys started, and W Long returned to touch at the centre. Tight scrummaging ensued near the middle line, and a visitor was dashing off when he lifted the ball nicely into the arms of Fry, who gave a long pass to J Long on the left wing, but Jim did not take it; however he managed to send to touch. Awdry failing to gather the ball was hauled down, and some passing between the Bath outside men, which was tried, was too high for practical purposes. Bath got the ball from the scrum every time, and Fry gained ground by a useful cut through. In the loose Derrick moved off prettily, and the visitors’ territory was invaded. The Old Boys were rushing over the centre, when Fry fielded the oval grandly, and sent to touch. Some loose play in which Soane and J Long were conspicuous, almost resulted in a score, and a minute later had W F Long taken a rather difficult transfer from Fry he would have got a try, but he missed. A few moments afterwards, for a very glaring offside move by an Edwardian forward, the visitors were penalized on their 25 mark, and Fry landed a goal very neatly. After the kick off W Long made a grand run for Bath, dodging in quite his best style. He had crossed the visitors’ 25 line before he handed to Soane, who was backing up finely, and the movement had brought the ball very close to the Birmingham goal line before it was lost in touch. Goodman dribbled away gamely, but Parker stopped his burst and some more open work saw the leather with Fry, who dropped a beautiful goal. Keen forward work enabled Bath to attack again immediately, but Bath being penalized for ‘legs-up,’ the free gave the visitors some relief, and the ball was soon brought back to their ground. Awdry, who had been working very pluckily, was temporarily knocked out. The Boys’ forwards showed up a trifle, and were moving off promisingly, but Jim Long gamely stopped the rush, and play continued in the visitors’ portion. In taking a flying kick W Long’s weak knee gave out, and he had to retire. Belson was brought out of the scrum, and placed on the right wing, and the game resumed. The weakening of the Bath front rank seemed to tell at once, as for the first time in the match the Edwardians reached the Bath 25 mark. Their three-quarters got in motion, and they opened a dangerous attack, but the movement went wrong on their left wing, and Belson dribbled out of danger. The leather was carried back to the visitors’ quarters through some quick following up by Derrick and the younger Ruddick. The visitors were penalized for off-side on their 25 line. Again Soane placed the ball for Fry, and again that clever little player landed a penalty goal, bringing the Bath score up to 10 points. On restarting the Old Edwardians tried the screwing across dodge, but it did not answer, for Derrick took the leather and dribbled well into the visitors’ territory. Half time came with Bath leading by a drop goal and two penalty goals (10 points) to nothing.
The second half opened favourably for Bath, for Ruddick charged down Caldicott’s reply, and in the melee which ensued Fry got possession, and after making a pretty opening passed to Belson, but the latter missed the transfer. Nichol dribbled off, and would have scored, but Gooding robbed him of the ball very neatly. Soane replied with a delightful dribble, worthy of his palmiest days, but the visitors secured from the scrum, which marked the termination of the Bath captain’s effort, and had not Fry picked up Flewitt would have scored. They worked up a hot attack, their halves getting the ball from almost every scrum. Once an Edwardian crossed the line, but he was held up, and only ‘five yards out’ resulted. Soane gained loud cheers by clearing his lines with a splendid dribble, but by smart running and passing the Brummagen men made another fine effort, Flewitt and Barrett being particularly conspicuous. However, the defence was too determined, and all the visitors could manage was to force Bath to concede two minors. From a scrum on the central line Awdry gave to Belson, and the temporary right wing man made a magnificent run, getting within a few yards of the Old Boys’ rut. He could only give a very hard pass along the ground, to J Long, which he could not accept, and a brilliant movement was neutralized by the visitors kicking the leather out of danger. Another desperate attack by the Birmingham men was staved off and Parker cut away in brilliant style, but Long failed to take his pass. An impossible attempt to shoot a penalty goal was well followed up, and it was with difficulty Caldicott touched down in self defence. Gooding did smart things for his side, but despite the fact that they were a man short, Bath’s forwards were too strong and clever for the opposing eight. The game, however, continued fast and exciting, both sides in turn attacking. There was no further scoring, and Bath won by the advantage they held at half-time.”
v Bristol, Home. Drawn 3-3. Team: E F Gooding, J Long, A E Fry, H Parker, A D Stiles, G G Vincent, E H Seers, F Soane, F C Belson, F Derrick, A Billett, G Ruddick, J Ruddick, F Knight and H G Knight.
It had been a fast and close game in front of an enormous crowd. Nevertheless, the £160 gate was observed to be paltry when compared to assemblies at that weekend’s soccer matches, with 25,000 at Birmingham, 30,000 at Everton, 38,000 at Glasgow Celtic. At this last named venue, the total takings of £1160 9s 10d exceeded the previous record at Everton v Liverpool. viz. £1144.
Bath’s try came when the ball was whipped out from a scrum and Jim Long crossed the Bristol line amid tremendous cheers. Seers and Awdry were excellent in partnership and the future looked promising, if they could keep such a well balanced side. Sadly, this was not proved to be the case.
“Bath supporters went on the field in a state of trepidity because of the untried character of the home three-quarter line. The members of the quartet were not brilliant, but they proved safe and spoilt the Bristol passing repeatedly, while Long and Stiles on the wing put on speed which did much good for their side. Everybody was pleased with the form shown by Stiles, and he certainly had his wits about him. Parker, in his anxiety, oftentimes hampered Fry, but he was keen and certain at tackling, though he missed the ball more than once.”
“It seems I have been too sanguine in hoping that the same XV will always be available, for since writing the above I have learnt that at any rate there will be two changes from the team that did so well Saturday. Hospital Amateur Theatricals are all very well, but they are decidedly objectionable when they interfere with Bath football. In the first place as Vic Soane is taking the part of ‘Poo Bah’ in the ‘Mikado’ his brother cannot get away to Penarth next Saturday. T B Timmins, who would naturally come into the team
to fill the vacancy, is also stage struck, and Jimmy Long will likewise be fancying himself a Thorne or a Grossmith.”
v Penarth, Away. Lost 0-17. Selected Team: E F Gooding, A D Stiles, H Parker, A Osman (‘A’s) and White (Extras), E H Seers, R F Awdry, F C Belson, F Derrick, F Knight, H G Knight, Fry, Puddy, Wetton and Cox. Just 300 in attendance.
“Scramble’ may be writ large on everything concerning the Bath and Penarth match. It was a scramble to secure a team, a scramble to get there, a scrambling game, and a scramble to catch the train back to Bath. The outmatch with Penarth is always a dreary adventure; the four miles drive from Cardiff station to the seaside suburb and back is not a pleasant jaunt, especially with a keen nor’easter is blowing across the Bristol Channel, and those of our party who forgot their overcoats regretted the omission, especially on the homeward journey.”
A Welsh journalist’s remarks were pointed and true: “The Penarth and Bath game worked out very much as expected. Now and again Bath ‘buck up,’ but on the whole the Somerset men are no great shakes.”
It was a poor reflection on Bath to take such a weakened selection to ‘the Cardiff suburb.’ Again, ‘Titch’ Fry pulled back from an ‘out’ game, Jim Long was engaged in amateur theatricals. Vic Soane was engaged in ‘The Mikado,’ and probably as a consequence, brother Frank, was unable to get away from the family business.
A Chronicle reader had sent in the following piece culled from a comic journal:-
Jones: “You used to boast of a football club in your town didn’t you?
Smith: “Yes, but we have to apologise for it now!”
v Taunton, Home. Lost 3-8. Team: E F Gooding, J Long, A E Fry, H Parker, A D Stiles, R F Awdry, E H Seers, F Soane, F C Belson, F Derrick, H Knight, F Knight, G Ruddick, J Ruddick, and T B Timmins. The weather was unfavourable, and the attendance suffered accordingly.
Billett withdrew as he was suffering from “tight lacing” (of the boots).
Belson had a good early run, but passed to the left instead of to unmarked men on his right. Taunton soon made considerable ground from the efforts of their sturdy forwards. The ball was moved swiftly to Forrest, and the Somerset man was quick to ground the ball between the posts. Baker majored. Later, Taunton’s Bartlett gained possession and raced off: “In the Bath 25 he unselfishly gave to Forrest, and the latter gathering the ball beautifully at top speed registered another try for Taunton, but it was not converted.” In the second half: “At last Bath managed to score, Bartlett was smothered in front of his goal, and from the succeeding scrum, the ball was got out to Long, who scored. Fry kicked, but although the direction was admirable the ball did not rise sufficiently and no goal was registered.”
It was a sorry spectacle, to see Bath succumb to a team already beaten by Weston, Bridgwater Albion, Wellington and many other teams outside the county. The Taunton second row were able to break away from line outs without hindrance, and with a slippery ground and a greasy ball, the Bath pack gave a vastly inferior performance. Taunton were indeed fortunate to procure the services of Vincent Bartlett. It appears that he was on holiday and agreed to turn out for his old club for the day. Forrest showed his real metal with two ‘clinking’ tries. Forrest took a nasty blow to the head, which required a hospital check.
Bath would probably make some changes: “They were slow in the lines-out, overran and missed the ball in the rushes, and could hardly hold their own when Taunton had only thirteen men in the scrum.”
v Bridgwater, Away. Lost 5-14. Selected Team: M S Bigwood (Keynsham) J C White, J T Timmins, S W Rowse (Post Office), J Godwin (Post Office), E H Seers, R F Awdry, F Derrick, T B Timmins, H L Newman, W Puddy, A J Taylor, F Cox, E Wetten and S Knight.
Travelling difficulties were again added to problems with team selection:
“Bath’s match with Bridgwater at that place today has been troubling the Committee exceedingly, owing to the difficulty in reaching Bridgwater. The G.W.R. decline to set down the team by the 1.35, and as the 11.35 was the only alternative on that line, the journey will be made on the Somerset and Dorset system, via Evercreech, leaving Bath at 12.18, and the Somerset and Dorset have kindly promised a saloon.”
Coming home was not so bad: “After welcome refreshment at the Alexandra, the Bathonians caught the 6.3 G.W.R. express, and were home at 7.42.”
Bridgwater secured a goal, a penalty goal and two tries to Bath’s try by Derrick, converted by White.
“Considering that Bath played only three first team men the result was creditable.
v Weston-super-Mare, Away. Won 6-3. Selected team:- E F Gooding, A D Stiles, H Parker, A E Fry, J Long, Seers and Awdry, F Soane, F Derrick, G Ruddick, H G Knight, F Knight, F C Belson, T B Timmins and H L Newman.
“Bath were the first to score, but afterwards Morris equalised for Weston, neither goal kick being successful.” Nineteen year old F Knight obtained Bath’s opening try..
The game was played in high wind and drizzly rain and it was Derrick who featured in dribbling the heavy greasy ball, to toe on to Belson, who scored Bath’s winning try in the closing minutes.
In the wet confusion, flagrant off-side tactics had prevailed throughout.
Bath XV’s had won all three of their matches that Saturday
A pre match prophet contributed the following effusion, but thankfully was proved to be –
To relate how low they fell,
And to hear “Oh what a sell,
When read in light of Weston’s score
Against same team.” Oh! Dear, oh! Lor!!
Surely Bath is going down
When they cannot hold their own –
With a team so poor and weak
That Westonians’ sons have beat,
For if form be any guide, Thy will also lower their pride.
Then “Bath buns” where will you be
When licked by Weston-on-the-Sea?
BATH CHRONICLE 2/12/1897
News that W F Long had resigned as a playing member due to continuing problems with his knee. His Vice Captaincy devolved to F Derrick, whose keenness and pleasant manner were to make him a worthy successor.
v Gloucester, Home. Lost 0-11. Team: E F Gooding, J Long, Macarthy, A D Stiles, E H Seers, R F Awdry, F Derrick (Captain), Duck, H L Newman, T B Timmins, G Ruddick, A Billett, F Knight and H G Knight. Both sides were weakened by County calls, but Gloucester arrived with enviable performance figures:- Played 11, Won 10, Drawn 1.
There was little of interest in the first half, with Gloucester leading by Taylor’s unconverted try to nothing.
In the second spell, J Long earned loud approval for defensive work: “but Gloucester were not to be denied, and Hughes, from a line out, obtained a second try – a very soft thing. Taylor again failed to majorize. After the kick-out Bath forwards using their feet for almost the first time, rushed the ball up the field. But it was no use. The visitors, again forcing the game, got dangerous and Williams, picking up, ran in with a third try which Ronans converted. The homesters showed more energy towards the finish, but could not score and the game ended: Gloucester, one goal, two tries; Bath nil.”
Vice captain F Derrick sustained a nasty hand injury.
v Bridgwater Albion, Away. Lost 0-14. Team :- E F Gooding, A Stiles, J T Timmins, H Parker, J Long, A F Awdry, E H Seers, H L Newman, A Billett, T B Timmins, S Duck, H G Knight, W Puddy, A Taylor and S M Knight.
Bath took away a considerably weakened team, and victory was hardly to be expected.
“Bath went off at the start with great dash, but their forwards were soon shown to be a beaten pack, and the Albion eight attacking by fine work, Croker scored from a rush 15 minutes from the opening of the game, Smith failing to convert. The Albion backs brought off some pretty play, but Bath defended well, and success for the Albion again resulted through the forwards, T Smith on this occasion scoring, Marney being unable to goal. Two tries to nil in favour of Albion was the result at half time. For a long period after the interval play was of an even character, although Bath were unable to get dangerous. Towards the close of the game Albion again got the upper hand, and Jarman scored the third unconverted try for his side. Just before play ended more good forward work by the Albion led to Leaker scoring, and Croker goaling. Albion were left winners by a goal and three tries (14 points) to nil.”
“A glance at the Bath record shows what a pitiable career the city team has been experiencing. Bridgwater Albion now has the crow over Bath, who take a very back seat in the Somerset championship list. To put it nicely-had the referee exercised due vigilance on Saturday two at least of the four tries given to the home side would not have been allowed, for they resulted from forward passes, while on the other hand Awdry gained a fair try for Bath, but Mr.Bartlett would not give it, saying that the Bath half lost the ball. The referee’s rulings were so manifestly unfair that even the Bridgwater crowd showed their disapproval of his conduct. But there was no redress, and the 14 points registered bring the total against Bath over the century.”
The 3rd XV fixture with Avonvale, was scratched owing to shortage of players. In fact, Avonvale’s Captain, C H Whittington was with Bath 1sts. at Bridgwater. It was not the first time an Extras game had been cancelled. The reporter felt: “….it would not be inappropriate to style the third team the Casuals instead of the Extras.”
v Jesus College, Oxford, Home. Lost 3-8. Team: M S Bigwood, J Long, W Godwin, J T Timmins, A Stiles, G G Vincent, R F Awdry, LJ Fry, H L Newman, F Belson, A Billett, Melluish, Perkins, T B Timmins and H Kemble.
Agreed that the College be paid half the gate, which came to £1 16s 6d, less the Angel Hotel bill, which came to 19/3.
Bath were pleased to include George Vincent, who was home for Christmas. He was soon prominent in struggling through a host of opponents. “Belson then shone in a valuable dribble and some promising passing was done by the Bath three-quarters, Timmins and Godwin doing good work at centre. Vincent coming from the scrum with the ball at his feet dribbled neatly and nailed the Oxford full back before he could get rid of the ball.”
Bath’s first half try came from winger Stiles after a strong break by J T Timmins from the Bath 25.
After the ‘lemon sucking’ Fry made a clever dribble from midfield up to the College line, but the Oxonians saved and relieved their lines with a rush. The visitors dominated the scrums and provided an ample supply of ball for their clever back division.
At ‘no-side,’ Jesus had won with tries from Roberts and Orpen, and a conversion by G L Thomas, to Bath’s try scored by Stiles.
v Clifton, Away. Lost 5-13. Team: M S Bigwood, Stiles, E F Gooding, J T Timmins, J Long, G Vincent, Seers, Soane, Belson, Billett, G Ruddick, H G Knight, F Knight, S Duck and T B Timmins.
Although selected, ‘Titch’ Fry did not travel, and preferred to “fool about” with the ‘A’ team.
Bath added another loss to a disastrous sequence. Their performance at Clifton: “….resulted from unpardonable want of care and bungling.”
Bath started well, but the forwards tended to over-kick the ball. On just such an occasion, it was gifted to Baker, who put in a fine run before handing to Belve for the first touch down. Lias added the extras. Next Thomas was successful, and this time Baker converted. At last, Vincent got away, only for Soane to knock-on. (Half-time 0-10)
Bath fortune’s revived briefly, when , following good forward play, George Knight landed a try. Bigwood converted with a towering touch-line kick. Near the end, Stiles mis-fielded on the line, and allowed Whittaker in for Clifton’s third try. “The Bath centres were decided failures, Gooding distinctly bad. At three-quarters Clifton quite outpaced the visitors. This makes the tenth defeat Bath has sustained this season.” It was a sorry prospect.
v London Welsh, Home. Won 21-0. Team: Gooding, White, J T Timmins, Witham, Stiles, Vincent, Seers, Soane, Derrick, Belson, Billett, G Ruddick, H G Knight, F Knight and L J Fry. The gate of £25 was much below the amount taken on the last Christmas game, and perhaps reflects some falling off of interest following Bath’s several poor performances. To confound their critics, Bath put in a good performance, soundly beating the Welsh Exciles.
Ruddick had merely to fall on the ball for Bath’s first half try.
“A minute or two after the restart another useful dribble was put in, with the result that amid loud applause Soane scored. The captain himself essayed a shot at goal, but it was a poor effort. P Francis in a green jersey, made strenuous efforts to force his way through the Bathonians, but though his powerful attempts gained loud applause they resulted in nothing more tangible. After a pretty display of combined footwork Stiles obtained a try by his pace, and Belson landed a goal in splendid fashion. The next bit of scoring resulted from a plucky but risky move by Gooding, who, when the ball was kicked over his line, did not touch down but raced out and kicked down the left touch line. Belson rushing up carried on the ball in a fine rush, brushing aside the visitors’ full-back and dribbling on till he crossed the line. Belson converted his own try, and just on time again did the needful when scoring had been accomplished by Vincent in the softest fashion. Receiving from Stiles Georgie dashed off from Bath’s twenty-five with several comrades in attendance. But the visitors had not enough breath left, for they gave up all hopes of overtaking Vincent, who seeing he was not pursued fairly walked in. When time was called Bath had the substantial margin of three goals and two tries in hand, while the Taffies had a clean sheet.”
“Gooding was reliable and quick at back. White certainly gave a more creditable exhibition than on any previous occasion when he has helped the first team. Witham made no mistakes, while Stiles and Timmins completed a serviceable three-quarter line. Vincent and Seers were too good for the opposing halves, while Soane, Belson, Derrick, the brothers Knight, Fry, Billett and G Ruddick proved an eight altogether too strong and clever for the Welsh front rank. It was in this department that the Bathonians had the biggest pull.”
News that “Titch” Fry had retired from football.
v Neath, Home . Lost 0-13. Team: E F Gooding, A D Stiles, J T Timmins, E Witham, J C White, G G Vincent, R F Awdry, F Soane, F Derrick, F C Belson, Watts, G Ruddick, S Duck, H Edwards and L J Fry.
“Neath can claim the honour of being the first team of eminence to entertain the Bath public this season, appearing on the Recreation Ground this afternoon. The game was a continuation of the holiday engagements, and the public showed themselves appreciative by mustering strongly.”
Neath were at full strength: “They provided the homesters with a good lesson in manners and punctuality by leaving the pavilion at 3p.m. to the minute.”
“At 3.18 fourteen Bath men had collected, and Soane started….”
“After about five minutes Watts turned up…”
Bath were again weakened by injury, plus the Knight brothers unable to get away from work. In the first half, Bath attempted some passing, but it failed lamentably.
Neath completed their scoring spree in the first half, winger J D Davies scored after being sent over the line at an angle. Joe Davies majored. J D Davies made another beautiful run, eluding both Gooding and Timmins to touch down. Just before the interval James Reynolds scored a soft try and Joe Davies goaled.
Lemon-sucking finished, Neath launched a number of powerful forward rushes, which Bath repulsed with great difficulty. Stiles once got away beautifully along the left wing, only to be ‘grassed ‘ by Jones. The homesters made some lively attacks, but the forwards constantly overran the ball.
There was one unpleasant incident, when one of the Neath men was seen kicking Fry in the face while on the ground. There were howls for the offending player to be despatched, but only a caution was administered, after the referee had consulted Soane.
v Exeter, Home. Lost 0-13. Selected team:- M S Bigwood, J E Long, H Parker, J T Timmins, A D Stiles, G G Vincent, E H Seers, F Soane, F Derrick, H G Knight, G Ruddick, F Knight, A Billett, L J Fry and S Duck.
“Vincent was energetic, and by a welcome burst saved his side from a heavier adverse total, but Seers was feeble. Of late he has been going far below par, and the Match-Committee would be well advised to give him a rest and play Awdry. Then of course comes the point that Vincent will be returning to London very soon, but any difficulty in that respect is met by the presence of Purcell, who might well be given his position in the present team.”
Norman Biggs fully intended to turn out, but was constrained to attend to family business at Batheaston. F C Belson was unable to get away from the Bank.
In the event, there was a debut appearance for Frank John Cashnella from Oldfield Park. He was to gain and hold a regular 1st XV place from 1899. A man of stout countenance – a very significant figure for many years to come.
“New Year’s honours did not come in the direction of Bath, in fact the citizens could hardly have started 1898 with a more miserable exhibition. The way in which the team has deteriorated of late is most lamentable, and it is comforting to know that next season’s games are now nearly all arranged, for probably some of the clubs now appearing on the fixture card would think twice about continuing the matches with a club with such a wretched record. Without being pessimistic it is pretty safe to say that the outlook is far from cheering, though I don’t think the display of Saturday can be taken as a criterion of what all matches are likely to be for the rest of the season. Several of the most capable and hard working forwards were compulsorily absent, and it was the weakness in the front division which led to most of the mischief.
Our front rank were also at a disadvantage in having to put in a vast deal of running about than their opponents owing to the feeble kicking and inability of the three-quarters and full back to find touch. On this score, they were heavily handicapped, and it is an important consideration, especially when some of the forward brigade may have been tempted to have witnesses the advent of another year.”
v Gloucester, Away. Lost 0-11. Team:- E Gooding, J Long, T J Timmins, Maule, A D Stiles, E H Seers, R F Awdry, E Knight, F Soane, T B Timmins, L J Fry, Doveton, W Puddy, Cox and Wetten.
Of the seventeen matches between the cities, Gloucester have won 14, and drawn 3. A Bath win had yet to be registered. Bath journeyed to Gloucester with a weakened team, both Derrick and Belson were detained by business commitments. Billett and G Knight were on the injured list.
Despite the loss, Bath put up a gallant fight and succeeded in playing their game in a resolute manner. Gooding was in improved kicking form, while Seers and Awdry compared favourably with the County halves. Bath did most of the pressing in the first half, but Gloucester: “put on extra pressure in the concluding portion.” With a little more judgement and dash, Bath might well have made a draw of it.
“I was delighted when entering the dressing room at the Ram after the match to see Gooding not only conscious but apparently quite recovered. He was stunned by the blow in the head, but was alright when he regained sensibility. On the way home he was as merry as a cricket. The reported migration of the plucky little back to Streatham is a myth, I am happy to hear.”
“Just before time was called Gooding, in tackling a man, got injured, and was carried off the field. It is reported that he has got concussion of the brain.”
PLAYER SELECTION PROBLEMS
“No one expected to win at Gloucester, and it was only a question of how many points would be piled up against the visitors by the unbeaten sons of the Severn city, for all its footballers are true double Gloucester, warranted born and bred in the county town. As the Bathonians travelled up the Midlands line it was not consoling to reflect that if everything had been as it should have been, even after allowing for accidents to frail humanity, and inexorable demands of business, Bath could have been playing a more likely team. To be told that ‘Titch’ Fry was wasting his pace running about with a whistle on Combe Down, watching Billett, powerless to avert defeat from the Lansdown Swifts, and worse than all to find, think of it ye gods – that Norman Biggs had followed the illustrious ‘Gerry’ into the primitive pastures of Avon Vale.”
“Why Billett was absent no one knew. All that could be elicited was the statement – I give it in all its classic vagueness: ‘He has got the hump.’ Why or wherefore no one could say. He has always been picked when fit, and has not the grievance which may be aired by Fry that he was deliberately passed over by the Match Committee. A more incomprehensible piece of impolite folly was never perpetrated, and had there been a full attendance at the meeting when his name was omitted, it would never have happened. It is not too late to alter the attitude.”
v Llwynypia, Home. Lost 3-29. Team: Gooding, Stiles, J T Timmins, Mauld, Long, Seers, Awdry, Soane, Derrick, Belson, Billett, G Knight, T B Timmins, Fry and G Ruddick. Long was the only Bath back to show any prominence, and gave the Cardiffian, Driscoll no end of trouble.
The Welsh side were exceptionally strong and included three Cardiff Club backs and two of their forwards. “The referee quickly tumbled to the cosmopolitan character of the visiting team, for in giving a decision this is how he put it- ‘Free kick to Wales!”
The Cardiff Express recorded a funny incident: “Soane scored the single try for his side, and then when the kick at goal was taken and failed, one of the Bath three quarters followed up, and, touching the ball down, wanted another try. Bob Jones, in a jocular mood, told the Bath man it was a try all right, and that he ought to take it out and have another kick at goal.”
v Cheltenham, Home. Won 14-3. . Team: Gooding, N Biggs, J T Timmins, Maule, Long, Seers, Awdry, Soane, Derrick, Belson, Billett, G Knight, F Knight, Fry and G Ruddick. A consoling win after a heavy defeat on the Thursday. G Ruddick crossed for an early try, amid loud applause, but Biggs missed with a difficult conversion attempt. He soon made amends by ‘grassing’ Phipps, thereby preventing a certain try. They were again ‘grandly repulsed’ by some resolute defending. Soon, Bath paid another visit to their opponents’ defence. Long made a fine run, but was grassed. “He threw the ball to Soane, and the latter, despite the fact that two of his opponents were hanging around him, recorded the second try. J Long missed with a log range attempt.
Midfield was the centre of attraction for some time: “Here, Stuart, the visitors’ half, in his endeavour to kick the ball, unfortunately kicked the head of his comrade, Phipps. It was thought that he would have to be carried off the field, but play was only suspended for a short time, when he again entered the fray.”
Bath resumed with a fine bout of passing and held the upper hand. J Long capped a brilliant game by crossing for Bath’s third try. A very exciting tussle ensued: “Our readers can imagine the intense excitement that prevailed, for to record the try simply meant a Bath man getting possession and falling down. It was more difficult to do this than one can imagine, and after a succession of line outs the visitors suddenly rushed away. Following this exciting tussle, the visitors adopted attacking tactics, and forced their way into their lines, and after a deal of manoeuvring they almost got over.” Eventually, Cheltenham scored a penalty from an easy position.
The coup-de-grace came when Jim Long scored a fine try. Norman Biggs converted. The crowd cheered to the echo – “the whistle blew, and hostilities were declared at an end.”
v Stroud, Away. Won 3-0. Team: Morgan, J Long, A E Fry, J T Timmins, Irving, Seers, Purcell, Soane, Derrick, Belson, L Fry, H Newman, J Ruddick, G Ruddick and F Knight.
The home sides spoiling tactics proved efficacious. “In fact the defensive play on both sides was much better than the aggressive, the result being that hardly one clean, open, ground-gaining bout of passing was seen during the match.”
Long made a number of ‘sensational’ sprints, evading the clutches of numerous opponents. A spirited run by Newman, enabled Long to touch down for the game’s solitary try. Seers was prominent, with some fine “dribbling and running at a rare pace,” notwithstanding his highly energetic activity at the previous night’s Avon Rowing Club Dance. He was evidently a great mover, both on and off the field!
“Fromehall Park, the ground of the Stroud Club, is one of the prettiest arenas in the country, and should the Bath Recreation Ground Company ever contemplate building a decent grandstand they could not do better than go to Stroud for a pattern. In fact when viewing the match I was reminded of the line ‘ Where every prospect pleases and only man is vile.’ For certainly the crowd was not in accord with the pleasant surroundings, and I can quite understand the ground having been under suspension. When the touch judge could be heard to give expression to his feelings in such language as ‘Boot him; boot him,’ it is not surprising that many of the onlookers seemed to prefer brute force to football.”
v Wellington, Away. Lost 0-19. Selected Team: E F Gooding, J Long, A E Fry, J T Timmins, H Maule, E H Seers, C Purcell, F Soane, F Derrick, F C Belson, A Billett, F Knight, L J Fry, G Ruddick and H L Newman.
Long, Belson, Derrick and L J Fry dropped out. Replacements not fully listed. However, we do know that Soane put forward Newman on the right wing and Timmins at centre. Newman, a brilliant forward, had never played outside the pack before, and made many errors.
CHRONICLE COMMENT: “A Journey through Somerset in a saloon at the tail of a Great Western express is calculated to cause almost as many internal quailings as a trip down the channel to Ilfracombe with a heavy swell running. Perhaps it was the oscillation thus experienced on Saturday, which accounted for the sorry display made by the Bathonians at Wellington.”
Bath were generally outplayed in the pack, and always outwitted and routed in the loose. The tackling was reduced to a dismal standard. “It is no exaggeration to state that once Hatton successfully got past half a score of the Bath men, who mad frantic attempts to embrace him round the neck, or tried to leg him when he was yards out of their grasp. This weakness has been often in evidence this season, and is one of the principle causes of defeat.” Frank Soane was the exception, and he saved one certain score by a thumping waist-high tackle. Again, it was Soane and Seers whose dribbling from the scrum, initiated Bath’s few attacking moves of the game.
v Old Edwardians, Away. Drawn 0-0. Selected Team: Gooding, Irvine, A E Fry, Timmins, Maule, Purcell, Seers, F Soane, Derrick, Belson, H G Knight, Billett, L Fry, G Ruddick and Newman.
Watched by no more than 40 spectators, and some of those were Bathonians living in Birmingham!
“Though they did not have the satisfaction of seeing their townsmen win they were spared the disappointment of witnessing their defeat.”
The game was played at a fast pace, and contested with remarkable keenness.
Played out in bright sunshine, the crisp air made Bath’s short sojourn really enjoyable. However, it was just above freezing point, which rendered one or two of the three-quarters uncomfortably chilly. Purcell was in rare form: “He worked the scrums very cleverly, and not only dribbled prettily but managed to bring down men two or three times his size by resolute legging tactics.” Seers had one of his bad days. Soane was prominent in a generally workmanlike forward performance.
True to their hospitable traditions, the team was entertained to a capital after match dinner at the Midland Hotel.
v Keble College, Home. Drawn 11-11. Team: Gooding, J Long, J T Timmins, Maule, E E Irving, Purcell, Seers, Soane, Derrick, Belson, Fry, J Ruddick, G Ruddick, Newman and F Knight. The Bath pack had insufficient staying power to keep the ball away from the Oxford three-quarters. The collegiates were fast and skilful. Bath were unfortunate to have victory denied them in the last few minutes. At the end of a hard game, Gooding, was not at his best. He had previously been involved in some heavy tackles, and on this vital occasion, had missed his man. J Long turned in a fine performance on the wing.
“Long’s brilliant run was indeed a feature of the match, and the way in which he showed his opponents a clean pair of heels was simply superb. Purcell and Seers played fairly well, doing some smart things at times, but they were rather slow in passing, and constantly threw away good chances. The former did not shine so well as he does on some occasions, but his spoiling tactics were splendid.
Irving again gave a good account himself, and proved very safe. His touch-downs were invaluable, and the way in which he gathered the ball, was most creditable. Long, on the opposite wing, was indeed the hero of the match, and displayed his abilities in first rate style. His tries were the result of the some very fine play, while his tricky and dodgy runs fairly hit his opponents into a heap. Soane, in the front rank, did some downright hard work, and once he got away from a scrum and dribbled half the length of the filed, but unfortunately was robbed of the leather just at a critical moment. The others in the pack performed well, and the run of Belson’s was simply surprising.”
It was one of the most entertaining matches of the season and Bath were somewhat lucky to draw.
v Stroud, Home. Won 3-0. There was very little open play, but Bath just about had the edge.
On one of the rare occasions when Bath did move the ball: “Long’s impetuosity caused him to overrun the transfer from Fry.”
Soane’s try was a smart bit of work that could only be executed by an experienced hand. Titch Fry suffered a leg strain which kept him out of the game for a while.
“Belson covered himself with honour in the two matches of last week. He played an important part in the Keble College game, when the magnificent pace he put on enabled him to overhaul an Oxonian who would have got clean in had it not been for the speedy forward’s sprint. His try was also due to his rare pace. But the finest achievement of all was the unexampled dribble he made against Stroud. To keep control of the ball at the rate at which he travelled up the field was a feat worthy of a crack Association exponent, and hard lines is an altogether inexpressive term with which to characterize his bad luck in losing the leather when he seemed about to crown a grand individual effort with a try.”
v Bridgwater, Home. Lost 5-6. Selected Team: Gooding, Long, Timmins, Parker, Irving, Seers, Purcell, Soane, Belson, Derrick, Fry, Newman, Billett, J and G Ruddick.
A second loss to Bridgwater. This time the forwards were either sluggish in getting the ball back, or when successful, the backs kicked straight at the opposition.
“To vice-captain Derrick belongs the honour of having scored the only two tries obtained by Bath against Bridgwater this season. As Bridgwater is his old club, he evidently has a peculiar fondness for it. Curiously enough both tries were converted.”
v Yeovil, Home, Won 21-0. Team: F C Morgan, E E Irving, J E Long, J T Timmins, E F Gooding, E H Seers, O Edwards, F Soane, Belson, Derrick, L J Fry, H L Newman, A Billett, J Ruddick and G Ruddick. A large crowd assembled to witness the hostilities. They cheered lustily when Billett recorded his first try of the season. Tries followed from Irving (2) and Long (2), with conversions by Belson, Long and Derrick.
It proved to be an easy win. However, Bath passing was decidedly ‘rocky’ at times, and would not be able to stand up to tougher opposition. They failed to maximise on the many opportunities presented to them. Gooding was not at home playing at centre and several of his passes went awry.
“There were three or four stoppages whilst disabled warriors were attended to, but the game was by no means a rough one.”
“The collaring was good, and in every particular the game was a most interesting one to witness, and greatly pleased their supporters.”
v Bridgwater Albion, Home. Lost 0-3. Team: Morgan. Long, Timmins, Fry, Irving, Seers, Purcell, Soane, Derrick, Belson, Newman, Fry, Billett, J Ruddick and G Ruddick.
CHRONICLE COMMENTS: “Bath forwards gave a splendid and exhilarating exhibition on Saturday. Every man pushed his utmost and the Bridgwater pack were fairly shoved off their feet.”
“It may be taken for granted, after what we have seen in the Recreation Ground lately, that if they were to meet annually to decide which is the better team, the casualty hospital at Bridgwater would require another ward to be added.”
“It was confessedly hard lines to be beaten by a try which was not a try. However Mr. Beasley decided to award the three points, when Sealey was clearly dragged out of play before he touched down, remains a mystery.”
“It was a distinct achievement on the part of Mr. Piper to get three full teams on the various fields, and his out-of-pocket expenses must have mounted up, judging by the cab hire necessary. He emerged from a four-wheeler at the G.W.R. station with the fifteenth man for Knowle just as the porters were singing ‘Take you seats,’ with a smile of triumph, but not of relief, for the Extras were still short. Somehow and somewhere a team was evolved for the Kensington scramble.”
“I am told that in the three fifteens playing on Saturday there were only about two men who have paid their sub to the Bath Football Club.”
v Taunton, Away. Won 11-3. F G Morgan, J Long, H Edwards, J T Timmins, E E Irving, E H Seers, C Purcell, F Soane, F Derrick, F C Belson, H L Newman, F Knight, L J Fry, G Ruddick, and J Ruddick.
The visiting pack started very strongly and the scrummages were keenly contested. After a while, the Bath eight established a measure of superiority, which extended into the second half. The leather was more readily moved to the visiting backs. However, Bath slackened off for a while and it was only Morgan’s tactical kicking which maintained any forward momentum. He had never played a better game. Only once did he fail to gather, and Edwards and Long were on hand to cover.
MORGAN SHOWS HIS TRUE COLOURS
Morgan had an outstanding game, despite a severe cold. “His colours rather astonished the natives. At the start he was in blue and black, but this was only an outer coat which he shed as the game became warmer, revealing the Newport yellow and blue squares.”
v Bristol, Away. Lost 0-3. Team: F G Morgan, J Long, A E Fry, J T Timmins, E E Irving, E H Seers, C Purcell, F Soane, F Derrick, F C Belson, H L Newman, A Billett, L J Fry, G Ruddick, and J Ruddick. Bristol had not been beaten since 1896.
Derrick hoped to be fit -“A Milsom Street grocer’s dog became attached to Derrick’s thigh last week, but a nasty bite did not affect his play on Saturday, and it is getting better.”
Bath put up a grand performance, hampered by full-back Morgan’s retirement with a badly twisted knee. Jimmy Long went to full back and Belson withdrew from the pack to cover the wing spot. Up to the injury, the front rank played with a dash, determination and cohesion, which nonplussed their rivals. It was hard lines to play so well, and not be the wining side.
“The animosity displayed by Bristolians of the lower grade to the genial Bath captain is most reprehensible, and I hope that the testimonial to him on the 29th will be of such a generous and general character as to be in striking contrast to the pitiful demonstration of Bristol roughs after Saturday’s match.”
There were reports of unsportsmanlike behaviour at the Rec., and unless conduct of the crowd improved, there was a threat that the local arena might be suspended.
v Penarth, Home. Drawn 3-3. . Team: F G Morgan, J Long, A E Fry, J T Timmins, E E Irving, E H Seers, C Purcell, F Soane, F Derrick, F C Belson, H L Newman, A Billett, L J Fry, G Ruddick, and J Ruddick.
Penarth were lucky to escape with a draw, as the Bath pack put on a splendid performance. It was the old story, that had all the backs played up to the quality of the forwards display, a Bath victory would have been assured. As at the Bristol game, Purcell was in rare form and scored the equalising try, after being set up by Belson.
v Cheltenham, Away. Won 5-3. Team: M S Bigwood, Irving, A E Fry, J T Timmins, A Osman, C Purcell, E H Seers, F Soane, F Derrick, F C Belson, Puddy, Duck, H L Newman, F and S M Knight.
Early play was of a very fast and exciting nature with Cheltenham holding the upper hand. A penalty goal put them three points ahead at the interval. Ten minutes from the re-start, and Purcell crowned a fine performance with a splendid try under the posts, which Fry converted. It had been an interesting and exciting struggle throughout.
v Clifton, Home. Won 9-8. Team:- M S Bigwood, E E Irving, A E Fry, J T Timmins, A H Seers, C Purcell, G G Vincent, McWalters, F Derrick, H L Newman, G Ruddick, F C Belson, E Knight, A J Billett and J Ruddick.
There was nearly a cancellation, as a deputy secretary sent a telegram : “Regret cannot raise team.” The ‘A’s game was certainly cancelled on the strength of this message, and the Rec. gate was diminished substantially as a result of uncertainty. Bath had much the better of the game and Bigwood’s three penalties were beauties. Some say that the concluding try by Clifton’s Lias, did not deserve to be awarded. Bath had changed to white jerseys to avoid a colour clash. The above mentioned Clifton player turned out in white – and remained in white. For one vital moment, he was mistaken for a Bathonian, and there was but a half-hearted attempt to bar his progress to the line.
Regrettably it was Newman’s last game for Bath, as he was returning to his home in Coventry, prior to taking up a possible post in India.
v Exeter, Away Lost 0-6. Team: Bigwood, Seers, Godwin, Rowse, Gooding, Vincent, Purcell, Soane, F and S M Knight, Wetten, Taylor, G and J Ruddick, Puddy.
Bath took a weak team to Exeter and did well despite a two try defeat. As usual, Frank Soane was a tower of strength for Bath. It was not a high class game; “Oftentimes it seemed as if the men were scrambling for nuts, and once the pack came to grief, and the sixteen forwards were grovelling on mother earth together, with the ball nowhere.”
The match kicked off at 4pm; there was no ‘lemon-sucking’ and the match was reduced to just one hour’s duration, so that the team could catch the 5.37 return train
v Percy Park, Home. Won 8-3. Team: Bigwood, Greenslade, Rowse, Timmins, Seers, G Vincent, Purcell, Soane, Derrick, Belson, Billett, F Knight, G and J Ruddick, Puddy.
SOANE’S LAST MATCH – “Good old Buster!”
This was an excellent result against a team containing seven players of Championship county Northumberland. “Both teams were remarkably good at both attack and defence, and the whole of the time the spectators were kept on the tip-toe of excitement.” First half try by Belson, converted by Bigwood.
“Belson’s speed undoubtedly saved Bath from disaster, for immediately after the restart Stone would have scored for Percy Park had not Belson raced up. Bigwood tackled his man, but the left winger, to whom he managed to transfer, was going over the Bath line when Belson grassed him. Bath had several narrow escapes, but on the other hand the Northerners were also fortunate in not having more points registered against them when the Bathonians moved off in the forward rushes, which were the feature of the homesters play.”
“Soane played a great game, and he has seldom dribbled more skilfully, he used excellent judgement, and there was none of the hard kicking that has often spoilt good bursts before now.”
After this game, Bath’s great servant, and Skipper, was “chaired” back into the Pavilion.