NEWPORT RUGBY'S GREATEST TEAM?
They weren't invincible but for many the 1950-51 team is Newport's greatest.
It is reputed that large numbers of people came to watch the team without club allegiance due to the exhilarating style of their rugby. In a most exacting fixture list they ended the season with a record of played 40, drew 1, lost 2. Points for were 538 and against 125. They conceded only fifteen tries in forty matches. The Newport RFC history website states they would have won one further game, at home against London Welsh, abandoned after 51 minutes due to fog with the score at 12 (four tries) to nil.
Newport opened the season with a 24-0 demolition at Rodney Parade of Penarth with star outside half Roy Burnett scoring four tries. From that game on September 2 until February 24 when they beat Blackheath (20 points to 8) at Rodney Parade the Black and Ambers won 26 consecutive home games. The game against Penarth set the standard Burnett and his colleagues started to attack teams from their own 25 yard line sometimes from behind the goal line! Burnett was ably assisted by scrum half Billy Williams and centres Bryn Williams and Bobby Owen.
Newport were unbeaten by a Welsh team in the entire season, they also completed doubles over Leicester, Gloucester, Bristol and Wasps. On 3 February and without internationals Ken Jones and RT Evans playing for Wales in Scotland they disposed of a good Bath side by 39 points to 9.
In his article 'the great story of Newport Rugby' O.L.Owen notes the significant games against Cardiff. The rivals played one another four times per season. At the Cardiff Arms Park a world record crowd of 48,500 saw Newport beat their rivals 8-3 (having beaten them previously 8-3 and 8-6). In the final return fixture a week later in front of 27,000 the two teams were locked at 3-3 with ten minutes to play. Burnett had two opportunities to score but dropped the ball on both occasions, later it was revealed he was playing with a broken collarbone.
Newport's unbeaten run came to an end on March 17 against Harlequins at the Quins' spare ground in Teddington. The match was played at 11am before a small crowd on the morning of the England-Scotland game at Twickenham. Newport were without Burnett and had a much changed side including Ken Jones at centre. On a muddy pitch Quins were inspired by a former Newport player Norman Fryer and won by a solitary penalty goal.
Despite this setback Newport returned to winning ways including the 13-6 defeat of the Barbarians in front of 24,000 with R.D.Owen a brilliant success as Burnett's replacement. They began with two wins on a tour of Devon before a setback in their match at Exeter where despite their overwhelming superiority they went down again by a penalty goal to nil.
They finished the season off with home wins against Cross Keys and Pontypool. They ended the season as unofficial Welsh Champions for the first time since 1922/23. Their top scorer was Ben Edwards, the second row, who amassed 159 points (25 penalties and 42 conversions). Top try scorer was left wing John Lane with 27 tries. Remarkably Newport's two other teams were also successful, United beaten only once and the Extras invincible.
Jack Davis in his history of Newport RFC recalls the 1950/51 side as follows "They were the biggest money spinners the game has ever known. In the second half of the season they invariably played before record crowds, and their attraction was not the invincible record that Newport held so proudly for so long, but the dawning knowledge that wherever they appeared and whatever the opposition they would stick to their style of all-out attack."