Llanelli Rugby Football Club (Welsh: Clwb Rygbi Llanelli) is a Welsh rugby union team founded in 1872. The team colours are scarlet and white. Their home ground is Stradey Park, Llanelli. Llanelli have usually been one of the leading club sides in Wales.
The Early Years
Llanelli RFC were supposedly founded in 1872 (and celebrated their centenary in 1972) however there is no record of any matches played by the side until 5th February 1876, four years later against Swansea. During this early period the team played in blue shirts at Peoples Park. A year after their first match, Llanelli faced their first international opposition, England which ended in a 0-0 draw. Interestingly this match was played on a nearby cricket pitch, as frost prevented them playing on their normal pitch. Llanelli RFC moved to their current home at Stradey Park in 1879.
In 1884 Llanelli played an Irish XV who stopped off in the town having played Wales in Cardiff a couple of days previously. It was in this match that they wore a Scarlet colour shirt which they've worn ever since and which also created the clubs nickname "The Scarlets" and the name of the regional team (Llanelli Scarlets) for the area nearly 120 years later. Their first major trophies came in 1882 and 1896 when the South Wales Challenge Cup, the forerunner to the modern Welsh Cup. December 1888 saw the team beat a touring New Zealand Natives (Now known as the New Zealand Māori) team by 3-0. The team claimed their first full international scalp in 1908 when they beat Australia 8-3. The would be the first of many famous victories over touring international sides. Players that wore the Scarlet jersey from this pre-war era included Albert Jenkins who scored over 121 tries for the club as a centre.
The Day The Pubs Ran Dry
Following the war Lewis Jones was one of the stars of the game, and was capped by Wales at just 18 in 1950 and was instrumental in their Grand Slam win that year. However just two years later, he switched codes from the then amateur Rugby Union to the professional rugby league and signed for Leeds for a then record amount of £6000.
Success was however not away from Stradey for long, a victory over Australia came in 1967 and the club was about to enter what many would argue it's strongest era. Players at Llanelli during the 1970s included Ray Gravell, Gareth Jenkins, Delme Thomas, Phil Bennett, Derek Quinnell and the team was coached by Carwyn James.
"The Day The Pubs Ran Dry" refers to the 31st October 1972. On this date Llanelli played New Zealand at Stradey Park in front of 26,000 supporters. Llanelli took a 6-0 lead through a converted try but New Zealand struck back to make it 6-3. A long distance penalty ensured Llanelli emerged victors by 9-3 and the crowd famously ran onto the pitch at the end and carried off players such as Delme Thomas. Huge celebrations followed and many pubs in the town ran dry.
The next notable period for Llanelli RFC was during the late 1980s and early 1990s. With players such as Ieuan Evans amongst the squad, Llanelli won the Welsh Cup five times in eight years between 1985 and 1993 including in consecutive seasons in 1991,1992 and 1993. It was also during this period that they achieved their most recent success against international opponents when the beat Australia, who were the world champions at the time in 1992. This along with the Cup and League earned Llanelli the title of Best Team in Britain for the 1992-1993 season as well as the nickname "Cup Kings of Wales" due to their success in the Welsh Cup. The late 1990s and early years of the 21st century also produced many Welsh internationals including Ricky Evans Wayne Proctor Scott Quinnell and Stephen Jones. The side reached the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup twice in 2000 against Northampton Saints who went on to win the trophy and 2002 against Leicester Tigers. In the match against Leicester, Llanelli appeared to be going to their first final as they led 12-10 with just injury time left to play. However Leicester were awarded a penalty 8 meters inside his own half which Tim Stimpson kicked which bounced off both the post and crossbar before just falling over the post to deny Llanelli.
The Regional Era
Top-level professional rugby changed at Llanelli RFC in 2003 when Llanelli's first team rebranded, as part of the WRU's move to 5 professional teams, to Llanelli Scarlets and Llanelli RFC became the club's premiership brand. The Llanelli RFC team plays in the Welsh Premier Division and Welsh Cup. Success was achieved by Llanelli in the cup in 2005, their first silverware in their new format during which time they were coached by Scott Quinnell.
Sosban Fach (Welsh for "little saucepan") is a nickname of Llanelli RFC. "Sosban Fach" is the name of a Welsh song, which is sometimes sung by the club's fans during matches as the club anthem. There are 'Sosbans' on top of the uprights of both sets of posts at Stradey Park.
When Llanelli RFC played Bath, it was tradition that a rag doll be put on top of the posts which the winning team would then keep until their next encounter. Llanelli RFC won the doll in 2002 which was the last time they played Bath. The rag doll was then handed to Llanelli Scarlets who successfully defended it when they played Bath in the Powergen Cup semi-final in 2006.
Prior to the regional era, Llanelli RFC were considered the third most successful team in European club rugby, having played the third largest number of games (behind Toulouse and Munster) in the Heineken Cup due to the club's consistency in qualifying for the knockout stages of the tournament. However, they have never won the competition.
Welsh Premier Division: 1992/3, 1998/9, 2001/2
Welsh Cup: 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1985, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005
Notable Former Players
- Phil Bennett
- Matt Cardey
- Ieuan Evans
- Rhys Gabe
- Ray Gravell
- Clive Griffiths
- Barry John
- Ivor Jones
- Lewis Jones
- Robin McBryde
- Doug Perkins
- David Pickering
- Derek Quinnell
- Scott Quinnell
- Keith Rowlands
- Delme Thomas
- Watcyn Thomas
- JJ Williams
- RH Williams
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