Scotland to Wales: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1935 Cardiff Technical College [2 February]
1940 Ystrad Rhondda [23 March]
1950 Old Penarthians Sevens [6 May]

The list may be subject to change if more rugby union sevens tournaments are discovered.

WRU intransigence

Sevens tournaments came to Wales much later than elsewhere.

Some in Wales saw the success of the Scottish Sevens tournaments and, later, the Middlesex Sevens and pushed for the Welsh Rugby Union to accept Sevens.

The WRU feared that Sevens would be a backdoor to professionalism in rugby union. They refused to permit any Sevens tournament.

Cardiff Technical College

Despite the lack of permit, college students at the Cardiff Technical College held their own Sevens tournament. This was noted as part of the Lewis Lougher Cup; played annually between different student departments. However the Sevens tournament was only part of the Lewis Lougher Cup; other sports were involved; so the cup-winners would be the best Department throughout all the sports played. The cup was later known as the Welsport Cup.

The Lewis Lougher Cup Sevens matches were evidently played on different days throughout the spring of 1935.

The cup-ties of 2 February 1935 saw the Architecture Department students beat the Handicraft Department students by three tries to nil; and the Engineering Department students beating the Bakery Department students by 36 points to nil.

Reported in the Western Mail newspaper on Tuesday 12 February 1935, the Lewis Lougher Sevens cup-ties probably held on Saturday 9 February 1935 – it is stated that the Pharmacy Dept. students beat the Art School students by 25 points to nil; and that they also beat the Bakery Dept. students by 29 points to nil.

Reported on the Western Mail newspaper of Tuesday 9 April 1935 the final of Lewis Lougher Cup, probably held on Saturday 6 April 1935 – which the Architecture Department students won.

The Architecture Dept. students beat the Pharmacy Dept. students 6 points to nil in the final. The Pharmacy students played almost the whole match with 6 men as one of their team, A. P. Pipe, sustained a broken collarbone at the start of the final.

The Western Mail reports that this was the first time that the Architecture Department students have won; but there are no earlier reports of Seven matches found. The implication therefore is that it was the first time that the Architecture students won the Lewis Lougher Cup through a variety of sports; and not that there were earlier Sevens tournaments at the college.

By 1938, the Sevens tournament was renamed the Welsport Cup. The Western Mail of Tuesday 8 February 1938 reports that ‘during the week’ the Pharmacy Department played the Art Department and that the Art Department won. This was a first round tie.

The Western Mail of Tuesday 28 February 1939: the first round saw the Architect Department beat the Chemistry Department students.

Again, another Western Mail report of 14 March 1939; cup-ties played 11 March 1939 – the Architecure Dept. beat the Handicraft Dept. students.

WRU subcommittee formed

On 2 June 1938 the WRU finally created a subcommittee to oversee Sevens tournament applications.

This was bowing to the inevitable. London Welsh, a member of the Welsh Rugby Union, had already won the Middlesex Sevens twice; in 1930 and 1931. When Cardiff RFC won the Middlesex Sevens in 1939 the WRU could not sustain it’s resistance to Sevens anymore.

Ystrad Rhondda

The first officially sanctioned match was on 23 March 1940 in aid of war charities at Ystrad Rhondda.

Snelling Sevens

The most famous of the Welsh Sevens tournaments was the Snelling Sevens. This was named after the chairman of the Newport Athletic Club, Reg Snelling. The annual tournament began on 1 May 1954; it was re-named as the Worthington Sevens in 1995, however this became the tournament’s last year.

The cover of the 1954 programme mistakenly states that the Snelling Sevens is the first Welsh Seven-a-side tournament.

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