Who would have thought that 100 years ago Ogmore Vale RFC who now play in the 3 West Central C Division would be one of only ten clubs in Wales to play against the touring New Zealand Services Rugby Team that would later go on to win the Kings Cup, which many in rugby circles consider should be re-labelled as the first Rugby World Cup and one of only eleven teams in the whole of the UK to play the touring Australian Services Team “the Diggers” that went Union on to form the nucleus of the Australian Rugby Team when they got back home. Even more remarkable was that Ogmore Vale RFC was one of only four teams to defeat the Australians on tour, three Welsh teams and the New Zealand A Team.
Ogmore Vale RFC who prior to World War One were one of the top teams in Glamorgan, Champions of the Bridgend and District League from 1910 to 1914, though perhaps even more remarkable was that Ogmore Vale RFC held a fonnidable record of being undefeated at home by any club from 1910 to 1922.
From 1917 to 1922 Ogmore Vale RFC was firmly established as a first class team, playing such notable teams as Cardiff, Bridgend, Aberavon, Pill Harrie rs, Maesteg and Llanelli with the high point being the defeat of cardiff at Cardiff Arms Park in 1918.
No doubt then that this high profile leading to Ogmore Vale RFC being chosen to play both the touring Australian and New Zealand Services Rugby Teams in 1919. Both games were played before crowds of around 8,000 spectators at Ogmore Park, with post match drinks in their headquarters at that time, The Corbett Arms.
The first game was against New Zealand on Wednesday 16th April 1919.
Glamorgan Gazette match report 25th April 1919:
Visit of the New Zealand Football Team: Ogmore’s Ground Record Gone. The visit of a New Zealand team to Ogmore Vale on Wednesday attracted a large crowd, who gave the Colonials a rousing reception.
Ogmore had a ground record extending back for about five years. At the last moment Melbourne Thomas, the Welsh International centre, took the place of Hop Jones, one of the home three-quarters, who had met with an accident.
Ogmore opened under a disadvantage, playing against an extremely heavy wind, and throughout the first half this handicapped their kicking. Capper kicked a goal for the visitors from a mark, and Naylor scored a try, which Capper failed to convert. Near half-way Owles received the ball, and after a brilliant run got round with a try behind the posts, which Capper failed to convert, the New Zealanders leading at half-time by 9 points.
Playing with the wind in the second half, Ogmore Vale soon began to attack, and Treharne, receiving near half-way, broke through the defence , but being in danger of being over-hauled as he was nearing the line, he passed to Melbourne Thomas, who was in attendanc e, and the latter scored easily. Thomas fail ed to convert from a difficult angle. Ogmore kept well up into the Colonials’ half, and Treharne dropped a clever goal. Owles scored an unconverted try for the visitors near the end, and New Zealand won by 12 points to 7. The referee was Mr. Dewitt, Swansea.
The second match took place against Australia on 26th April 1919.
Glamorgan Gazette match report 2nd May 1919):
Ogmore Vale Beats Australians.
The New Zealanders broke Ogmore Vale’s five years’ home ground record the previous week, and this, no doubt, was the cause of the great change on Saturday in Ogmore Vale’s play against the Australians, whom they defeated. They were without Melbourne Thomas, who turned out against the All Blacks, but H. Jones played a good game . Dr. Glyn Thomas added weight to the fowards, and was in good form.
The Australians made few alterations in the side that defeated Maesteg, Q.M.S. Bond substituting Lieut. Cody (who had hurt his knee) in the forwards. Ogmore Vale learned their lesson, and on Saturday they played with perfect understanding. Si Jones , Treharne, Dicky Kynan, and Tommy Evans continually put an end to the attempt of the Australian “threes” to burst through. Treharne stopped the speedy Stenning, and was hurt in doing so, but after a short time returned. Nearing the end of the first half Ryan, for the visitors, scored with a number of Ogmore Vale boys on top ofhim.
The second half saw Ogmore Vale at their best. Within five minutes Emanuel went over with a nice try. B. Kynan, beating five or six opponents in brilliant style, made an opening for Harry Ham who went over easily. Score:- Ogmore Vale, 2 tries (six points); Australians, I try (three points).
In another sub-plot to Ogmore Vale RFC playing two southern hemisphere teams within two weeks is the remarkable story of one Beriah Melbourne Gwynne Thomas. Born 11th June 1896, he is the first man known to be born in Nantymoel and be selected to play for Wales. A rare enough feat in itself, however Melbourne Thomas, as he was known by, would in just four months play against New Zealand on no less than four separate occasions.
21s t December 1918 was Melbourne’ s first match against New Zealand as part of the Public School Side where he would play at Centre. New Zealand won the game 16 points to nil.
The second match on O1st January1919 Melbourne was selected in a non cap game for a Wales XV against New Zealand XV, a match that was drawn 3 points all. Melbourne was singled out in the press for a glowing report: “Melbourne Thomas, the St. Barts student, who made his debut in top-class football, was in brilliant form at centre, and his international cap is waiting for him”.
Melbourne’s third game was when he turned out at very short notice to play for Ogmore Vale RFC on the 16th April 1919 when Melbourne scored a try against the New Zealanders, though Ogmore lost the game by 7 points to 12.
His fourth and final game against New Zealand was a full cap match for Wales against New Zealand on the 21st April 1919 at St. Helens, Swansea, which New Zealand won by 6 points to three.
Melbourne would go on to win 5 more caps for Wales, playing against Ireland, France and Scotland in 1921, against France in 1923 and his final cap was against England in 1924.
Beriah Melbourne Gwynne Thomas was a Doctor of Medicine, having studied first at University College, Cardiff and then at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, he also played rugby for both institutions. During the First World War he enlisted in the Royal Navy, serving as a surgeon sub-lieutenant.
He played rugby for the following amateur clubs: Ogmore Vale RFC Bridgend RFC; St. Batholomew’s Hospital; London Welsh RFC; Cardiff RFC and Barbarian F.C.
Beriah Melbourne Gwynne Thomas, MD, died in Pontypridd on the 23rd June 1966.