No history of the Scarlets could start with out the biggest debate of all, How old is Llanelli RFC ?. The club celebrated its centenary in 1972 but doubt has been cast over the formation date of the club and its now accepted that these celebrations were three years premature, but with arguably the clubs finest 80 minutes on the rugby field being in 1972 (when Llanelli beat the All Blacks) no one really minds. It is worth noting that the first game was played by the club in 1876 at Peoples Park, Stradey Park was not acquired until 1879. The famous scarlet jersey was not worn until the last match of the 1884/85 season against an Irish XV and was adopted as the club colours for the following season.
Between the Wars 1918-1945
An era that conjures up such names as Albert Jenkins, Ivor Jones, Ernie Finch, Elvet Jones and W.H. Clement arguably some of the greatest names ever to have graced a rugby field.
These years started so well, 1919 bringing wins over the New Zealand Army and The New Zealand Maoris, but most of all Albert Jenkins played his first game for the club. 1922 saw Ernie Finch, Ivor Jones and Dai John play for the Scarlets and in 1923 Albert Jenkins Captained Wales. In 1925 W. Idris Jones was the Welsh Captain followed by Ivor Jones in 1927 and Albert Jenkins in 1928, in 1929 and 30 it was Ivor Jones again and in 1930 he toured with the British Lions in Australia and New Zealand.
It is impossible to give, in a space that is acceptable on the WWW, the sense of feeling and passion that was Llanelli rugby during this period. It is even less practical to describe the talent that was brought to Stradey by players like Albert Jenkins and the others mentioned here let alone those for whom there was no space at all.
The Modern Era - from 1945
It was so difficult to precise in just a few paragraphs the years 1918-39 just over 20 years, how can you possibly sum up 50 years of continuing progress and success in a page, well here goes....
To sum up the landmarks of these 50 years would take several pages but lets consider some of the more important ones, 1948 and 49 saw Carwyn James and Lewis Jones play their first games for the club, in 1950 Lewis Jones toured New Zealand with the Lions. In 1955 it was the turn of R.H. Williams and Alun Thomas to tour with the Lions this time to South Africa and W.H. Clement was appointed secretary of the WRU.
In 1957 and then in 1959 the Grandstand and then the new Clubhouse at Stradey were opened. 1959 was also a year for more British Lions honours for two Scarlets this time Terry Davies joined R.H. Williams on the tour to Australia and New Zealand, in 1960 3 Llanelli players Captained Wales, Terry Davies, R.H. Williams and Onllwyn Brace, this was also the year that the first floodlit game was played at Stradey.
In 1962 D. Ken Jones toured South Africa with the Lions and in 1964 Barry John played his first game for the club. In 1965 The Barbarians visited Stradey Park for the first time and the new dressing rooms and dining hall were opened. In 1966 Phil Bennett pulled on a scarlet shirt for the first time and 2 more Scarlets became British Lions when Delme Thomas and Terry price toured New Zealand. In '68 the Scarlets won the Floodlight Alliance Trophy and were the Unofficial Welsh Champions, Delme Thomas toured with the Lions this time to South Africa.
In 1969 Carwyn James was appointed Coach to the Scarlets and in 1971, the year of the 4 point try, he was the assistant manager and coach to the Lions, he was accompanied to Australia and New Zealand by two Scarlets Delme Thomas and Derek Quinnell. In 1972, wow what a year, 1972.Llanelli scored 1,000 points in a season for the first time, runners up in the first WRU Challenge Cup, Delme Thomas captained Wales, the Barbarians played at Stradey for a second time and Llanelli defeated the "All Blacks" 9-3 on that memorable day in October. '73 saw the Scarlets win the WRU Challenge Cup for the first time, they won the Floodlight Alliance Trophy for the sixth successive year, 4 Scarlets toured with the Lions to South Africa under Manager Alun Thomas, Phil Bennett, J.J. Williams, Roy Bergiers and Tom David, and Delme Thomas became the first Scarlet to be honoured by the Queen being awarded the B.E.M.
The Llanelli Team that beat the 1972 "All Blacks"
Back Row; Selwyn Williams(sub), Phil Bennett, Tom David, Bert Peel(Physio), Tony Crocker, Derek Quinnell, Barry Llewellyn, Gareth Jenkins, Ray Gravell, Hefin Jenkins, Roy Thomas, Alan James(sub), Chris Charles(sub), Brian Llewellyn. Front Row; Gwyn Ashby(sub), Roger Davies, Andy Hill, Roy Bergiers, Norman Gale(Coach), Delme Thomas(Captain), Carwyn James(Coach), John J. Williams, Chico Hopkins, Meirion Davies(sub).
In 1975 and 76 the Challenge Cup came to Stradey and in '77 the Scarlets were Unofficial Welsh Champions again. Phil Bennett's year was 1977 he Captained Wales and the British Lions was voted Welsh player of the year and received an O.B.E., he was accompanied on the Lions tour to New Zealand by J.J. Williams and Derek Quinnell. 1979 saw the retirement of Andy Hill after scoring more than 2,500 points and 300 tries and Phil Bennett resigned the captaincy of Llanelli after six successive years.
The 1980's started with 3 Scarlets touring South Africa with the Lions, Ray Gravell, Derek Quinnell and the uncapped Peter Morgan, 1980 also saw J.J. Williams retire and in 1981 Phil Bennett played his last game for the club. The Scarlets defeated Australia in 1984 and they beat Fiji in 1985, '85 was also the Year "Grav" put on Scarlet for the last time. In the same year Llanelli won the WRU Challenge Cup and Alun Thomas became President of the WRU.
The last 10 years at Stradey have produced some marvellous players and results and have seen two revolutions in our sport, in 1990 leagues were introduced and in 1996 we saw the game lose its amateur status at such a cost. But without doubt the most glorious time was 1992/93, a year of rugby in the true Stradey style that brought great rewards under the Captaincy of Rupert Moon. A victory over world cup champions Australia in November and a cup and league double at the end of the season. Some other notable landmarks in that year were Lawrence Delaney playing his 500th game for the club and Phil Davies his 250th, 11 Scarlets were capped by Wales in the year, a club record and 8 played in the final 5 Nations game against France another club record. Ieuan Evans Captained Wales for the season and toured with the British Lions.
The past decade saw Phil May Captain the club for a fifth time and then Phil Davies Captain the club for 6 seasons, they saw Jonathan Davies come and go. Phil Davies received the WRU Challenge Cup on 3 occassions 87/88, 90/91 and 91/92 as well as a Merit table win in 1988/89. The Tanner bank was demolished in 1990 to be replaced by a new stand prior to a World Cup match between Australia and Argentina was played at Stradey in October.
The following 5 or 6 seasons did not quite hit then heights of 1992/93 but last year there were some signs of greater things, The Challenge Cup, the League Title and runners up in the SWALEC Cup, albeit without "The Rebels". This period of great change also saw some great players both join and leave the Club, Phil May, Phil Davies and Ieuan Evans all left or retired, the All Black Frano Botica thrilled the crowds for a season or two, Welsh International Dafydd James arrived along with some exiting young talent, Stephen Jones, Simon Easterby and Craig Gillies amongst them.
The turn of the Millennium brought some of the great moments in Scarlet History, first Wasps came to Stradey to fight for European Honours, then Cardiff in the Quarter Final of that competition, both matches being screened live on national TV by BBC's Grandstand. Billed as the biggest day in Scarlet history was 7th May 2000, Llanelli v's Northampton in Reading for a place in the European Cup final. The site of over 70 buses heading east on the M4, the atmosphere before and during the game will live with those present for the rest of their days. The Welsh support for the Scarlets overwhelming the Northampton support, the half time score of 19-9 in favour of the Scarlets, they had it won, it would be a Final in Cardiff against Munster, only to lose the match to an injury time penalty.
Consolation came in the form of another Welsh Challenge Cup victory, reversing the previous seasons loss to Swansea, making it 11 Cup wins for the 'Cup Kings'. Llanelli were also WRU League Champions for the 2001/02 season.