Our History

A rugby team in Machen first played fixtures in 1871. The side was formed from locals and ‘new’ English workers who had played or watched a few games previously. The side played several fixtures against neighbouring sides, mainly works’ teams, like those at Pontymoile (Pontypool) and Tredegorville (Cardiff). The games were played to uncertain rules and by varying numbers of players. The natural leader and captain in those early games was Frank Purdon who went on to play for Wales and, some say, for Ireland.

By the 1880’s the Machen team was well known and well established. 
Team photographs were taken for the first time and a photo from 1886 now has residence in our clubhouse. Many names are missing from these early photographs but many faces are easily identifiable as coming from old village families, many of whom are still with us: Davies, Everson, Green, Harris, Hicks, Moses, Anthony, Phillips, Richards, Jones, Edmunds, Thomas and others. These names have formed the backbone of many of Machen’s teams through the decades.

By this time the Welsh Rugby Union had been formed and standards raised. Several visiting teams had complained about the slope of the Ffwrrm field on which machen played. These grumbles ended when, in 1891, as the ‘Welsh Athlete’ reported, “Machen’s new pitch is equal to any within a 20 mile radius”.

The team continued to develop and the turn of the century saw several very successful seasons and Machen Greys became the Monmouthshire League Champions with a formidable reputation. 

Rugby continued to be played in Machen throughout the early 20th century ceasing only during the two world wars. During the depression years in between the wars several machen players ‘went North’. One was Alban Davies who played for Huddersfield.

In the 1930’s the always keen rivalry between Machen and Bedwas intensified and there are many stories of long-standing ‘battles’ between the two rivals.

The early 1950’s saw the rise of Machen’s most famous player, Malcolm ‘Buster’ Thomas, who went on to play for Newport, Wales and the British Lions. Another Machen RFC legend came to prominence at this time, ‘Shon’ Jack Davies. After playing several seasons he made an immense contribution to the club’s survival after the war. His wife, Ella, made the post-war playing shorts from blackout material, overcoming the clothes coupon problem. Shon rounded up all available men between the ages of 16 and 40 years old from 1945-1958. He was club secretary for 36 years and a long-serving member of the WRU General Committee. His ability to raise funds for the club from VIPs whilst roundly cursing them was legendary. His ashes were scattered on the pitch shortly before a match and, within seconds of the kick-off, the comment was heard, “That’s the first time anyone has walked all over Shon”. 

Later that decade saw the amalgamation of the Machen Junior Club (The Harlequins) with our own. The Old Reading Room, which had become our headquarters, was purchased from Bedwas and Machen Urban District Council for the princely sum of £1. It has been improved and extended and its opening was celebrated with a game against an International XV. This remains the clubhouse to this day.

In 1971 the club’s Centenary Dinner was held in the Belle View Hotel, Newport. Many VIPs attended this auspicious occasion. Happily in this year we reached the final of the Ben Francis Cup. A decade later, in 1981, Machen was proud to reach the last 16 of the Welsh Cup. Mighty Bridgend arrived, complete with several internationals. Temporary grandstands lined the West touchline, packed with villagers and returning exiles. All hoped for a famous victory but, alas, it was not to be; after creditable resistance the ‘Giants’ won.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Machen usually enjoyed good seasons and several years were marked by very good youth teams. The club displays a fine collection of Welsh Schools and Welsh Youth caps, jerseys and photographs. It was unfortunate for us that when the WRU decided in recent years to place all clubs in leagues we were having an unusually poor season. We were placed in League 8.

With the arrival of Professionalism small village rugby clubs came under threat. Machen cannot pay players and the club relies on player loyalty to field their sides. We remain a ‘grass-roots’ club that has produced many first class players. Well known rugby personalities, Stuart Barnes and John Callard, both of Bath and England, both wore Machen Youth colours as did Stephen Jones, The Times Rugby correspondent. 

Players continue to represent Machen for the camaraderie, occasional free beer, end of season tour, and all that traditional rugby clubs provided in the past. On previous tours we have visited Malta, France, Ireland, Spain and the USA. We have also had the pleasure of regularly hosting touring sides from throughout the UK and overseas.

In 1975 Machen RFC saw the introduction of Mini rugby when 120 boys turned up on the first training day; the club was growing rapidly and the mini’s have continued to this day. This was quickly followed by the development of a successful Youth XV. Former players are now involved in coaching their own sons at mini and junior level and the tradition of local club rugby continues. Machen today fields teams in almost every age group from Under 8s to Under 16s, a youth team and two senior sides. This is only possible with the commitment of the many volunteers who give their time free of charge to ensure that rugby in Machen continues over 140 years after those first pioneers pulled on the shirt to represent the village in the great game of rugby.

In 2016 we finished the season with 206 registered players, playing in 8 different age groups from under 7's up to seniors. They played 185 games between them. All the different age groups had a very good season but I must concentrate on our senior 1st team !!

The squad went unbeaten in the league winner 20 out of 20. The 1st time in the history of our club that this has been achieved, which is quite an achievement in 146 years. Out of the 292 rugby sides from the premiership league down in Wales we were the 4th highest points scorers in all the leagues with 952 points scored. We were 1 of only 5 sides left unbeaten out of all the leagues when the whistle went on the final game of the season.

Thanks to all those who play for Machen RFC, and to those who make it happen. Long may it continue.