was a Welsh
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...
international fullback who played club rugby for Swansea
Swansea Rugby Football Club is a Welsh rugby union team which plays in the Welsh Premier Division. Its home ground is St Helens Rugby and Cricket Ground in Swansea. The team is sometimes known as The Whites because of the primary colour of the team strip...
and a county cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...
er for Glamorgan
Glamorgan County Cricket Club is one of the 18 major county clubs which make up the English and Welsh national cricket structure, representing the historic county of Glamorgan aka Glamorganshire . Glamorgan CCC is the only Welsh first-class cricket club. Glamorgan CCC have won the English County...
, becoming their first professional player in 1895.
Bancroft was seen as one of the first true stars of Welsh rugby and played rugby with extreme self-confidence. He possessed great speed and was an excellent kicker of the ball, though some critics felt his defensive play was weak. His brother Jack
Jack Bancroft , born John Bancroft, was a Welsh cricketer, and rugby union international. He was a right-handed batsman and a wicket-keeper who played for Glamorgan. Bancroft also played rugby for Swansea RFC...
also played rugby for Wales.
Club career in rugby
Bancroft made his first club appearance for Swansea on October 5, 1889. He would play for Swansea for his entire career and is considered one of the greatest fullbacks to have played for the club. In the fourteen seasons he played with Swansea he was their top points scorer in twelve of them.
International rugby career
Bancroft was first capped on February 1, 1890 against Scotland
The Scotland national rugby union team represent Scotland in international rugby union. Rugby union in Scotland is administered by the Scottish Rugby Union. The Scotland rugby union team is currently ranked eighth in the IRB World Rankings as of 19 September 2011...
as a replacement for the injured Tommy England. Bancroft would play 33 times for his country, all consecutively, a record that would lay unbroken until Ken Jones did so in 1954. Although Bancroft would only win two out of his first nine Welsh games, he was part of the Wales team that won their first Triple Crown
In rugby union, the Triple Crown is an honour contested annually by the four national teams of the British Isles who compete within the larger Six Nations Championship: England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. If any one team manages to win all their games against the other three they win the...
in 1893. The first game of that season saw Wales face England at the Cardiff Arms Park
Cardiff Arms Park , also known as The Arms Park, is primarily known as a rugby union stadium, but it also has a bowling green, and is situated in the centre of Cardiff, Wales. The Arms Park was host to the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1958, and hosted four games in the 1991 Rugby World...
. With little time left to play and Wales losing 9-11, they were awarded a penalty near touch, 30 yards from the England goal line. The Welsh captain, Arthur Gould called Bancroft over and told him to kick (from the ground) for goal. Bancroft insisted on dropping for goal, but Gould forbade it. The two began arguing in front of the home crowd, until in frustration Gould threw the ball to the ground and walked away. Bancroft successfully kicked the drop goal which would win the match for Wales. This penalty goal although dropped by Bancroft was still awarded as such, and was rugby's first ever penalty goal.
In 1899 in a match against Ireland at Stradey Park
Stradey Park was a rugby union stadium located near the centre of the town of Llanelli in Carmarthenshire, Wales. It was the home of the Scarlets region and Llanelli RFC rugby teams. The stadium was a combination of seating and standing with a total capacity of 10,800...
, Bancroft would fail to complete an international match for the only time in his career. Due to no barriers around the pitch the crowd were lined up around the touch line. The referee was forced to delay the match for half an hour while police and officials attempted to force the crowd back. During the second half Bancroft attempted another one of his testing runs to tire out the opposition but was caught by, Mick and Jack, Ireland's Ryan brothers, who tackled Bancroft and dumped him over the touchline and into the crowd. Bancroft landed awkwardly and fractured several ribs, forcing him to retire from the game.
After the Gould Affair
, Bancroft was given the captaincy in 1898, and led Wales to their second Triple Crown in 1900.
International matches played
1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1899, 1900, 1901
St. Helen's ground
Bancroft had very close ties to St. Helen's Rugby and Cricket Ground, having lived there as a child where his father, and his father before him, were groundsman. He played club rugby at the ground with Swansea and cricket there with Glamorgan. In his later years he too would become St Helen's groundsman.