The first cup competition in Welsh rugby dates back to 1877-78 when Newport beat Swansea by a goal to nil in the final of the South Wales Challenge Cup at Bridgend. The South Wales Football Club organised the competition and paid 50 guineas for a silver cup which was to be presented to the winners. The draw for the first tournament was as follows:-
Carmarthen v Cardiff to be played at Neath
Talgarth v Merthyr at Merthyr
Brecon v Monmouth Grammar School at Cardiff
Cowbridge Grammar School v Llanelli at Neath
Carmarthen Grammar School v Lampeter College at Carmarthen
Glamorgan 10th Rifle Volunteers (Cardiff) v Llandovery College at Swansea
Pontypool v Newport at Newport
Llandeilo v Neath at Neath
Swansea v Abergavenny at Brecon
o - o - o - o - O - O - O - o - o - o - o
From the Western Mail of 4th March 1878:-
"SOUTH WALES FOOTBALL CHALLENGE CUP."
"THE FINAL TIE."
"SWANSEA DEFEATED BY NEWPORT."
"The final tie for the South Wales Football Challenge Cup, of the value of 50 guineas (to be won by the same team for three years before the prize becomes their actual property), was played off at Bridgend on Saturday between the Swansea and Newport football clubs. The competition for this challenge cup has aroused the greatest interest throughout the southern portion of the Principality, and the ties which have hitherto been played in the various towns have been most eagerly watched. The final tie on Saturday, however, which was to decide whether the Swansea or Newport team should first have the honour of having their names inscribed on the challenge cup, evoked the most intense interest, and the tie which was then played off on neutral ground at Bridgend was watched by a company which has, perhaps, never been drawn before together on such an occasion. Between 1,500 and 2,000 spectators are said to have been on the ground, and it is calculated that of this number no less than 500 came from Newport, and a similar number from Swansea, which would give a pretty good idea of the intense interest taken in the final tie. The game lasted for the unusual period of an hour and a half. Both teams were regarded as pretty evenly matched, and the great point of interest was which should prove the very best of the two best teams in South Wales. The play was carried on in the most spirited manner, and was extremely hard, but during the first quarter of an hour Jenkins managed to make a touch down on behalf of Newport, which was successfully converted into a goal by Moggridge. For the remainder of the game both sides laboured assiduously, but Swansea was not able to recover the lost goal, and by that the Newport men were declared to be the winners. To say that the result was hailed by the friends of Newport with the warmest of plaudits would be to record a bare truth, compared with the enthusiasm which greeted the victorious players on their arrival in the evening at Newport. News of the grand victory had preceded their arrival, and upon their alighting from the train they were received by a large concourse of persons, who, in addition to giving full vent to their enthusiasm, hoisted Mr. W. Phillips, the captain of the team, on their shoulders, and, headed by two bands, paraded him through the town. To be a member of the Newport team on Saturday night was an honour of the most enviable kind. For weeks past the feeling with respect to the result of the match has been most intense, and the victory of Newport was thereby the cause of the greater jubilance. We believe that Newport, in its football matches, has not this year been beaten, and their run of luck in regard to football has been equally as great as was that of the cricketing last season."
"Our Swansea correspondent writes:- On the return of the Swansea team, considerable disappointment was felt on hearing the detailed particulars of the match and the result. The success of Swansea had been all along regarded as a certainty, and 2 to 1 on the "Swansea Boys" was freely offered, but without any responses. I am told that, so certain were they themselves of success, they had, previous to leaving for Bridgend in the morning, ordered a large omnibus to be in waiting at the Great Western Railway station in High Street, in order that they might be drawn, with proper musical accompaniment, through the town on their return. This order, it is stated, was cancelled by telegram. I heard a gentleman who was present at the match, himself a first-class player, declaim bitterly against the slovenly play of Mr. Jones, of the Swansea team, whose fingers, he assured me, "were all thumbs," and that he shunned the ball at critical moments as though it were "a red-hot shoe." Several ugly casualties were also detailed to me, illustrating the fact that there were others of the Swansea ilk who did not hold the ball in such reverence; and I myself saw one of the players trudging homeward on his return from the battle, nursing his left eye with a beef-steak hid way in a pocket handkerchief with his left hand, while in his right he carried his bag and baggage. Somebody, he said, had painted his eye by bobbing his head against it, and he was afraid he would not be able to "go to church in the morning!" The result altogether was a great disappointment among the "talent" at Swansea, and the thrashing administered by Newport was quite as unexpected as it was acceptable."