Ken Jones

Wales's greatest all-rounder
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The Independent Online

Kenneth Jeffrey Jones, rugby player and athlete: born Blaenavon, Monmouthshire 30 December 1921; OBE 1960; married 1947 Irene Edmunds (one son); died Newport 18 April 2006.

Ken Jones will forever be remembered as the man who scored the vital try that helped Wales to beat New Zealand at Cardiff Arms Park in 1953 - the last time Wales beat the All Blacks. The flying Newport winger latched on to a cross-kick from Clem Thomas with five minutes left to play and transformed an 8-8 draw into a famous 13-8 Welsh victory.

Yet there were many more golden moments in one of the greatest British sporting careers of the past 60 years. Unquestionably Wales's greatest all-rounder, Jones was often asked to name his finest achievement. It was a task he warmed to, had to take his time over, but he always came up with the same answer.

Was it that try against the All Blacks in 1953, or the near length-of-the-field score against New Zealand for the British and Irish Lions in 1950 - still recalled as one of the greatest tries ever scored at Auckland's Eden Park? It could have been any of the eight tries he scored to help Wales win Grand Slams in 1950 and 1952. In fact, he could have picked any one of the record-equalling 17 Welsh tries he scored in a then-world-record 44 appearances for his country between 1947 and 1957. And there were countless heroic deeds for his club in a 293-match career that included 145 tries and two seasons as captain.

It was not, however, his rugby achievements that received top billing from the man himself, but his exploits on the athletics track. He had started out as the All-India sprint champion during the Second World War and graduated to become the captain of the British track and field team at the 1954 European Championships, where he won a silver medal in the sprint relay. He was a bronze medallist at the 1954 Commonwealth Games over 2,300 metres for Wales and the proud owner of four Welsh sprint record and 17 domestic titles.

The ultimate thrill was competing at an Olympic Games. "When I think back on my career as both a rugby player and an athlete, I would have to pick the 1948 Olympic Games as the highlight," said Jones:

Reaching the semi-finals of the 100 metres, and being among the 12 fastest men in the world, as well as winning a silver medal in the relay, has to top the lot.

At first, Jones and his team mates Alistair McCorquodale, John Gregory and John Archer were presented with the gold medal, despite finishing behind the American quartet. The United States team finished six yards ahead of the home team - 40.6sec to 41.3sec - but were disqualified for allegedly running out of the change-over box on the first baton-change between Barney Ewell and Lorenzo Wright.

Wembley Stadium was the home of athletics at the London Games of 1948. "It was fascinating being able to run there - the atmosphere was electric and it was a bit scary initially," Jones said:

To be elevated into first place was a marvellous bonus. Unfortunately, it only lasted for a few days. The Americans appealed and three days later a jury of appeal viewed films of the race and ruled the change-over was legal. We were called back to Wembley from our Uxbridge camp and asked to hand back our gold medals. It took almost a month for us to have our silver medals

sent to us. Even so, coming through two rounds of the 100 metres and reaching the semi-final gave me just as much of a thrill.

Born in Blaenavon, Monmouthshire, in 1921 and a product of West Mon Grammar School, Ken Jones spent most of his working life as a teacher at Newport High School. During the war he served in India as a sergeant in the RAF, and it was a victory over 100 yards at the All-Indian Olympic Games at Christmas 1945 that kick-started his athletics career. The following year he won the Welsh 100m and 200m crowns for the first time - titles he would go on to win every year up to 1954, except 1950, when he was on tour in New Zealand with the Lions. "Those victories in 1946 got me selected for the British team to run in Oslo and Cologne and that really was my big breakthrough," Jones recalled. "I got picked as an Olympic possible."

He also reported on rugby and athletics in Wales for the Sunday Express from 1958 until 1985. He became President of Newport Athletic Club, which incorporates Newport Rugby Club, but resigned in 1995, having served the club for almost 50 years. "I cannot accept or live with the professionalism in rugby now," he said:

If people think Wales will now have a wonderful team they are mistaken. Wales will never have that again. Rugby union used to be a religion in Wales. Chapels have fallen down and rugby union is going the same way.

Jones was the first Welsh Sportsman of the Year, in 1955, ran the baton containing the Queen's speech into Cardiff Arms Park at the opening ceremony of the 1958 Commonwealth Games, was appointed OBE in 1960 for his services to sport and in the early 1990s became one of the inaugural 10 members on the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame's "Roll of Honour".

Rob Cole

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