ALL ROADS LEAD TO LEIGH

posted on 29 July 2016

That was the call in our very first RL Challenge Cup campaign in 1897 when we drew Leigh away in our inaugural Challenge Cup tie.

It seems rather appropriate that our forthcoming Challenge Cup semi final tie, one hundred and nineteen years later, will be played at Leigh so in celebration of our twentieth Challenge Cup semi final tie we take a look at our semi final history, which have given us eight previous victories and five subsequent trophy victories.

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Wakefield Trinity reached their very first Rugby League Challenge Cup semi final at the fourteenth attempt, in 1909. The semi final against Wigan was due to play on a Saturday afternoon in April. But, in controversial scenes the Northern Union made them play their league game at Salford the night before. They sent their full team who ‘hardly made a tackle all night’ in a 0-53 loss. They then returned home on the train, were back on the train in the morning to Broughton near Manchester and had the ‘last laugh’ beating the ‘invincible’ Wigan, 14-2 and won the cup a fortnight later.

This was a successful time in Trinity’s history and they would reach three successive semi finals just before the outbreak of the First World War. If the 1909 semi final was ranked as one of the best games in the club’s history, the 1912 semi final was ranked as one of the worst with newspaper headlines ‘screaming’ “Debacle”, “Very Disappointing”, “Beaten all over the Field” and a “Shocking Display” after Trinity lost 17-0 to Oldham and a year later they were totally outplayed as Huddersfield’s ‘Team of All Talents’ defeated us 35-2. In 1914, Trinity reached their second ever Challenge Cup Final after defeating Broughton Rangers 5-0 in dreadful weather at Halifax after an initial 3-3 draw. Unfortunately, the final was one step too far with a 0-6 loss to Hull after captain, Herbert Kershaw was sent off.

In 1927, the magical skills of Hall of Famer, Jonathan Parkin could not prevent Oldham defeating them 7-3 on a miserable, rainy day at Wigan and five years later, Trinity were defeated again when Swinton won a controversial game, 7-4 in 1932.

Almost forty thousand attended the 1937 semi final but saw a drab 0-0 draw with Keighley, but the skills of Hall of Famers, Herbert Goodfellow, Bill Horton, Mick Exley and Harry Wilkinson could not prevent a 5-3 loss in the replay. The war years robbed the Trinity team of many potential cup victories as the blend of new youth and experience were coming together by the end of the 1930s. A two-legged semi final loss to Halifax in 1941 was the nearest the club got to Challenge Cup success.

Once the war had finished, Trinity had added a couple more experienced internationals and, with it, the second most successful period in the club’s history. The crowds started to flock back to see Trinity reach Wembley, in 1946, for the first time, with another big crowd seeing Trinity defeat Hunslet 8-0 in the semi final with a Dennis Baddeley winning try and history shows that Trinity defeated Wigan, 13-12 in the final with a last minute Billy Stott penalty.

As cup holders, Trinity reached the semi finals for the second successive year in the game’s first ‘all ticket’ game and resulted in Huddersfield’s biggest ever crowd and record game receipts, but Trinity were thumped 21-0 to Leeds.

After a thirteen year period with only two Challenge Cup quarter final appearances, to show (1950 & 1956), the 1960s brought the ‘Glory Years’ with six semi final appearances and a Challenge Cup record of thirty eight games played with only seven losses.

1960 was probably one of the greatest cup campaigns in the club’s history. Successful visits to top-of-the-table, St.Helens, Widnes and Whitehaven saw them play Featherstone Rovers in the semi final, and an 11-2 win in front of over fifty five thousand at Bradford with John Etty, Alan Skene and Neil Fox scoring tries which saw Trinity reach their second Wembley final and a 38-5 success over Hull at the Empire Stadium.

Two years later, Featherstone Rovers were our semi final victims again with Ken Hirst the only try scorer in a 9-0 win and another Wembley victory over Huddersfield.

Trinity’s ‘invincible tag’ had dropped a little by the 1963 cup run and Trinity were lucky to scrape through the early rounds against second division opposition before meeting Warrington at Swinton in the semi final, a Neil Fox try separating the teams in another low scoring games, Trinity winning 5-2. As underdogs, Trinity went to Wembley and defeated Wigan 25-10 to retain the trophy for the only time in their history.

An 8-0 loss to Hunslet in the 1965 semi final saw Trinity re-invent themselves and by the late 1960s had won two Championship Trophies. Fox, Poynton and Round remained but the star forwards of Turner, Wilkinson, Briggs and Vines had all retired replaced by future, Hall of Famers, Don Fox and Bob Haigh.

The 1968 semi final took Trinity to Odsal, Bradford to face Huddersfield but both club objected due to the pitch condition. They had justification, as the pitch was a ‘mud-bath’ and the game ended 0-0. The replay was at Headingley four days later and Trinity trailed 5-10 at half time. A Gert Coetzer try equalised but the Fartowners went ahead again through a Rhodes try. After the break, Trinity settled and two further tries from Coetzer and Batty saw Trinity through to Wembley, 15-10

Many Trinity followers believed that the ‘Watersplash’ Final at Wembley the previous season was the end of the ‘Glory Years’ of the 1960s, but Trinity fought through to their sixth semi final of the decade, in 1969, ultimately falling to Castleford, 16-10 after leading until the last two minutes.

The run to the 1975 Challenge Cup semi finals saw a couple of Belle Vue classics. Trinity drew league leaders and cup favourites, St Helens in the second round, having already defeated them twice at Belle Vue already. In one of the club’s best performances in years, the Saints were defeated again, 13-9. The quarter finals brought second division, Hull Kingston Rovers to Belle Vue but ‘second division’ in name only with internationals, Roger Millward, Clive Sullivan and Neil Fox in their ranks, who had already defeated Trinity in the Yorkshire Cup Final. In Belle Vue’s biggest attendance since 1968, and still a ground record for the last forty eight years (14,514), Trinity won 27-10 with Terry Crook scoring two tries and kicking four goals.

The Trinity committee were a little concerned when the RFL took the Widnes semi final to Odsal, especially as Headingley was available and they were justified in their concerns with just over nine thousand lost in the ‘Odsal bowl’. The scores were level 5-5 at the break after a Les Sheard goal and a Crook conversion was cancelled out by a Laughton try, but a Foran try in the second half, three Dutton goals and a drop goal against another Crook penalty saw Trinity lose out on a dreary April afternoon.

For any Trinity fan, around the age of fifty, who had just missed out on the ‘Glory Years’ the 1979 semi final, was probably the highlight of their ‘Trinity supporting career’. Breathtaking, last minute victories over Featherstone (first round) and Barrow (quarter finals) saw us go to Headingley to meet St.Helens in the semi final

The semi final had another breath-taking finish and was a game of relentless, energy-sapping rugby … for the players and the fans. Despite Trinity being dominant from the start, Saints took the lead on thirty minutes with a Mathias try and for the next half an hour, the play flowed back and forth with Topliss and Skerrett being outstanding for Trinity. Pinner dropped a 61st minute goal to put Saints 4-0 up. Then up-stepped Alan McCurrie with a well-judged kick to the line, fumbled by full back, Glynn, and Andrew Fletcher scored. With a Keith Smith conversion and a drop goal, Trinity led, 6-4. With three minutes to go, there was despair when Saints tapped a scrum penalty and fanned the ball to winger, Jones, who beat three men to score in the corner. Pinner missed the conversion but at 7-6 it looked over.

Trinity needed a miracle … and it duly came courtesy of David Topliss. St Helens were attacking the Trinity line and on the third tackle, Topliss intercepted an Eric Chisnall pass. With a minute to go, Graham Idle took the next drive, followed by John Burke. From the play the ball, McCurrie passed to Topliss who drifted right, dummied and shot through a gap between Liptrot and Cunningham. On being tackled he passed inside to the supporting Keith Smith who then, a few yards later, off-loaded to Fletcher who streaked the last thirty yards down the South Stand side to score in the corner. There was hysteria and delirium with a crowd invasion. There was still time for three more sets of tackles but Trinity held on and went to Wembley for the sixth time.

Twenty nine years was the longest timespan between any of Trinity’s cup semi finals. In that time we had had three relegations, three promotions, twenty first team coaches, eight further quarter final defeats, summer rugby and Super League.

With modern day Super League rules, Trinity had received byes through to the fourth round where they then defeated Salford, Barrow and Oldham.

The semi final against Hull was virtually all over, though, after ten minutes when Hull ran up an eighteen point lead! After five minutes, Dykes kicked to the corner, Trinity winger, Matt Peterson, fumbled and Tickle scored. It was deja-vu three minutes later. A Dykes kick, a Peterson fumble and Raynor put Tickle over again. On ten minutes Washbrook sent Graeme Horne over in the same corner and with Tickle converting all three tries Trinity were 18-0 down after ten minutes.

Credit to Trinity who fought back and on twelve minutes, Ryan Atkins put Peterson over in the corner and four minutes later a Danny Brough kick found Damien Blanch who went over in the corner (18-8). Hull prop, Cusack then crossed for a try, from close range and when Tevita Leo-Latu entered the fray, Trinity upped a level, scoring from close range on thirty three minutes and four minutes later another Brough kick saw Atkins barge over. Four tries each in the first half and Hull led, 24-20.

Trinity started well in the second half, only for Washbrook to score after forty three minutes (30-20). Blanch then scored from a Brad Drew kick. Blanch almost scored a hat trick but the video referee judged a foot in touch and Trinity’s cup run was over. Goal kicking was a big difference with Danny Tickle kicking six from six with Danny Brough only landing two from his six.

And now, eight years later, all roads lead to Leigh for our 2016 semi final with Warrington. In our 119 year cup history, the names of Harry Slater, Billy Stott, Neil Fox, Harold Poynton, Derek Turner, Don Fox, and David Topliss have all put themselves in Trinity’s Challenge Cup semi final history books. Will 2016 provide another hero?


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