The third instalment of a regular series in which Steve Calline recounts Hunslet Rugby League club’s many appearances in major Cup and Championship Finals…
CHALLENGE CUP FINAL – 1898-99
After the success of the previous season, Hunslet’s committee were confident of greater things to come. With this in mind, they recruited several new forwards to strengthen what was already, probably the strongest pack in the league. Of these only James ‘Jack’ Harrison from Rothwell and Harry Wilson from Morley became regulars but Wilson proved to be a real capture. Towards the end of the season, Tommy Walsh re-joined the club after trying his hand at other sports. On the debit side, Eno joined Holbeck and Bowley was allowed to join Salford on loan. New backs were Ernest Armitage from Kirkstall St Stephens and Fred Kendall, a Yorkshire county fullback from Keighley.
The league campaign was fairly modest, losing nine and drawing four of the 30 games. The only noticeable feat was Hannah (pictured) scoring five tries in a match again, the only Hunslet player to do so. By the time the cup-ties came around the team was fairly settled despite using 47 players throughout the season. The first round draw brought Maryport to Parkside and we had a comfortable if not convincing victory by 11-2. Tries by Robinson, A Goldthorpe and Wilson with a conversion by Albert saw us through. James Hughes was badly injured and never played again. The following week, we had to travel to Swinton for the second round and a chance for revenge for the previous year’s fluke. We selected the following:- J Mitchell; J Wright, A Goldthorpe, W Goldthorpe, W Hannah; H Robinson, T Gillings; H Barraclough, J Harrison, T Leach (picture below), J Ramage, R Rubrey, O Walsh, H Wilson, T Young. Nil-nil at half time and a solitary goal by Ahr Albert was enough to take us to the third round in a vicious game. It was noted in the press that a Hunslet player was deliberately kicked while on the ground. Walter Goldthorpe’s back was covered in weals where he had been struck several times as he was leaving the field and other players were struck and had stones and sods thrown at them leaving the field. Swinton’s ground was suspended until the following November after assaults on the referee and Hunslet players. Hunslet’s committee contemplated having Albert’s boot, with which he kicked the goal, mounted in a showcase and decorated with valuables. The third round was on Easter Saturday, at Parkside against Castleford and there was incredible interest in the game. 16,000 turned up to see us victorious by 16-0. So far, we had scored 29 points against 2 in the three rounds of the cup. The same side was selected and tries by W Goldthorpe (2), Hannah and Leach, and two goals by Albert gave us a comfortable win. On the morning of this match, there was a rumour circulating that Albert had had a fit and would be unfit to play but this was untrue, probably circulated by a Castleford supporter hoping it would be true.
The following week, we had another home draw versus Hull and 18,000 turned up to see us triumph by 9-0, so far 38 points to 2 in the four rounds. T Walsh replaced Barraclough in the forwards. Between the two rounds, we had undertaken a short tour of Cumberland playing games at Barrow and Workington and a few regulars played in one or the other game. The semi-final was a week later and our opponents would be Salford at Bradford. The backs were unchanged but Tommy Walsh replaced Barraclough in the forwards. This turned out to be a notorious affair and Salford had five men sent off with Gillings (pictured) also being sent off for retaliation. It became obvious from the `off’ that Hunslet’s scrummagers were much too good for the opposition, pushing them backwards in the scrums and mauls, while our backs were much sharper at kicking and passing. The Salford forwards then began targeting the Hunslet backs using fists, boots and knees to put our backs, especially Ahr Albert, out of the game. We won easily enough after reaching a 15-0 lead and then easing up to avoid injury from flying boots to win 15-8. Salford scored their two tries because Hunslet’s players wouldn’t drop on the ball and risk injury and several fly kicks were indulged in and this led to Salford’s tries. The five Salford men were given long suspensions and Gillings was also suspended but the referee wrote in saying he was surprised at the length of his suspension as Hunslet were severely provoked all afternoon and this suspension cost him his place in the final. Hunslet thus selected the following:-
|J Wright||26||5’7 ½||12.7||Hunslet|
|W Goldthorpe||23||5’9 ½||11.7||Stourton|
|H Robinson||27||5’7 ½||12.0||Beeston|
|W Fletcher||22||5’8 ½||12.0||Churwell|
|R Rubrey||32||5’8||13.12||Kilnhurst near Rotherham|
|T Leach||29||5’8 ½||15 but .0||Batley|
|J Harrison||22||5’7 ½||12.0||Methley|
|H Barraclough [Reserve]||22||5’10 ½||13.12||Hunslet|
Salford considered switching to soccer after all the long suspensions.
The final opponents were Oldham and the venue was Fallowfield in Manchester. Hunslet’s players had received threats from Swinton and particularly Salford’s players and so as to protect their players, Hunslet offered to play the final at Oldham rather than run the risk of injuries to the team. We were assured that there would be a large police presence at Fallowfield so the game went ahead there. We were winning at halftime by 9-5 but flagged in the second half and lost by 9 points to 19. Walter scored our try with 3 goals from Albert but Oldham scored two tries after defensive kingpin, Walter had gone off with a broken collar bone. It was also reckoned that the large meal eaten before the game caused the lack lustre display in the second half. Revenge would be taken nine years later!