The second of a regular series in which Steve Calline recounts Hunslet Rugby League club’s many appearances in major Cup and Championship Finals – stretching back to the Rugby Union and Northern Union eras.
YORKSHIRE SHIELD FINAL 1898
The 1898 final was not really a cup final, but a play off to decide the champions of Yorkshire.
When the Northern Union was formed from Rugby Union clubs in the north, in 1895-96, each club played each other, home and away. However, in 1896-97, more and more clubs were clamouring to join the new organisation and the season wasn’t long enough for clubs to play everybody in the division.
What the authorities decided upon was two divisions split into the two main counties. This provided 30 fixtures, split home and away. We won 16 and drew four to finish in fourth place. We also played four friendlies and won them all.
The only other two games were the newly arranged Challenge Cup and in the first round we were drawn at home to junior club, Broughton Recs. It was a one-sided affair as we ran in 21 tries, Billy Hannah being the top beneficiary with five of them, followed by Albert and Walter Goldthorpe and Herbert Robinson, all with three each.
The second round was at Swinton, a strong side at the time. We played into a gale in the first half and we were continuously penalised but we only lagged behind by 4-0 at the interval. In the second period, Swinton were awarded a try when their player was well in touch and Hannah had a few choice words for the referee and was sent off. Another very dubious try followed to complete a miserable day for the Parksiders.
1897-98 was a better season for us and was still the same format of 30 league games. We were consistent all season and won 22 and drew four to finish top of the league. Unfortunately the Park Avenue-based Bradford side had a good run at the end of season, winning a few previously postponed fixtures. This brought them level with us and even though we had a better points’ difference the Yorkshire Union committee decided to have play-off. This was to take place at Headingley on 30 April.
We selected the following:-
|J Mitchell||25||5’8 ½||12.5||E Kaye||30||5’9||13.1|
|J Wright||25||5’7||12.0||J Deacon||24||5’11||12.13|
|A Goldthorpe||26||5’9||12.5||T Young||23||5’8||13.13|
|W Goldthorpe||24||5’9||11.10||H Barraclough||21||5’10||13.4|
|W Hannah||25||5’9||11.10||J Bowley||24||6’0 ½||14.3|
|H Robinson||26||5’7 ½||12.2||O Walsh||27||5’10||12.5|
|T Gillings||24||5’4||9.7||T Leach||27||5’10||15.2|
|J Ramage||23||5’11 ½||12.10|
Bradford had first use of the breeze and landed a penalty goal to lead 2-0 at the break. In the second half, there was a controversy over who was entitled to a punt in from touch and the touch-judge ruled in our favour. Gillings punted infield and Ramage with a skilful bit of dribbling picked up to score next to the posts. Albert’s conversion was a mere formality and we were champions by 5-2. There was a tragic side to the victory when we paraded through Hunslet in a waggonette. In Church Street, one of the wagons overturned and knocked down a four-year-old lad called John Henry Taylor. He received severe internal injuries but his eventual fate is unknown. Before the game it rained in torrents and half an hour before the start it was reckoned there were only about 100 inside the ground, seeking whatever shelter they could find. The eventual attendance was between 2,000 and 3,000 but the rain hardly let up. This plus the decision to charge a shilling instead of 6d kept the attendance to one of the smallest ever for a cup final.