The first 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 Northern Union and Rugby Union era.
The 15th Yorkshire Cup Final (or T’owd Tin Pot)
Hunslet v Leeds
Saturday 15 April 1892
The story of the 15th Yorkshire cup final and surrounding events
Hunslet’s first-ever appearance in a cup final was a result to be remembered, Hunslet forming as a rugby club in 1883 while Leeds formed in 1864 as Leeds St Johns.
In these early days of rugby football, there were no league tables and clubs arranged their own fixtures. Smaller, newer clubs such as Hunslet would try to obtain fixtures with senior clubs such as Halifax, Wakefield Trinity, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds. These senior clubs were usually the team of that particular town or city but there were many villages sporting teams every Saturday.
The main reason why clubs tried to improve fixtures was for financial and prestige reasons, the attendances being larger and gate receipts for home fixtures would bring in much needed capital. These large clubs would not grant fixtures to lesser opposition unless it was justified through ability or financial reasons. Hunslet launched in 1883 and played many clubs such as Outwood Church, Birstall, Dudley Hill and Normanton St Johns.
After a couple of years of fixtures which included a brilliant cup-tie victory over Leeds St Johns, the larger clubs started to notice that Hunslet took a larger number of spectators to away games than other clubs. This forced them to offer fixtures to Hunslet, who gradually worked their way up the Rugby Union standings. New and better players would join the club and Hunslet could hold their own with the large clubs, although It was still surprising that they could manage to reach the final of the Yorkshire cup so quickly.
There had been 14 previous finals and the records show that Wakefield had played in nine of them, winning four. Other clubs that had reached the final were Halifax (three wins and one defeat), while Dewsbury, Batley, Otley and Pontefract registered one victory each. One surprise win was Thornes (a village in Wakefield) who beat the Trinity in the 1882 final. Bradford had one win and one loss to show while teams that had lost in the final were York (in the first-ever final in 1878), Kirkstall, Heckmondwike, Hull, Manningham, Liversedge and, in 1887, Leeds St Johns. All victories were close-run affairs except for in 1880 when Trinity beat Heckmondwike by three goals, six tries and three minors to one try.
It is probably best to inform about scoring in the rugby game at this time:- games were won by the side who scored most goals, and tries would then count if goals were equal. Minors were not really a scoring method but would count in a drawn game. The 1891-92 season was the first time that points were introduced and it was decided that goals would count as three points, tries were two points and drop goals four points. Therefore in the 1880 final, Trinity would have won by 21 points to 2.
The line-up of teams was different in those days as a lot of rugby involved mauling and driving and pushing by the forwards. Most teams would have nine forwards, two half-backs and three three-quarters plus a fullback.
Eighty-nine junior clubs started in the preliminary rounds and the victors were later joined by other junior clubs until the clubs that had won through came into the first round proper. They were joined by the senior clubs, including Hunslet who had now earned a good reputation. We were drawn at home to Birstall and selected the following:-W Goldthorpe; A Stephens, A Goldthorpe, J Goldthorpe; C Lapping, W Townsend; W H Gilston, J Hardman, E Kaye, E Liversedge, R Monk, J Moore, J Mosley, J Rathmell, W Stephens. 13-0 at half time was converted into 41-0 at the close of play. Ahr Albert kicked three goals and tries were scored by J Goldthorpe 2, Mosley, Monk 2, Kaye, W Stephens, Liversedge 3, Gilston, Lapping 2, Townsend and Hardman 2. Leeds won by 70 points to 2 against Wakefield St Austin’s
The following week we entertained Bramley (a strong side) and Groves and Bennett replaced Hardman and W Stephens in the forwards. 0-0 at half time became 24-0 at the finish, the winning margin being surprising, Ahr Albert kicked four conversions and his brother Walter landed a drop goal. Tries were scored by Rathmell, Bennett and Lapping 2. Leeds beat Kirkstall by 17 to 5, the Kirkstall try came about as Leeds stopped to appeal over a decision while Kirkstall carried on and scored. Leeds players were then told that if they appeal it has to be through the captain.
We started April with a journey to Alverthorpe (a village in Wakefield) and again there were changes made to the line-up for this third round tie. while Alf Stephens was left out. It was brought to the attention of the committee that Stephens was possibly ineligible to play. He had moved from Leeds Parish Church and not registered in time to play in the cup. Walter Goldthorpe moved out to the wing and Lorriman came in at full back. Hardman came in for Kaye and W Stephens replaced Mosley. We ran out winners by 30-2 but the defence was slipping as we conceded a try, the first points in the cup ties. Albert converted four tries and Walter one; Albert also landed a penalty. J Goldthorpe scored three tries and W Goldthorpe, Monk and Liversedge scored one each. Leeds had a lucky escape when playing Halifax at Headingley. Halifax scored three tries and couldn’t convert any of them while Leeds scored a try and converted and added a drop goal to win 9-6.
The fourth round was at Brighouse and they were being strongly tipped to win the cup. John Goldthorpe came in on the wing to allow W Goldthorpe to return to fullback at the expense of Lorriman. The first four names down on the team sheet were all called Goldthorpe. Monk and Rathmell dropped out, Monk through a head injury, never to play again. Mosley and Skirrow came in for them. We had a comfortable win by 13-4 and the press and supporters who were there were in raptures about Hunslet’s forwards. We were getting better every week and now being strongly tipped to win the cup. Skirrow, Rathmell and Gilston scored tries and Albert converted one and added a drop goal. Our 15 was W Goldthorpe, JH Goldthorpe, AE Goldthorpe, J Goldthorpe; C Lapping, W Townsend; C Bennett, W Gilston, T Groves, J Hardman, E Liversedge, J Moore, J Mosley, J Skirrow, W Stephens. Leeds were at home to junior side Bowling and won by 28-2
The semi-final was due to be played on Easter Saturday, 16 April, and Hunslet had arranged games on Good Friday and Easter Monday against York and Penarth from Wales, and on the Tuesday at Manningham. They couldn’t play in all these games with their best sides out so had to field scratch sides for these three, including many guests. We were nilled in all three friendlies, 0-17 (York), 0-15 (Penarth) and 0-32 at Manningham, but that was unimportant with the Saturday being hopefully a success. The semi-final opponents were Liversedge, a top team, while Leeds had to face Wakefield Trinity at Bradford Park Avenue. We had to play at Halifax before another very large crowd, and the following were chosen:- W Goldthorpe; JH Goldthorpe, AE Goldthorpe, J Goldthorpe; C Lapping, W Townsend; C Bennett, W Gilston, T Groves, J Hardman, E Kaye, E Liversedge, J Mosley, J Rathmell, J Skirrow. We ran out as worthy winners by 12-3 and the press were impressed by our form in all the cup-ties. J Goldthorpe, Skirrow and Lapping scored tries and Albert converted one and added a penalty goal. Leeds struggled against renowned cup fighters Trinity but won by a single try, 2-0.
Hunslet in white on the print.
The following Saturday, 23 April, was the date for the final and Huddersfield was selected as the venue. Both finalists took it easy for the week, going on gentle walks etc and no strenuous training. On the Friday before the match Leeds went to the dales and decided to go boating. This was not a good idea as one of the boats capsized and a couple of their players almost drowned. How much this would affect their performance is unknown but it won’t have benefitted them. Hunslet had a quandary about what to do with Alf Stephens. We did have information that one of the Leeds forwards was also ineligible to play so Stephens was selected but the committee felt that if we won the cup, Leeds may claim by default so on the Saturday at the ground, they suggested to Leeds that we would withdraw Stephens if they withdrew their doubtful player. Leeds wouldn’t and both sides felt they had strong evidence that could overturn a defeat. We spoke to the Yorkshire RU committee who said we should work out between ourselves and Leeds and, if necessary, they could only give a decision after an offence had been committed. Leeds decided to play their player but Hunslet withdrew Stephens to be safe. This left a problem, who to select on the right wing. John Goldthorpe was deemed to be the weakest link in the side and he willingly stood aside and this left Hardman and Billy Stephens, the forwards and John Wright from the A team to be considered. Wright had played in a couple of the Easter friendlies and had impressed so he was selected to make his first team debut in the final. Hardman and Stephens’ and John Goldthorpe would no doubt be disappointed to miss out, especially as they had played in a couple of rounds each. When John had played, Albert had looked after him throughout the match, keeping play away from his side of the field by dictating the play in his usual style.
Hunslet turned out as W Goldthorpe; JW Wright, AE Goldthorpe, J Goldthorpe; C Lapping (capt), W Townsend; C Bennett, WH Gilston, T Groves, E Kaye, E Liversedge, J Mosley, J Moore, J Rathmell, J Skirrow. Leeds fielded the following:- Wilkinson; Place, Summersgill, Walker; Potter, Watts; Donaldson, Lorriman, Naylor, Fletcher, Cousins, Munro, Watson, E Hudson and J Lewthwaite. These last two joined Hunslet the following season and Mr Joe Lewthwaite served the club through to the 1940s as committee man, then chairman, and finally as president. One interesting point about the teams was the fact that Potter, the Leeds half-back weighed more than any of the Hunslet forwards. We were like gazelles though compared to Leeds’ sluggish forwards.
Leeds won the toss and elected to play with the cold very stiff breeze behind them. Neither side could score in this half, the nearest attempt went to Leeds when they charged a kick of Walter’s down and the ball went over the Hunslet line. We managed to recover it before Leeds could get there but Leeds managed three minors in the space of three minutes. Skirrow made a good run but held the ball too long when a try seemed certain. Half-time arrived with the score at 0-0 and Hunslet were pleased to turn round with the wind behind them.
THE SECOND HALF.
Seeing that Hunslet had held their own against a strong wind, and had nothing substantial scored against them, it appeared to be the general impression that the Parksiders would in the next 40 minutes pull off the match, though the Leeds supporters were still full of hope. Potter at a quarter past four re-started with both the wind and the sun against him. Hunslet were having all the better of the play, and it seemed only a question of time as to their obtaining the winning point. Walter Goldthorpe, under pressure, put in a smart kick, and following up smartly tackled Wilkinson on his own line with ball. The Leeds back lost possession and Walter himself scored a try, these points being obtained ten minutes from the start. Albert Goldthorpe took a shot at goal and landed the premier point, the success being greeted with great cheering, especially on the terrace side, where a number of enthusiasts broke out into song.
THE SECOND TRY FOR HUNSLET
A short period of desultory play followed about the centre-line. Rathmell, getting possession here after being put on-side, effected an easy run in and scored 20 minutes from the re-start. The goal attempt failed. Here, Lapping passed to Albert Goldthorpe, who made a sensational run right through the Leeds back division and planted the ball behind the posts, goal number two being the result from Albert’s own kick. The game was now virtually over, so far as the issue was concerned, but Leeds played up and after the kick-out gained a footing in the Hunslet quarters through the medium of a free-kick.
Townsend here got clear away, but was ruled back for a knock forward. A fair catch to R Place was the next item of note, but it was of little use to his side, who had still to act on the defensive. Only a quarter of an hour now remained for play and the Parksiders on the terrace kept up a jubilant chorus in honour of the new cup-holders. W Goldthorpe was called upon to defend, and got in a flying kick, which he followed up so fast as to be enabled to collar Walker in his own quarters in possession of the ball. Next, James Goldthorpe got possession after some neat exchanges, and emulated his two brothers’ example by scoring a try between the posts. A Goldthorpe easily accounted for goal number three. With this terrible licking in front of them Leeds started once more from midfield and, going with a big rush, looked at last as if they would score, but J Goldthorpe averted danger and Hunslet were quickly in their old position. A wretched miss by Wilkinson gave Kaye another try. Albert failed to convert it, but scored cleverly under the bar, himself converting. James Goldthorpe next ran under the bar from a pass after racing the full length of the field, Albert again converting. To finish off, Kaye got over the line, but Albert failed with the conversion
HUNSLET-3 goals, 3 tries-21 points
NOTES ON THE GAME
The kick-off was accompanied by a degree of excitement and tension probably never before associated with the decision of the final tie in the Yorkshire Challenge Cup. One thing was certain as soon as the teams entered the field, and this was that the balance of popular sympathy among the spectators was in favour of the Parkside contingent, though neither of the teams could complain of their reception.
The features of the game immediately following Gilston’s kick-off, which resulted in giving the advantage of the strong wind to Leeds, was the carrying of the first scrummage by Hunslet, and a determined rush up the field, in which almost the whole team participated. This was rendered fruitless by a free kick given to Leeds, and the play for a few moments remained in the centre.
By playing on to the weak wing three-quarter man of the Hunslet team the Leeds men obtained a footing, and kept their opponents at bay for some minutes.
There was not much to choose between the two sets of forwards in the earlier stages of the struggle. Every man of the eighteen appeared to get down to his work as if the final issue depended upon his own individual exertions, and at this point, at any rate, there were no shirkers.
In the tight Hunslet had a good bit the better of the argument, and they appeared to understand the science of wheeling the scrummage better than their opponents. In this department Moore and Groves were a host in themselves. The Headingley forwards, however, held a slight counterbalancing advantage on the break-up of the mauls, their work in the open being on some occasions very firm, Lorriman, Fletcher and Lewthwaite being seen at the top of their form.
In the loose Donaldson worked very hard, and appeared bent upon showing that he was none the worse for his involuntary immersion (he was one of the players who fell into the river Nidd) on the eve of the struggle.
Improving every minute the Hunslet scrummagers asserted their superiority, and they broke away from the scrummages in magnificent fashion. For a time they appeared most dangerous, and claimed a try, but a throw forward spoilt their chance.
James Goldthorpe did not give an altogether faultless display, some of his kicks in his own half being not quite free from weakness, but he was frequently seen to great advantage. Often he gained a lot of ground for his side by some admirably-judged kicks into touch. He accepted his passes on the whole very cleverly, and sprinted finely when opportunity offered.
Walter Goldthorpe made a disastrous start as he allowed one of his kicks to be charged down, though he had plenty of time to properly clear his lines.
If Wilkinson’s kicking could not compare with Walter Goldthorpe’s efforts in that same direction, no possible fault could as yet be found with him, some of his saves being characterised by pluck and judgement.
The contest of skill and science between Summersgill and Albert Goldthorpe, which invested the match with a lot of extra excitement and interest, kept the spectators on the quiver from the very moment of the kick-off, and the shouts that went up when one or the other scored some slight advantage showed how narrowly the partisans of each were watching the minutest development of the game in so far as they affected the two men whom it has pleased the football public to designate “the great rivals.” They dropped with admirable judgement, and thus far could be said to have scarcely made a mistake.
Place showed himself very difficult to check, and Walker kicked well with the aid of the wind, but though Hunslet were playing a man at wing three-quarters who had never before made an appearance in first-class football, their display was one of great brilliancy.
Wright did not shape at all badly, whilst Albert Goldthorpe, though playing against the breeze, gave a really masterly exposition of centre three-quarter back play. He found touch unerringly, and his splendid kicking was largely instrumental in compelling Leeds to defend through by far the greater half of the first portion of the match.
As the game wore to the end of the first stage the Leeds men played up much better, and aided by a mistake of J Goldthorpe, they went very near to scoring, Potter being in great form.
The shouts of the excited partisans may have been premature, but they were unmistakably delighted when Mr. Humphreys blew his whistle and half-time arrived without Leeds scoring.
The wind still blew strongly, and it appeared likely that the marvellous rushes of the Hunslet forwards would tell its tale, and land the cup at Parkside.
The superiority of the front-rank men from the south side of the river was even more marked than in the first half, and they went into their work with the greatest nerve and vigour, In fact they appeared almost irresistible, and the form they showed at Brighouse was only an indication of the merit of their performances on this occasion.
The cup was presented in the hotel but several Hunslet officials were unable to obtain admission as Leeds had been given the passes needed to gain admission.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Kilner said he must congratulate Hunslet upon the handsome manner in which they had won the cup. (Cheers.) When he looked back over the Hunslet record in Cup ties he found that it was one of the finest ever obtained. (Loud cheers.) They had by their consistent play this season deserved the reward, and the events of that day showed that junior organisations could, if they only persevered, get to the top of the tree in football. (Hear, hear.) He must sympathise with Mr. Potter, the captain of the Leeds team. (Groans.) Mr. Potter was now in the unfortunate position of having been beaten by a team from a village called Hunslet. (Laughter.) They were probably not aware that Hunslet was the largest village in the United Kingdom. Nobody would, however, he thought, begrudge Hunslet their victory. (Cheers.)
Mrs. Kilner then formally handed over to Mr. Lapping the Cup.
Mr. JH Potter, who had a somewhat mixed reception, said that undoubtedly on that day’s match Hunslet could not beat not only beat Leeds, but the Rest of England. (Laughter.) The only consolation he could gain from the match was that Leeds had not shown their best form. (Hear, hear.) He hoped that the Cup would remain within the borough of Leeds for some years to come. (Cheers.)
Mr. Wright, the president of the Hunslet Club, stepped to the window, and said that that was a proud day for his club. He was proud to think the Hunslet Club was the first to bring the Cup to Leeds since the competition was founded. (Cheers.)
RECEPTION OF THE WINNERS IN LEEDS.
SCENES OF GREAT ENTHUSIASM.
The Hunslet team had a right royal reception on their arrival in the borough, and there could be no mistaking that the victory was a very popular one. Soon as it became known that they had vanquished the Leeds fifteen, people began to assemble in the vicinity of the New Station to await their home-coming, and doubtless also many were drawn thither by the opportunity that was at length afforded, after fifteen years of struggling, of seeing the Cup brought to Leeds.
By seven o’clock the crowds in Boar Lane, New Station Street, as well as near the Queen’s Hotel, had grown to enormous proportions, and expectation stood on tip-toe as train after train arrived from Huddersfield, bringing hundreds who had been present at the match, but not the Cup-winners.
At length the marching of the Hunslet Brass Band to the station indicated that the vast crowd could not have long to wait for Lapping’s men to arrive, and shortly before eight o’clock, the train bringing the team, with their president (Mr. Wright) and the Club Committee, steamed into the station amid vociferous cheering. A long row of waggonettes awaited them just outside, and into the first of three stepped the captain and his men, at the sight of whom the crowd almost cheered itself hoarse, roaring again and again as the silver trophy was held aloft, all the while the band playing the inspiring “See the Conquering Hero Comes.”
Then began a procession through a crowd which extended far back into Park Row in one-direction, and in another along Boar Lane as far as eye could see. The route taken was up Park Row and along Guildford Street, where passing the Green Dragon, the cheering was renewed with increased earnestness, while the Cup was held up to the gaze of the crowd by Moore. The reception accorded to the victors by those at the headquarters of the Leeds team was a very cordial one, and just a few yards further on the procession halted, while greetings were exchanged with the Leeds players themselves, who were met in a waggonette at the corner of Albion Street.
Thence the route taken was along Upperhead Row into Briggate where, if possible, the dimensions of the crowd exceeded anything before. That thoroughfare was simply packed, scores of enthusiasts running imminent risk of being dangerously hurt in their eagerness to keep abreast of the procession. For some hours business in the principal streets was absolutely paralysed, every shop window, as well as the windows above, being crowded with sightseers. On the way to Hunslet coloured fires were lit, and as the team neared home signs of rejoicing were everywhere more noticeable. Banners and flags, many them of a first-class description, had been got specially for the occasion, and they hung from windows along the way, while at an East Hunslet Club was an illuminated inscription in coloured letters on a white background-“Well played, Hunslet.” “Hard fought and nobly won.” Mr. Carter, Chairman of Hunslet Conservative Association, had been instrumental in obtaining the sanction for the ringing of the bells of St. Mary’s, whose merry peal, early in the evening and again when the team had reached Church Street, emphasised the festive character of the rejoicings.
On the way the members of the team were met by Mr. Alf Cooke, whose wife was to have presented to each a floral buttonhole, beside having them to tea during the present week. Mrs. Hawkyard, in the absence of Mrs. Cooke, made the presentation. A local band was also stationed on the balcony of the above-named club, and while a halt was made they also played “The Conquering Hero,” which was followed by renewed cheering.
NO SERIOUS ACCIDENTS
No serious accidents are reported as a result of the crowding which took place in Leeds streets on Saturday on the occasion of the welcome home of the victorious football team. The event, however, seems to have been responsible for an unusual number of children losing their way and coming under the protection of the police until sought after and re-claimed by parents. There were some narrow escapes in instances where adventurous youths fell under the horses’ legs in front of some of the waggonettes.
THE BALL TO BE KEPT BY HUNSLET.
We understand that the Hunslet team, having been presented with the ball which did duty in Saturday’s match, the club has decided to have it suitably ornamented and to have placed on it an inscription commemorative of their victory