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London Clubs

Two weeks after our successful visit to London we welcome Harlequins to The Halliwell Jones Stadium for the final home match of the 2009 season.  It is 29 years since Harlequins started life in the rugby league world when as Fulham they opened with a 24-5 win over Wigan at Craven Cottage.  The club changed names to London Crusaders and London Broncos before becoming Harlequins RL in 2006.  As London Broncos they were founder members of the Super League in 1996. 


Warrington have played Harlequins/Broncos 29 times since the inception of Super League, winning 14 and losing 15.  Of the 16 away matches one was played in Newport and another in Carcasonne.  The London based side have regularly moved around the Capital and have played Warrington at The Stoop in Twickenham, The Valley in Charlton and Griffin Park in Brentford.


The first rugby league match played in London was a Test Match between Great Britain and the New Zealand “All Golds” in February 1908.  The match was played at Stamford Bridge the home of Chelsea.  Warrington’s George Thomas was in the second row for the Great Britain side defeated 18-6.  In December 2008 Great Britain drew the first Test match against the first touring Australians at Loftus Road 22-22.  Ernie Brooks and George Dickenson were Warrington’s Great Britain representatives.  Stand-off Brookes scored a try and kicked two goals.


The 1929 Challenge Cup Final moved to Wembley, when Wigan and Dewsbury contested the first final in London.  International rugby returned to London in 1930 when Wales lost to Australia 26-10 at Wembley.  Dai Davies and Jesse Meredith played for the Welsh team.  In the 1930s there was a move to establish rugby league in London, with the start-up of three short-lived clubs.


For the 1933/34 season Wigan Highfield moved to London and became London Highfield, playing at the White City Stadium.  Their stay in London was one brief season, before re-locating back up north as Liverpool Stanley.  Warrington played London Highfield twice in 4 days in December 1933.  A Wednesday visit to London was won 15-3 and the return at Wilderspool 8-5.


Following London Highfield’s brief existence, a wealthy businessman, Sidney Parkes set up two new clubs at new stadiums for the 1935/36 season.  Acton and Willesden played at the new Royal Park Stadium.  In an effort to provide an experienced team the club made the mistake of paying high fees for reserve standard players.  Whilst they started well and were league leaders for a spell, with attendances peaking at over 17,000, a rapid decline followed and the side finished 21st in their only season.  Warrington never played Acton.


Parkes’ other team Streatham and Mitcham played at the new Mitcham Stadium.  They were run on the same lines as Acton and had the same problems.  Their first home match drew a crowd of 20,000 and they maintained a five figure average despite finishing 24th.  The second season saw Streatham sell several players and by February they withdrew from the league.  At that stage they had won 14 of their 26 matches, their remaining 12 were awarded to their opponents.  Warrington had league fixtures in both seasons against Streatham.  In 1935/36 Warrington won 17-7 in London and 20-12 at Wilderspool.  The following season Warrington won 8-5 away from home and were awarded the points for the non played home match.

In 1955 Independent Television organised a rugby league tournament in London, with matches played mid-week under floodlights at London football grounds and shown on television.  Warrington played twice, beating Wakefield Trinity 33-9 to qualify for the final against Leigh, which was won 43-18.  Both matches were played at Loftus Road, the home of Queen’s Park Rangers.


Warrington lost on their first league visit to Craven Cottage 28-9 in 1981.  Warrington met Fulham in three further league matches winning them all.  They also played twice in the John Player Trophy in 1981 and 1985, winning on both occasions.  Fulham were also beaten in the semi-final of the Lancashire Cup in 1982 at Wigan.  Warrington played London Broncos twice in the 1995/6 season winning both league matches.


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