The Challenge Cup
Warrington v Featherstone Rovers
The Northern Union founded in 1895 was flourishing and within a few months its committee decided to introduce a knockout competition open to all member clubs. On 5 March 1896, at a meeting of the Northern Union, the Challenge Cup was officially established and the committee set about the task of providing a cup and medals to play for. The Bradford based company of Frattorini & Son was chosen to supply the trophy. The silver cup weighed 189 ounces, stood 36 inches high and cost £ 60. The cost of the winners’ medals was three guineas and the losers’ 30 shillings.
The draw for the first round was made on 3 September 1896, well in advance of the first matches, which were played in March 1897. The decision to introduce the Challenge Cup was an instant success and it has become the game’s major competition. Warrington’s first match was a 0-0 draw at Broughton Rangers. The replay was won 3-0, Swift scoring the try. Local junior sides Latchford Rangers, Warrington Locos and Warrington St Mary’s were all defeated in the first round.
A Featherstone Rovers side first competed in the Challenge Cup of 1913, losing 15-3 at Rochdale Hornets, the year that Warrington reached their fifth Challenge Cup Final. This was eight years before Featherstone Rovers were admitted to the league.
Warrington first met Featherstone Rovers in the Challenge Cup in a 1951 second round tie at Wilderspool. 16,000 spectators turned up expecting a stroll for the Challenge Cup holders, but they were mistaken as Rovers rattled the Wire. In wet and muddy conditions Featherstone were leading 6-4 when their winger Blackburn looked to be crossing for the winning try however Brian Bevan made a sensational tackle on the line. Bevan then scored three tries in the last few minutes to give Warrington a flattering 18-6 victory. The following season Featherstone reached Wembley for the first time.
Ten year later the clubs met at the same stage of the Challenge Cup and this time Featherstone gained revenge with a 13-10 victory at Wilderspool. Rovers shock win was all the more remarkable as Warrington were in scintillating league form, only losing one of their last fourteen matches to finish second. The match turned out to be the last Challenge Cup appearances for both Brian Bevan and Ally Naughton.
In 1966 the two sides met again in the second round, this time at Post Office Road. Tries from Parry Gordon, Willie Aspinall and Geoff Bootle, who also kicked 2 goals and a Ray Clarke goal helped Warrington to a narrow 15-14 victory. The following season Featherstone won at Wembley for the first time, defeating Jim Challinor’s Barrow side.
A pulsating quarter final tie in 1973 at Wilderspool was won by Rovers 18-14, in front of a crowd of 15,600. Featherstone progressed to Wembley where they defeated Bradford Northern to win the Challenge Cup for a second time.
Twelve months later Warrington and Featherstone met at Wembley. Warrington winning a very physical encounter 24-9, with Lance Todd Trophy winner Derek Whitehead kicking 7 goals.
The BBC cameras witnessed a late fightback by Featherstone in 1990 at Wilderspool fall just short. Warrington were leading 17-0, before Rovers pulled it back to 17-12 before a penalty by Turner and drop goal from Bishop made the game safe for the Wire. Warrington went on to reach Wembley, when despite the heroic efforts of Mike Gregory they lost to Wigan.
In the Super League era this is the third meeting between Warrington Wolves and Featherstone Rovers. In 1999 the Wolves comfortably won a fourth round tie at Wilderspool 50-6. Warrington’s left wing pair of Alan Hunte and Mark Forster both crossed for hat-tricks. That was the season that Warrington got off to their best start to a Super League season, prior to this season with seven wins out of the first nine matches.
Last season the Wolves travelled to Post Office Road for a fifth round tie which was won 56-8 by Warrington on route to Wembley.
Featherstone scored first and lead at the end of the 1st quarter. However the game was over at half-time as Warrington crossed for four tries to lead 20-4. Six more tries in the second half, all converted by Chris Hicks, saw Warrington through to the quarter finals of the Challenge Cup. The highlight of the day was the parade of players from the 1974 Wembley Challenge Cup final, led by their coaches Alex Murphy and Peter Fox.
Pictures from the top
Alex Murphy Drop Goal in 1974
Past Players at Featherstone 10th May 2009
Ben Harrison at Featherstone 10th May 2009
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