The long and rich history of Featherstone Rovers Rugby League Football Club

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Story of Wembley 1983. Part IV

Thirty Years On.....

Rovers had been handed the toughest of ties, away to St. Helens in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup.  The BBC chose this game to be their televised match of the round, so the game was switched from Sunday to Saturday. After losing the previous weekend in the league at Warrington, Allan Agar made a couple of significant changes for the trip to Saints. Terry Hudson, who had been operating at loose-forward all season, switched to scrum-half in place of Neil Pickerill. His place in the pack was taken by Gary Siddall who came in at prop with Steve Hankins moving to the second-row. Ray Handscombe was also back from injury. St. Helens, with Neil Holding and Harry Pinner directing operations, looked formidable opponents and had won nine of their last ten fixtures, but had only narrowly beaten Rovers 13-10 in the corresponding league fixture in December. A decent crowd of 6,125 assembled to see a cracking game of rugby league.

Rovers started like a house on fire, playing Saints at their own game with expansive rugby, good off-loading and moving the ball wide. It soon paid dividends when swift passing put John Marsden in. Then John Gilbert left defenders grasping at thin air as he raced over. Rovers 8-0 up. The sight of Gilbert fist raised celebrating prematurely (a coach’s nightmare but who could blame him?) with the Rovers fans going absolutely wild on the terraces behind him was an abiding image of our 1983 Cup run. Saints hit back through Harry Pinner and at half-time Rovers led 8-5. Saints took over at the beginning of the second half and soon Haggerty was over and Saints held the lead. As they had done in every round Rovers would now have to come from behind to win. And how they did! Quinn crashed onto Hobbs’ pass out of the tackle and broke clear, feeding inside to Marsden who fed it outside to John Gilbert to romp over unopposed. What a try, and what a moment to score it. A perfectly executed team move which deserved to win a match of this calibre. Quinn couldn’t add the conversion, and with the slenderest of advantages Rovers held out for a famous win.

The Rovers team was: Nigel Barker, John Marsden (try), Steve Quinn (1 goal), John Gilbert (2 tries), Ken Kellett, Alan Banks, Terry Hudson, Gary Siddall, Ray Handscombe, Mick Gibbins, David Hobbs, Steve Hankins, Peter Smith. Subs: Neil Pickerill, Keith Bell.

In the other three quarter finals, Castleford and Bradford both accounted for lower league opposition in the shape of Hunslet and Workington and holders Hull FC beat Warrington. That meant that all four quarter-finals had ended in away wins and all four semi-finalists were Yorkshire teams. When the draw came out Featherstone drew Bradford Northern and Hull FC drew Castleford. Once again Rovers had just two weeks to prepare for their semi-final with a vital league fixture against Hull KR sandwiched in between. The club was still in trouble in the league, but, one step from Wembley, now had their sights firmly fixed on the State Express Challenge Cup.

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