After the euphoria of beating Bradford in an epic semi-final of the State Express Challenge Cup, Rovers had to face up to a very different challenge before heading off to Wembley to meet Hull. Rovers had five league fixtures left to fulfil, and were still short of the necessary points required for survival in the First Division. The town was buzzing with expectation and talk of the trip to London, but an inability to secure top flight status would be a disaster.
First up then was a home fixture against Leigh. These were the glory days for today’s visitors, who were reigning champions having won the title in 1982. The following season found them lying mid-table, but with a very good set of players. With John Marsden, Ray Handscombe and Gary Siddall all missing, Leigh would be doing us no favours. Rovers hung on however for a grim, but vital, 13-10 win with a try from winger Peter Muscroft, a recent loan signing from Hull KR.
Rovers then travelled on the Thursday night to Halifax who themselves were losing the battle against the dreaded drop. A convincing 29-7 win allayed our relegation fears greatly. Rovers ran in seven tries, and another loanee from Hull KR, Paul Harkin, ran the show from scrum-half. With three games left Rovers now had 23 points and sat 11th in the table. Just below them were Barrow, Rovers next opponents, and below them Bradford who had games in hand on both Rovers and the Cumbrians. Workington, Halifax and Carlisle were already relegated, but who would join them?
Rovers could have virtually guaranteed their safety with a win at Barrow, which is never an easy place to get a result. So it proved as Rovers went down in a tight game 6-0. It was the third time that year the side had failed to score, and left us with two points still required from our final two home games against Wigan and Bradford to be safe.
On the Wednesday night we faced Wigan, who were just a point behind leaders Hull in the race for the Championship. Rovers dug deep and put in a splendid show securing a 9-all draw with a David Hobbs try and three Steve Quinn goals. This precious point took us clear of Barrow. However Bradford had already saved themselves with a tremendous run beating Leeds, Saints, Workington and Carlisle to move up the table.
On the Sunday, the final day of the season, we faced Bradford, while Hull were playing Barrow and could do us a huge favour by beating our rivals for the drop. A Barrow victory and a Rovers defeat would see us relegated. In reality with Hull FC poised to clinch the Championship, there was no way they would allow Barrow any chances and so it proved with Hull triumphing 31-13. This was just as well as Rovers were unable to repeat their semi-final victory over Bradford and we were beaten 24-13 at home. With Nigel Barker, Alan Banks, Terry Hudson and Mick Gibbins all missing Rovers had taken a risk, but in the end it had worked. First Division football would continue at Post Office Road in 1983/84.