It’s fair to say out of the two teams, Warrington’s success in the Challenge Cup is far superior to Salford’s. Both sides have a rich history and tradition that dates back well over a hundred years. Warrington have won the Challenge cup on nine occasions. 1905, 1907, 1950, 1954, 1974, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2019.
Salford’s solitary cup triumph came back in 1938 under legendary manager Lance Todd. The Red Devils beat Barrow at Wembley 7-4. Since then Salford have had just one trip to Wembley, that came back in 1969 when they were beaten by Castleford. Player coach Alex Murphy leads the celebrations at Wembley in 1974.
Back in 1974 Warrington under player coach Alex Murphy beat the previous years cup holders Featherstone Rovers by 24-9. Full back Derek Whitehead was awarded the Lance Todd Trophy. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the cup alluded the Wire. Beaten finalists in 1990 they would wait thirty five years to finally lift the trophy again beating Huddersfield 25-14 in 2009.
Derek Whitehead kicked seven goals and won the Lance Todd Trophy in 1974.
Fifty one years has passed since 1969 and Salford’s last Wembley visit. That’s a life time in sport. Sheffield Eagles broke Salford hearts in 1998 coming back from 10-18 down to stun the Reds 22-18. That match seemed to knock the stuffing out of the club who at the time in the 90s were on the rise.
For Salford supporters of a certain vintage this is the big one. The Holy Grail, chasing the rainbow, the impossible dream. I’ve always thought of it as Del Boy and Rodney in Only Fools and Horses desperately ducking and diving to achieve that dream of being millionaires. When they finally get there they are lost and don’t really know what to do. I think that’s how I’d react if Salford won the cup. I suppose in a way it’s painful to get knocked out of the cup every year but it’s part of the adventure. From hiding behind the couch when the draw is made to nervously watching on the terraces, counting every tackle and living every pass. It’s a special competition and yes it’s heartbreaking losing a semi final or going out to a last minute score but the comforting thing is the Challenge cup comes around again every year.
Salford’s Gus Risman holds the Challenge cup aloft after the 1938 final.
Salford’s Challenge cup semi final record.
1898 Salford 0 Batley 5
1899 Salford 8 Hunslet 13
1900 Salford 8 Leeds Parish Church 0
1902 Salford 8 Batley 0
1903 Salford 0 Oldham 0
Replay Salford 8 Oldham 0
1905/06 Salford 6 Keighley 3
1906/07 Salford 0 Oldham 6
1909/10 Salford 6 Hull 20
1935/36 Salford 2 Warrington 7
1937/38 Salford 6 Swinton 0
1938/39 Salford 11 Wigan 2
1968/69 Salford 15 Warrington 8
1987/88 Salford 4 Wigan 34
1997 Salford 20 St. Helens 50
1998 Salford 18 Sheffield Eagles 22
2017 Salford 14 Wigan 27
Warrington’s Challenge Cup semi final record.
1897 Warrington 0 Batley 6
1901 Warrington 21 Castleford 5
1903/04 Warrington 3 Bradford 3
Replay Warrington 8 Bradford 0
1904/05 Warrington 7 Bradford 2
1906/07 Warrington 21 Swinton 0
1909/10 Warrington 10 Leeds 11
1912/13 Warrington 17 Dewsbury 5
1927/28 Warrington 9 Leeds 2
1930/31 Warrington 5 York 15
1932/33 Warrington 11 St. Helens 5
1935/36 Warrington 7 Salford 2
1946/47 Warrington 7 Bradford 11
1949/50 Warrington 16 Leeds 4
1950/51 Warrington 2 Wigan 3
1952/53 Warrington 3 St. Helens 9
1953/54 Warrington 8 Leeds 4
1962/63 Warrington 2 Wakefield 5
1968/69 Warrington 8 Salford 15
1971/72 Warrington 10 St. Helens 10
Replay Warrington 6 St. Helens 10
1973/74 Warrington 17 Dewsbury 7
1974/75 Warrington 11 Leeds 4
1977/78 Warrington 8 St. Helens 12
1988/89 Warrington 6 Wigan 13
1989/90 Warrington 10 Oldham 6
2000 Warrington 20 Bradford 44
2001 Warrington 22 Bradford 39
2004 Warrington 18 Wigan 30
2009 Warrington 39 Wigan 26
2010 Warrington 54 Catalans 12
2012 Warrington 33 Huddersfield 6
2013 Warrington 12 Hull 16
2014 Warrington 16 Leeds 24
2015 Warrington 18 Hull kr 26
2016 Warrington 56 Wakefield 12
2018 Warrington 48 Leeds 12
2019 Warrington 22 Hull 14
Meetings between the two sides in the Challenge Cup.
Salford won 4.
Warrington won 5.
13th March 1915 round 2, Warrington 2 Salford 11.
21st March 1936 semi final, Warrington 7 Salford 2.
13th February 1937, round 1, Salford 4 Warrington 10.
27th February 1965, round 2, Warrington 16 Salford 2.
22nd March 1969, semi final, Salford 15 Warrington 8.
21st February 1971, round 2, Salford 20 Warrington 9.
9th March 1997, Quarter Final, Warrington 10 Salford 29
11th March 2000, Quarter Final, Salford 20 Warrington 22
12th May 2013, fifth round, Warrington 52 Salford 6
Nathan McAvoy, Phil Coussons, Paul Forber and Fata Sini celebrate a try in the Quarter Final win of 1997.
They played for both.
Here are a few players to wear the red of Salford and the primrose and blue of Warrington.
Vinny Anderson, Richie Barnett, Steve Blakeley, Martin Crompton, John Duffy, Phil Ford, Martin Gleeson, Andy Gregory, Danny Halliwell, Neil Harmon, Alan Hunte, David Highton, Danny Lima, Tyrone McCarthy, Francis Maloney, Adrian Morley, Chris Morley, Ben Murdoch Masila, Richie Myler, Adam Neal, Gareth O Brien, Rob Parker, Stefan Ratchford, Stuart Reardon, Ian Sibbit, Kevin Tamati, Mike Wainwright, Lama Tasi and John Wilshere.
A match to remember 22nd March 1969
Salford 15 Warrington 8.
Going into this match Salford’s form was quite formidable. Just one defeat in the previous fifteen games and a comfortable 33-10 win over Warrington in the league at the start of the month left the side brimming with confidence.
The Semi Final tie would be played at Central Park Wigan.
A crowd of over 20,000 packed the terraces on this bright spring Saturday afternoon.
The match was a tight and ferocious contest, both packs went toe to toe with each other. Salford had pace on both edges in Billy Burgess and Paul Jackson. The two of them were accomplished wingers and both scored excellent tries.
Flying Cumbrian winger Billy Burgess scored 17 tries in the 1968/69 season.
Salford’s other try came from Stuart Whitehead. Ron Hill was a tie ender when it came to goal kicking and he booted three conversions.
Salford were back at Wembley for the first time in thirty years.
The team line ups that day were;
Salford, Gwilliam, Burgess, Whitehead, Hesketh, Jackson, Watkins, Brennan, Ogden, Dickens, Bott, Coulman, Dixon and Hill.
Warrington, Bootle, Hutchinson, Melling, Aspinall, Conroy, Harvey, Gordon, Brady, McIntyre, Jones, Briggs, Parr and Hughes.
Saturdays match .
I am writing this before the two sides have met in the Tuesday evening League match. It’s always strange when two sides meet twice in close succession. You normally don’t get two similar performances either. It’s looking like both sides will make changes and rotate players.
Warrington have appeared in eight of the last ten Challenge Cup Semi finals so as a club they have a huge abundance of big game experience. This match will be very different, playing behind closed doors without supporters.
Both sides have match winning players. Warrington have the very influential Blake Austin. The Australian half back has so many skills and to add to that his physicality, size and ability to brush tackles off makes him a huge threat.
Salford supporters know all about Stefan Ratchford. The thirty two year old is now in his ninth season with the Wolves after shining as a young player at The Willows with Salford. Warrington’s pack has a nice blend of youth and experience. Stalwarts Chris Hill and Mike Cooper have played almost 500 matches for the Wolves between them. Danny Walker is a very quick and efficient young hooker who was snapped up from local rivals Widnes. The 21 year old is learning all the time sharing the hooking role with Daryl Clark. Clark won the Lance Todd Trophy at Wembley last season when Warrington upset a strongly fancied St. Helens side to lift the Cup.
Another former Salford crowd favourite who will be looking to make an impact is the marauding back rower Ben Murdoch Masila. The Tongan international is so powerful running out wide and is particularly dangerous close to the try line to.
How will Salford combat the form team in the country? Ian Watson has become a real master tactician over the past few seasons. He might not have the biggest pool of players to pick from or the resources other clubs have but what he’s good at is getting the best out of the tools at his disposal. That is the trademark of a master craftsman and Watson is gaining that reputation throughout the wider circles of Rugby League.
In recent weeks Kevin Brown has looked outstanding. A team can have all the power, flair and pace in the world but without two good half backs who can link up together the chances are they will struggle for form. In Brown and Tui Lolohea Salford seem to have found a pair that can play well together. Lolohea has the trickery and running while Brown is the organiser. Brown turns 36 at the start of October and has played top flight Rugby League since making his debut for Wigan in 2003.
Tui Lolohea and Kevin Brown‘s partnership is starting to blossom.
Dan Sarginson is another player who has really stood up recently. With star full back Niall Evalds out injured and moving on to Castleford next year, Sarginson has put his marker down for the full back position with some all action performances. Kris Welham is another player who continues to roll back the years. The evergreen centre has in my opinion got the best hand off in the country. Welham has to go down as one of Ian Watson’s most astute signings.
In the pack Salford can match anyone and last week completely overpowered Hull. Luke Yates is like a machine, a complete work horse that runs his blood to water tackling everything that moves. Mark Flanagan announced live on television after last weeks match he was retiring at the end of the season and his stability in attack and defence will be missed. Mark is a complete professional and his big game experience will be vital this Saturday.
The Bookmakers might be tipping Warrington but Salford have more than a chance in this match. The spirit and desire on display in the Quarter Finals against Catalans showed this group of players are more than capable of reaching Wembley for the first time since 1969.
It promises to be a fascinating match between two clubs that have quite a healthy rivalry.
The action gets under way this Saturday evening at 5pm.
Stay safe and enjoy the match everyone.