It’s been the dream of every Salford supporter for so long, after 51 years our famous old club will return to Wembley Stadium to play in the Challenge Cup Final. Beaten in 1969 in a match full of controversy 11-6 against a tough and talented Castleford team, Salford failed to reach another final throughout the clubs glory years of the 1970s. In the first two seasons of the 70s Castleford knocked Salford out at Wheldon Road in two epic encounters. Featherstone Rovers on their way to lifting the trophy in 1973 dumped a much fancied Salford side out at Post Office Road. Two years running in 1974 and 1975 Leeds smashed Salford’s cup dream along with Workington and Huddersfield. At the end of the decade after two replays Bramley edged Salford out 7-5 at Swinton’s Station Road.
Terry Ogden gets a pass away to Jackie Brennan in 1969 at Wembley.
The 1980s didn’t offer much more hope as the famous trophy always seemed to allude us. In 1981 however a thrilling cup run took Salford to the quarter finals. After beating Bradford and Leigh who were both top sides back then Salford travelled to Craven Park to play Hull Kingston Rovers. The Robins were another top side and had won the cup the previous year beating cross city rivals Hull at Wembley 10-5. After a very brave performance Salford bowed out 19-8. It was quite ironic that just five days later when the two sides met i the league at the Willows Salford won 20-15!
Disappointing results at Bramley and Doncaster followed in the mid 80s before a fantastic cup run in 1988 which saw Salford reach the semi final. A 16-6 derby victory over Swinton in round one was followed by a very close encounter with Springfield Borough. In the quarter finals St Helens were drawn out to play Salford at The Willows. A big crowd witnessed an epic cup tie. Salford edged it 22-18. A huge following travelled to Bolton’s Burnden Park for the semi final against Wigan. On a real miserable and grey day where the rain never stopped Wigan’s star studded side had to much for brave Salford running out 34-4 winners.
The 1990s saw us flirt with Wembley reaching the semi finals in 1997 and 1998. A heart breaking defeat to Sheffield Eagles in 98 took years for the club to recover. In February 1996 a very magical day at the Willows saw Salford knock Wigan out of the cup in front of a capacity crowd. Wigan had dominated the sport from the late 80s and had won the cup eight times on the trot. Despite being a League below Wigan the Salford players put in the performance of their lives to send shockwaves through the sport.
In the first decade of the new millennium a thrilling quarter final tie at the Willows ended in defeat to Warrington 20-22. Alan Hunte scoring the winning try deep in to injury time. For the next few years early exits in the competition failed to capture the supporters imagination.
Being quite a romantic I always thought our last season at the Willows in 2011 would see us reach Wembley. After beating Hunslet away 2-68, Hull Kingston Rovers were the opponents. A Michael Dobson masterclass proved to much for Salford and the Robins were the far better side for this Friday night fixture progressing 0-25.
Under coach Ian Watson the 2017 season was a real breath of fresh air for the supporters. A fourth placed regular season league finish and a Cup run to the semi finals. Toronto, Hull Kingston Rovers and Wakefield were all beaten at the AJ Bell Stadium to set up a semi final tie with Wigan. Despite leading 14-12 at half time it wasn’t to be and Wigan won the match 14-27. The Warriors were beaten in the final 18-14 by Hull.
51 years is a long time to be starved of a trip to Wembley. It’s certainly tough on the supporters this year with no one allowed to go. I think this will make victory on Saturday even more special. The players want to bring that trophy back home for the supporters who’ve stuck by the club through thick and thin. Whatever the result on Saturday Salford and their supporters will carry on chasing rainbows and supporting a club that means so much to them.
With Ian Watson, his coaching staff, back room staff and the people in charge of our club I am confident Salford can reach more finals in the near future. The City will be bursting with pride on Saturday afternoon and against a team in Leeds who have given us a fair amount of painful defeats over the years. This group of Salford players are 80mins away from being remembered for ever.
The Rugby League season seems to revolve so much around the Grand Final in these modern times but ask most supporters and they will tell you how special the Challenge cup is. From playing away from home against a lower league side you’ve not played in years, to hiding behind the couch when the draw is made listening to the balls roll round the old velvet bag. From a heart breaking last minute defeat to a golden point extra time drop goal. From the tears of disappointment to jumping around the terraces to celebrate a winning try. That’s what makes the Challenge Cup, the holy grail. The most comforting thing of all is it comes around every year. Their’s always another season.
Previous Challenge Cup meetings.
March 5th 1898, round 2, Salford 65 Leeds 2
March 30th 1907, round3, Salford 12 Leeds 3
February 13th 1926, round 1, Salford 2 Leeds 3
February 21st 1931, round 2, Salford 9 Leeds 0
March 1st 1933, round 2, Salford 3 Leeds 4
February 8th 1964, round 1, Salford 10 Leeds 6
February 23rd 1974, round 2, Leeds 10 Salford 6
February 23rd 1975, round 2, Salford 12 Leeds 17
February 5th 1984, round 1, Salford 16 Leeds 24
February 1st 1987, round 1, Salford 0 Leeds 4
24th April 2012, round 5, Salford 10 Leeds 16
Salford’s Cup Final Record.
1899/1900 Swinton 16 Salford 8
1901/1902 Broughton 25 Salford 0
1902/1903 Halifax 7 Salford 0
1905/1906 Bradford FC 5 Salford 0
1937/1938 Salford 7 Barrow 4
1938/1939 Halifax 20 Salford 3
1968/1969 Castleford 11 Salford 6
Leeds’s Cup Final Record.
1909/1910 Leeds 7 Hull 7
Replay Leeds 26 Hull 12
1922/1923 Leeds 28 Hull 3
1931/1932 Leeds 11 Swinton 8
1935/1936 Leeds 18 Warrington 2
1940/1941 Leeds 19 Halifax 2
1941/1942 Leeds 15 Halifax 10
1942/1943 Dewsbury 16 Leeds 15
1946/1947 Bradford 8 Leeds 4
1956/1957 Leeds 9 Barrow 7
1967/1968 Leeds 11 Wakefield 10
The water splash final of 1968.
1970/1971 Leigh 21 Leeds 7
1971/1972 St. Helens 16 Leeds 13
1976/1977 Leeds 16 Widnes 7
Leeds winger John Atkinson, Wembley try scorer in 1977 and 1978
1977/1978 Leeds 14 St. Helens 12
1993/1994 Wigan 26 Leeds 16
1994/1995 Wigan 30 Leeds 10
1999 Leeds 52 London Broncos 16
2000 Bradford 24 Leeds 18
2003 Bradford 22 Leeds 20
2005 Hull 25 Leeds 24
2010 Warrington 30 Leeds 6
2011 Wigan 28 Leeds 18
2012 Warrington 35 Leeds 18
2014 Leeds 23 Castleford 10
2015 Leeds 50 Hull Kingston Rovers 0
They played for both.
Here are a few players to wear the red of Salford and the blue and amber of Leeds.
Luke Burgess, Joel Moon, Mark Brooke-Cowden, Andrew Duneman, Ensene Famailo, Phil Ford, Ashley Gibson, Phil Hassan, Weller Hauraki, Ben Jones Bishop, Andy Kirk, Francis Maloney, Richie Myler, David Young, Robert Lui and Kallum Watkins.
Andrew Dunemann a terrific player for both clubs.
A Match to Remember February 23rd 1975 Challenge Cup round two.
Salford 12 Leeds 17.
Quite ironically the two sides had met exactly 12 months early at the same stage in the competition. That match was at Headingley with Leeds winning 10-6. With Salford riding high in the first division supporters followed in huge numbers with 56 coaches leaving the Willows to travel to West Yorkshire.
Fast forward to 1975 and both sides were again riding high in the Championship table going in to this mouth watering cup tie.
Their was certainly no love lost between the two clubs and a bitter rivalry had festered since the start of the decade.
Salford had beaten a very good Featherstone Rovers side away from home in round one. Leeds had won at Whitehaven in round one in a tricky looking fixture.
A sizeable crowd packed the Willows for this Sunday afternoon clash.
End to end action in the first half saw Salford score two tries. Forwards Jim Fiddler and Eric Prescott both crossed for tries with David Watkins kicking three goals. Leeds scored first half tries from winger Alan Smith, Centre Syd Hynes and their young number seven Chris Sanderson to lead 12-15 at half time.
Eric Prescott, try scorer in 1975.
Defences were a lot tighter in the second half. Neither side wanted to give anything away. Salford pressed but couldn’t find the try they desperately needed. The only points of the second half came from Leeds full back David Marshall who kicked a penalty to nudge the Loiners to victory 12-17.
Leeds beat Bradford 22-6 in the third round before losing the semi final to Warrington.
The teams that day:
Salford, Stead, Charlton, Watkins, Hesketh, Richards, Gill, Banner, Coulman, Walker, Fiddler, Knighton, Dixon, Prescott.
Subs, Brophy, McKay.
Leeds, Marshall, Smith, Hynes, Dyl, Atkinson, Mason, Sanderson, Harrison, Fisher, Pitchford, Cookson, Eccles, Haigh.
Subs, Hepworth, Ward.
Referee, G.F Lindop.
The two sides have met twice already this season with Leeds winning both matches. Personally I don’t think League form will have any bearing on the cup final.
Leeds as a club have all the big experience having played at Wembley five times in the last decade. The Rhinos last graced Wembley in 2015 when they blew Hull Kingston Rovers away 50-0. Kris Welham, Tyrone McCarthy and Ken Sio all played for the Robins that day. With Sio injured at the moment their is no doubt McCarthy and Welham have some unfinished business with the Rhinos and would both love to lay the 2015 memory to rest.
Two players who will be desperate to make their mark at Wembley are Robert Lui and Tui Lolohea. These two swapped clubs last season with Lolohea leaving the Rhinos with a point to prove. For one reason or another the Tongan international failed to settle at Leeds and coped his fair share of flack. On his day Lolohea can be a tremendous player, a match winner with all the quality in the world. The same can be said about Lui. Although he left Salford on good terms after being a crucial cog in Ian Watson’s side, the Red Devils former star man would love to clinch some silverware.
Former Salford favourite Robert Lui.
Both sides are in really good form despite losing their Tuesday games this week. Salford and Leeds were forced to play weakened teams against Hull Kingston Rovers and Warrington respectively. In a difficult season games are coming thick and fast with fixtures being crammed in where possible.
The last time these two sides met in a Cup Final was 21st March 1973. That was the John Player Trophy final played at Huddersfield’s Fartown ground. Leeds edged that on 12-7.
The above photos are from the 1973 John Player Trophy final.
The two clubs have a tremendous history and tradition in Rugby League and despite this match being played behind closed doors Saturday will be a momentous occasion. I am fairly certain most Salford supporters will be pretty emotional when their team marches out on to the hollowed turf of the national stadium.
The match gets under way at 3pm.
Stay safe and enjoy the match.