The Rugby League Challenge Cup is steeped in history with both Salford and Castleford having a fantastic tradition in the competition. Salford’s only Cup triumph came in 1938 when they beat Barrow 7-4. The Red Devils have been runners up on seven occasions including the 1969 Final they lost against Castleford 11-6.
Castleford have won the cup on four occasions, their last success came in 1986 when they beat Hull Kingston Rovers 15-14 in a pulsating Wembley Final. Since then they’ve been to the final twice and ended up runners up to Wigan in 1992 and were also beaten in 2014 against Leeds at the new Wembley.
Salford and their supporters had waited patiently for fifty one years to see their side reach Rugby League’s show piece final. Even through the 1970s when the team was at its strongest the Cup Final always seemed to get away leaving Salford as the fall guys. On big occasions players would be missing through injury, the team didn’t perform and sometimes the luck that is desperately needed just evaded them. It seemed very bittersweet last season as the team came through two tremendous matches to reach Wembley with all the games played behind closed doors. A golden point extra time victory over Catalans was followed by a thrilling win over Warrington in the Semi final. Ironically both games were played at St.Helens a place were Salford couldn’t buy a win in normal circumstances having not registered a victory over Saints on their home ground since 1980!
The 2020 Wembley final was a match to savour. A real close affair between Leeds and Salford. Two sides where a real bitter rivalry was built during the 1970s. Back then Leeds always seemed to gain the upper hand. It was the same old story last year as Salford went down to an agonisingly close defeat 17-16. Former Castleford half back Luke Gale dropped the all important goal to clinch the match. With coach Daryl Powell moving on at the end of the season The Tigers will be desperate to have another crack at a Challenge Cup Final. Salford as a club would love to return to Wembley with their supporters sat in the stands to cheer them on. Rugby league is not the same in empty stadiums.
The two sides have met on fourteen occasions in the Challenge Cup. Strangely the eight ties that have been played since the 1969 final have all been at Wheldon Road. Some of those matches have been real memorable ones. The two sides played out an epic clash in 1971. Despite an almighty effort with tries from David Watkins and Mike Coulman, Castleford edged out Salford 9-8 to reach the semi finals.
Five years later in 1976 Salford thrashed Castleford 3-25 in a fantastic performance in the first round. Tries from Maurice Richards, Keith Fielding, Johnny Butler, Mike Coulman and John Knighton saw Salford progress. As I mentioned before you need a bit of luck in the cup and is was typical Salford when they drew St.Helens in the next round losing 11-17 at The Willows. Six days later Salford beat Saints in the league 10-9. The Challenge Cup always seemed to be the one that got away!
Fast forward twenty years or so and the two sides met in 1997. Salford had just been promoted after two excellent seasons outside the top flight. The Reds arrived in West Yorkshire full of confidence under coach Andy Gregory. Former Australian Test forward John Cartwright was awesome for Salford that day along with another tough forward Andy Platt. Darren Rogers scored a hat trick of tries to see Salford progress 18-36.
Darren Rogers scored a hat trick in Salford’s 1997 victory.
Since that match Castleford have won all three matches including the 2016 match which saw an eagerly anticipated debut at Salford for Australian winger Daniel Vidot. The Red Devils were disappointing that day in a 32-16 defeat.
Challenge Cup record.
1923 Salford 16 Castleford 0. First round, The Willows.
1928 Salford 3 Castleford 7. First round, The Willows.
1933 Salford 11 Castleford 0. First round, The Willows.
1936 Salford 5 Castleford 4. Quarter final, The Willows.
1955 Salford 13 Castleford 5. First round, The Willows.
1969 Castleford 11 Salford 6. Final, Wembley Stadium.
1970 Castleford 15 Salford 0. Quarter Final, Wheldon Road.
1971 Castleford 9 Salford 8. Quarter final, Wheldon Road.
1976 Castleford 3 Salford 25. First round, Wheldon Road.
1994 Castleford 36 Salford 4. Third round, Wheldon Road.
1997 Castleford 18 Salford 36. Fourth round, Wheldon Road.
1999 Castleford 30 Salford 10. Quarter final, Wheldon Road.
2002 Castleford 19 Salford 6. Fourth round, Wheldon Road.
2016 Castleford 32 Salford 18. Sixth round, Wheldon Road.
They played for both.
Throughout the Super League era there have been plenty of players who have played for both clubs and quite a few through the 1970s and 80s.
Here is a selection of them ;
Paul Orr, Bill Kirkbride, Johnny Ward, Barry Kear, Ron Hill, Ian Bragger, Justin Carney, Chris Charles, Jason Critchley, Luke Dorn, Greg Eden, Jake Emmit, Jason Flowers, Matt Gardner, Ashley Gibson, Wayne Godwin, Weller Hauraki, Lee Jewitt, Michael Korkidas, Francis Maloney, Mike Platt, Darren Rogers, Jordan Turner, Darren Shaw, Mark Sneyd, Gray Viane, Derrell Olpherts, George Griffin, Niall Evalds and Gareth O’Brien.
A match to remember Saturday 17th May 1969
Castleford 11 Salford 6.
The 1968/69 Challenge cup had seen both Castleford and Salford play some thrilling rugby on route to the final. Castleford’s run had started away at Hunslet with a 7-19 victory followed by 12-8 win over Wigan at Wheldon Road.
Castleford met Leeds in the Quarter finals in what was a real bruising encounter finishing 9-5. In the semi final local rivals Wakefield Trinity were the opposition. Castleford won the match 16-10 to book their place at Wembley.
Salford started their own cup run with two home matches beating Batley 17-2 then Workington 12-5. A packed
crowd crammed into The Willows for the Quarter final tie with Widnes. Salford again played some wonderful rugby with tries from Billy Burgess, Chris Hesketh, Colin Dixon and Mike Coulman.
Salford’s semi final match was played at Central Park Wigan against Warrington. Tries from Burgess, Paul Jackson and Stuart Whitehead sent Salford to Wembley with a 8-15 victory.
Many people were predicting a fast, free-flowing match as both teams had a reputation for playing open, attacking rugby. However, as the game got underway it was clear that both teams were more intent on victory than losing with style.
From the kick off Salford’s flying Billy Burgess was smashed off the ball by Castleford prop Dennis Hartley. I am not quite sure why play continued and no action was taken. Both sides conceded early penalties and ex-Castleford player Ron Hill gave Salford an early lead by converting one of them.
Salford’s Martin Dickens gets a pass away to Jackie Brennan as Ron Hill looks on.
Then came the only try of the first half. From a scrum, Malcolm Reilly and Alan Hardisty combined to create the space for Keith Howe to reach the try line. However, Mick Redfearn failed with the conversion attempt and shortly after Hill kicked a second penalty to give Salford a 4-3 half time lead.
Castleford regained the lead shortly after half time. Hardisty’s short pass to Reilly set up a chance, the loose forward beat a few tackle attempts before a well-timed pass back to Hardisty sent the Cas captain under the posts.
Salford threatened the Castleford line but failed to register a try. You can ask many Salford supporters though and they will tell you Chris Hesketh got over the line but the try was disallowed. Ron Hill kicked another penalty goal before Castleford made victory their own with a try from Keith Hepworth.
Malcom Reilly won the Lance Todd Trophy after a fantastic all round performance.
Malcom Reilly , Lance Todd Trophy winner in 1969.
The teams that day;
Castleford, Edwards, Briggs, Howe, Thomas, Lowndes, Hardisty, Hepworth, Hartley, Dickinson, Ward, Redfearn, Lockwood, Reilly.
Subs, (not used) Harris, Fox.
Salford, Gwilliam, Burgess, Whitehead, Hesketh, Jackson, Watkins, Brennan, Ogden, Dickens, Bott, Coulman, Dixon, Hill.
Subs, (not used) Prosser, Smethurst.
Referee, D.S.Brown (Preston).
Last Friday Castleford were the better side at the AJ Bell Stadium and took the victory 18-28. Salford were much improved in the first half but again discipline cost them in the second half along with a few tough calls. The star player for Castleford last week was hooker Paul McShane. Such a dangerous player with ball in hand and close to the line he can cause all sorts of problems. McShane has a very clever kicking game and is a real thinker on the pitch. He really makes the Tigers tick, on current form he’s got to be in with a great chance of World Cup selection in the Autumn.
Castleford hooker and current Man of Steel, Paul McShane.
Salford showed they could expose Castleford in last weeks meeting. Kevin Brown and Tui Lolohea kicked well and put pressure on when it was needed. Salford need to be smarter, more disciplined and do those little things we take for granted right. That little ounce of professionalism can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing.
Despite Castleford being drawn out of the hat first this game will be played on a neutral venue at Headingley in Leeds.
Salford coach Richard Marshall will be hoping to see the return of Dan Sarginson and Elijah Taylor. Team selection has been a major talking point amongst the supporters recently and all eyes will be on the starting thirteen this week.
The action gets underway at 5:30pm.
Keep safe and enjoy the match.