Challenge Cup

25 May 2022

Report: The 1897 Challenge Cup Final

Report: The 1897 Challenge Cup Final

The Challenge Cup is one of sport's most historic competitions, with the first edition taking place back in 1897. That year's final was contested by Batley and St Helens.

Batley were given a bye in the first round and overcame Bramley 11-0 in Round 2. They saw off Brighouse Rangers 6-3 in Round 3 before a 10-0 triumph over Widnes at the quarter-final stage.

They then sealed their place in the final with a 6-0 semi-final win over Warrington at Huddersfield.

St Helens were also given a first round bye before a huge 66-0 win over Lees in Round 2, followed by a 17-3 win over Castleford in Round 3 and an 11-0 quarter-final success against local rivals Wigan.

Their semi-final was a clash with Swinton at Broughton Rangers in front of 20,000 fans, a game they won 7-0.

Headingley Stadium was the venue for the final on Saturday, April 24, 1897. Batley wore white shirts and black shorts and socks in place of their normal cerise and fawn colours for the clash, St Helens wore blue and white hooped shirts, white shorts and black socks.

St Helens won the toss and, in front of a crowd of 13,492 in Leeds, close to make Batley kick off. Playing into a strong wind in the first half, Batley endured a nightmare start as their kick off failed to go ten metres.

But, after winning a penalty, Batley actually went ahead after just five minutes of play when stand-off Joe Oakland, in the days when drop goals were worth four points, kicked a drop goal to give Batley an early 4–0 advantage.

Batley then extended their lead to 7–0 when centre John Goodall scored the first try of the game, then worth three points. That proved to be the last score of the first half.

Trailing 7-0 at the interval, St Helens rallied in the second half and got on the scoreboard themselves when centre David Traynor scored a memorable try. The 22-year-old collected the the ball on the halfway line and beat four Batley players on his way to the tryline, touching down to make it 7-3.

However that was as good as things got for Saints as Batley flanker (Rugby League teams were then made up of 15 players) John T. 'Paudy' Munns scored Batley's second try to make the score 10–3.

That's how things stayed when the final whistle blew, confirming Batley as the first-ever winners of the Challenge Cup.

After the game, the Challenge Cup trophy was presented by Louisa Waller, the wife of the President of the Northern Union, Henry Hirst Waller.

She presented the Batley players with commemorative gold medals and the St Helens players with silver medals.

The original Challenge Cup trophy was presented to the Challenge Cup winners up until 2001, when it was withdrawn due to its increasingly delicate condition. Chris Joynt was the last captain to lift the original trophy after his St Helens team beat Bradford Bulls 13-6 at Twickenham.

1. Arthur Garner
2. Wattie Davies
3. Dai Fitzgerald
4. John Goodall (c)
5. Ike Shaw
6. Joe Oakland
7. Harry Goodall
8. Mark Shackleton
9. Jim Gath
10. George Main
11. Robert Spurr
12. Fred Fisher
13. Charlie Stubley
14. Jim Littlewood
15. John Munns

Tries: John Goodall, John Munns
Drop goal: Joe Oakland

St Helens:
1. Tom Foulkes (c)
2. Bob Doherty
3. David Traynor
4. Jim Barnes
5. Billy Jacques
6. Richard O'Hara
7. Freddie Little
8. Tom Winstanley
9. Billy Briers
10. William Winstanley
11. Tom Reynolds
12. Joe Thompson
13. Peter Dale
14. Sam Rimmer
15. Bill Whiteley

Try: David Traynor

Date: Saturday, April 24, 1897
Venue: Headingley Stadium, Leeds
Kick-off time: 3:30pm
Final score: Batley 10-3 St Helens
Attendance: 13,492
Referee: J. H. Smith (Widnes)
Touch Judges: H.H. Waller (Brighouse Rangers), J. P. Warren (Warrington)