1980 – Rovers Are Challenge Cup Champs

Category: Heritage

1980 – Rovers Are Challenge Cup Champs

On this day …. 3 May

3rd May 1980 was the most famous day in the club’s history.

Not only did Rovers win the Challenge Cup for the first time, they did so at Wembley against their greatest rivals, Hull FC. The game itself, although lacking nothing in atmosphere, excitement and incident, was no great rugby spectacle – there was too much at stake and too much tension, which led to too many errors and penalties. “It was a game that nobody dare lose,” said Roger Millward, “there was probably more pressure on the two teams than in any other final.”

At the end of a first half in which Hull FC’s indiscipline cost them, Rovers led 8-3 thanks to Hubbard’s well-worked try and two goals, and a Roger Millward drop goal in the dying moments. The second half yielded several chances to both sides, but no more tries, and in the end it was a magnificent defensive effort by Rovers that won them the cup at the 73rd attempt.

Memories of that weekend endure – of the mass exodus from Hull and the legendary home-made sign exhorting the last to leave to turn the lights out; of red & white and black & white mingling happily down Wembley way; of Millward and his men parading the trophy around the stadium; of celebrations in pubs and clubs in Hull and in London; and of thousands of fans gathering outside the Guildhall for the homecoming the following day. None who were there will forget.

Sadly, for Roger Millward, it was the end of his playing career. He had played on bravely at Wembley for 67 minutes with a broken jaw, and when it was broken again in a comeback ‘A’ team game later that year, he called it a day. For Millward’s cousin, Lance Todd trophy winner Brian Lockwood, Humberside legend Clive Sullivan, and the trusty lieutenant Allan Agar, the game marked their last appearances in Rovers shirts. It was a landmark game too for match-winner Hubbard – his nine points took him to a new club record of 366 points for the season.

Rovers team that day was – David Hall; Steve Hubbard (sub: Phil Hogan), Mike Smith, Steve Hartley, Clive Sullivan; Roger Millward, Allan Agar; Roy Holdstock, David Watkinson, Brian Lockwood, Phil Lowe, Paul Rose (sub: John Millington), Len Casey.


On this day two years later, Rovers’ home Premiership play-off game against Bradford was abandoned after 16 minutes of the second half, with Rovers leading 17-8. In a feisty game from the start, referee Robin Whitfield let several incidents go unpunished, until even his patience ran out in the 21st minute. Over the next 35 minutes he dismissed six players, four from Bradford, the last of these being visiting skipper Jeff Grayshon. As Grayshon left the field, he signalled for his remaining nine players to follow him, which they did. Whitfield followed them, and shortly afterwards, returned to the field and blew his whistle to signal the end of the game, which was subsequently awarded to Rovers.


On 3rd May 1986, Rovers lost 14-15 to Castleford in the 1986 Challenge Cup final at Wembley, a game that featured the last Rovers appearance of legendary Kiwi centre Gary Prohm; and eleven years ago today, in the 2009 Magic weekend at Murrayfield, Rovers beat Warrington 36-28 in a thrilling game that was their first competitive game on Scottish soil.


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