Derby Triumph For Trophy
On this day ….. 16 May
Thirty-nine years ago today, on 16 May 1981, Rovers beat Hull FC 11-7 at Headingley to win the Premiership trophy for the first time.
The third ‘derby final’ in 17 months, it was a more entertaining game than the previous two, and, despite the closeness of the scores, the Robins were deserved winners. Using their forwards to take the game to Hull from the start, Rovers took the lead after just 13 minutes, when Phil Hogan scythed through some slack defence around the play-the-ball to score. Steve Hubbard’s fine conversion from near the touchline gave the Robins a 5-0 lead. The Black & Whites hit back, and mounted two attacks that ended in failed penalty attempts, whilst only an interception prevented Rovers from increasing their lead. The game was end-to-end at this stage, and Hubbard had to be alert to tackle Prendiville into touch. Then, in the 34th minute, David Hall put Phil Lowe into a half-gap, and the second-rower fed Steve Hartley, who raced past the cover and rounded Woods with ease to score a glorious 65-yard try. Hubbard was unable to convert, but Woods kicked a penalty to make it 8-2 and Prendiville was held just short on the stroke of half-time.
The second half started with Rovers covering brilliantly to halt a Hull FC attack, but the Robins replied with more pressure of their own. Hubbard failed with a penalty attempt, then Rovers surged forward again and won a penalty for holding down. They chose to run it, and although the Airlie Birds kept them out, Rovers next attack produced a brilliant individual try. Mike Smith took Len Casey’s pass deep in the Black & Whites’ half, handed off Wileman and raced past Stone to sprint to the line before the cover could catch him. Hubbard failed with the conversion, but at 11-2, the Robins were well on top. Lowe made two tremendous runs, the second of which had the defence scrambling desperately to keep him out. However, Rovers slackness around the play-the-ball was punished by Crane on 63 minutes. Woods conversion narrowed Rovers’ lead to 11-7, and made the last 17 minutes more tense than they need have been. The Robins could have sealed it when Lowe set up a chance for Hubbard, but the winger slipped and Prendiville made the tackle. In the dying minutes, the Black & Whites had two chances, but Rovers cover was up to the job.
Casey lifted the Trophy, his first as skipper, as well as the Harry Sunderland man-of-the-match trophy for his powerful all-round performance and leadership. In a game that had all the ingredients of the best of derbies, it was Rovers’ more potent attacking that won them the day. After the presentations, legendary BBC commentator Eddie Waring hung up his microphone for the last time.
The Rovers team that day was – Paul Proctor; Steve Hubbard, Mike Smith, Phil Hogan, Peter Muscroft; Steve Hartley, Paul Harkin; Roy Holdstock, David Watkinson, John Millington, Phil Lowe, Len Casey (capt), David Hall (sub: Chris Burton). Sub not used: Kevin Watson
On this day ten years ago, Rovers beat Celtic Crusaders 54-10 at home, with Michael Dobson scoring 30 points from nine goals and three tries – the highest individual haul by a Rovers player in a Super League game.
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