On This Day – Workington Delight & Watkinson’s Final Game

24
Mar
Category: Heritage

On This Day – Workington Delight & Watkinson’s Final Game

Workington Town 3 Hull Kingston Rovers 15

On 24th March 1962, Hull Kingston Rovers won a third-sound Challenge Cup tie at Derwent Park, Workington – their first away win over the Cumbrians in four attempts.

After an early try by Ike Southward had put the home side ahead, Rovers played some brilliant football to register first half tries by Cyril Kellett, Bob Harris and Graham Paul. Three conversions from Kellett gave the Robins a 15-3 lead at the interval. After the break, Rovers’ formidable forward pack took control and effectively closed the game down. There was no further score and Rovers advanced to the semi-final with little alarm.

The referee that day was the top Wakefield official Ron Gelder, amongst whose many honours in the game was the 1954 Halifax v Warrington Challenge Cup Final replay at Odsal in front of rugby league’s all-time record crowd of 102,569. Rovers’ Alvin Ackerley was the Halifax captain in that game.

The Rovers team that day was – Cyril Kellett; Bob Harris, Terry Major, Brian Burwell, Graham Paul; Dave Elliott, Arthur Bunting; Bob Coverdale, Alvin Ackerley, Jim Drake, John Taylor, Ted Bonner, Harry Poole.

David Watkinson

On 24th March 1989, top Rovers hooker of their golden era in the 1970s and 80s, David Watkinson, made his last appearance for the club in a 26-2 defeat to Hull FC at the Boulevard.

Watkinson was born in York in 1954 and was a product of the famous Heworth amateur club. He came to Rovers’ attention in 1976 and was offered a trial. He made his debut at prop-forward in a 25-9 win over Leeds at Craven Park on 25 January 1977, and made the transition from the amateur game to rugby league’s First Division look easy. Watkinson soon became Rovers first choice hooker and, a couple of long-term injuries apart, kept his place for nearly ten years.

A capable ball-winner and a hard and uncompromising tackler, Watkinson never shirked on the field, and was a tough and respected opponent. He played 13 times for Great Britain and once for England. When the captaincy of one ‘iron man’, Len Casey, ended in 1984, Rovers replaced him with another in Watkinson. Dour and unsmiling on the field of play, Watkinson was a leader of his team by example.

By 1988/89, his appearances were becoming less regular and he left the club at the end of the season to end his career at Dewsbury, subsequently returning to Heworth as coach. In just over 12 years with the Robins, he made 329 appearances, a figure that would have been significantly higher but for injuries.

After his retirement, Roger Millward commented on his tough tackling, “He’d close down the play-the-ball area – nothing would get by him – and opposing players would be looking over their shoulders for him.” David Hall highlighted his winning mentality: “He was never satisfied; he’d say, ‘we might have won, but we were rubbish – we have to be better than that.’ Like Casey, he was unbearable when we lost.”

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