‘Seasons Past’ – Thirty Years Ago
Hull Kingston Rovers’ 1989/90 season was a record-breaking one for the club as a whole, and a personal triumph for Mike Fletcher, who was an ever-present at centre that season. Having been relegated from the first division in April 1989, with just six league wins all season, Rovers bounced back in some style, winning the second division by two points from Rochdale and Oldham, with 25 wins from their 28 league games.
The season was also the club’s first in their new stadium, ‘New Craven Park’, on Preston Road. The first game at the ground was a 48-8 win over Trafford Borough, watched by 8,500 spectators, and the first try on the ground was scored by Fletcher, who also kicked eight goals. Queensland and Australia prop Bryan Neibling made his debut that day, and was an outstanding presence throughout his two seasons with the Robins.
Rovers lost their next league game 12-4 at Oldham, but after that they put together a run of eleven successive league wins, in five of which they passed the fifty-point mark. Oldham halted the run with a 9-6 win at Craven Park, before the Robins put together another run, this time ten consecutive league wins, including a then club record 92-10 home win over Whitehaven. The penultimate win in the run, a hard-earned 29-6 home win over Halifax, secured Rovers’ promotion back to the top flight.
In the Challenge Cup, the Robins were drawn at home to star-studded Wigan. The pitch had been poor all season, and by January it was reallymuddy, and not at all suited to the visitors’ free-flowing style. Rovers put ona very spirited performance, with Zook Ema and David Bishop outstanding, and restricted Wigan to just one try in a 6-4 win. Only a brilliant Edwards cover tackle in the second half prevented Sullivan from scoring a try that might well have resulted in a remarkable cup upset.
With the championship won by the time Rovers beat Hunslet 58-6 in the final league game, their tenth fifty-point score in the league that season, Rovers went into the end-of-season divisional play-offs as clear favourites. But after comfortably dispatching Fulham and Dewsbury at home, they played Oldham in the final at Old Trafford, a curtain raiser to the First Division Premiership final. The Robins certainly had a point to prove, and quickly set about avenging their two league defeats at Oldham’s hands. Man-of-the-match Wayne Parker scored two tries and dropped a goal in the first 17 minutes, after which Rovers led 13-0, and five minutes into the second half they led 29-8 and were playing confident, classy football. But the Robins seemed to ease up a bit, and Oldham stormed back. Once they got going, Rovers simply could not stop them, and the Lancastrians scored 22 points in 26 minutes to snatch the lead at 30-29. It was only the fact that they missed four of their five conversion attempts in this spell that kept Rovers in the game. Even then, the Robins had a couple of chances to rescue the game in the dying minutes, but the chances went begging, and Oldham proved Rovers bogy side that season.
Aside from Mike Fletcher, Garry Clark and Chris Rudd played in all 35 games during the season, whilst Greg Austin missed just the one. Austin, with 38 tries, led the club try-scoring chart, four ahead of Anthony Sullivan, with 34. Mike Fletcher, with 199 goals and 13 tries, scored 450 points – seasonal goals and points records for the club that stand to this day; whilst the team scored 1,303 points – a tally that was beaten only in 2006.
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