The Greatest Derbies, Past And Present – Roger Pugh
Today I have been given the very near impossible task of looking back at derby games over the years, choosing the best Rovers team that has taken the field in a derby game, and choosing the best derby game.
It is all very subjective, and everyone will have their own opinions – but here goes.
To select the best team that has represented Rovers in a derby, I looked at the three eras in the club’s history when we had the best group of players – 1920s, 1960s and 1980s, and looked for the game when most played in the same derby team together. In the 1960s and 1980s, all our ‘best’ players never played in a derby together. Perhaps the closest was the 1985 John Player final, but neither John Dorahy nor Gordon Smith played that day.
But in the 1920s, I found one game in which all the big names of that golden era all turned out together. It was a championship play-off semi-final at the Boulevard in 1923, in which the league leaders, Hull FC, were at home to the fourth-placed side, Rovers. Rovers won 16-2, with two tries from Gilbert Austin, one each from Jack Hoult and Bill Westerdale, and two goals from Laurie Osborne. They then went on to beat Huddersfield 15-5 in the final.
This then is my greatest derby team (including for each their total number of Rovers appearances, which are highly impressive) – Laurie Osborne (431); Louis Harris (254), Rhys Rees (82), Jim Cook (362), Gilbert Austin (347); Jack Hoult (172), Jack McIntyre (298); Jack Wilkinson (263), Frank Boagey (218), Bob Wilkinson (273), Frank Bielby (276), Bill Westerdale (365), Arthur Moore (341), capt.
In the Super League era, I would have to go for the 2009 side that won 24-18 at Craven Park. Paul Cooke scored two tries with Jake Webster and Michael Dobson one apiece, the latter kicking four goals. The team was – Shaun Briscoe; Peter Fox, Jake Webster, Lism Colbon; Paul Cooke, Michael Dobson; Nick Fozzard, Michael Vella, Ben Galea, Scott Murrell. Bench: Daniel Fitzhenry, Chev Walker, Rhys Lovegrove, Scott Wheeldon.
The best game is even more difficult! But a decision has to be made, and I go back to 7 October 1984 at Craven Park. It was in an era when both clubs had great teams, and this was a classic game of two halves. Hull FC repelled Rovers attacks for 30 minutes, then an interception and a defensive lapse gave the visitors a 16-2 lead at the break. But the Robins came out for the second half firing on all cylinders and blew their opponents away with a tremendous display to ‘win’ the half 24-1, and the game 26-17. I cannot remember leaving a derby game feeling on such a high. For the record, Gary Prohm, David Laws, Andy Kelly and Mike Smith scored tries, and John Lydiat kicked five goals. The team that day was – John Lydiat (sub: Paul Harkin); Garry Clark, Phil Hogan, Gary Prohm, David Laws; Steve Hartley, Gordon Smith; Mark Broadhurst, David Watkinson, Asuquo Ema, Chris Burton, Andy Kelly, Mike Smith. Sub not used: Chris Rudd.
In the Super League, I look no further than the Magic Weekend of 2012 at the Etihad – and ‘that try’! It had not been a great game until the late stages, and at 30-16 down with less than 15 minutes to go, the Robins looked down and out. Then came the amazing comeback, sparked by tries by Sam Latus and Michael Dobson, and capped by David Hodgson’s try, that was fit to win any match. The team that day was – Shannon McDonnell; Sam Latus, Craig Hall, Kris Welham, David Hodgson; Blake Green, Michael Dobson; Mickey Paea, Josh Hodgson, Scott Taylor, Graeame Horne, Ben Galea, Rhys Lovegrove. Bench: Scott Murrell, Ryan O’Hara, Lincoln Withers, Joel Clinton.
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