Lawkholmers to Cougars - A Rugby League History

Saturday 8 th of May 1937 – WEMBLEY STADIUM

It has been a mystery to Yorkshire clubs, how a team from such a comparatively small centre like Widnes,
can without ever at anytime being required to go far beyond the limits of the town boundaries for its
players, contrive to occupy the centre of the Rugby League stage from time to time.
The marvel of this strange West Lancashire side is that they apparently produce their best qualities when
the occasion is the biggest and in being so emphatically eclipsed in Saturday’s Rugby League Cup Final at
Wembley stadium. Keighley even in their disappointment at seeing the reward of their 60 years striving
snatched from them so unceremoniously can console themselves that better teams than they have gone
under to the Widnes onslaughts.


Widnes triumph was however much too emphatic to satisfy Keighley folks that any sort of a challenge had
been offered and in all truth from whatever angle the game is examined the cold stark results stares one in
the face, three goals and four tries (18 points) to one goal and one try (5 points).
The variety of excuses advanced in litigation – some by people who see Rugby League Football once a
year has been remarkable. We are told that Keighley trapped themselves, we are told they sacrificed their
chance by trying to play open football against a side that knows all there is to know about Cup-tie Finals.
We are told that Keighley were nervy and we are told also that they were simply unlucky. One writer even
tried to attribute the defeat to the mistake in the Keighley team going to watch Leeds beat Widnes in the
recent league game and deluding themselves and thinking that the Leeds way was the way to win the cup.


These excuses may, or may not, be true in part or bulk. Keighley people know their own team best and
probably if a census of opinions were taken among them the leading view would be that favoured by a little
bit of luck and good fortune coupled with the ability to do exactly what was right at the right time. Widnes
deserved the trophy their Cup-tie experience counted for more a great deal in a fact, it counted for
everything, They excepted every chance that came their way, whereas Keighley did almost the reverse.
Because it was generally felt that the factor of experience would count for something Keighley hoped to
pull off the game through their own sprinkling of experienced finalists. These experienced finalists did not,
in the main, rise to the occasion, and in any weaknesses demonstrated they were not exempt
Widnes played, as a team , as they were expected to do, and in spite of its tremendous advertisement, the
McCue, Shannon, Millington triangle was allowed to function in the very fashion that Keighley had been
taught to fear. It was pathetic to study the bewilderment of the Keighley side in the face of Widnes, while
realising where the trouble lay, they had not the ability to counter it. Where were those tactics, which
Keighley had up their sleeves.


Keighley’s pack did their share in the tight by securing major possession but beyond that they were easily
easily second best. Gill had a big responsibility, along with his half backs Davies and Bevan, and it cannot
be said that he did his work even moderately well.
McCue was always a tremendous handful and the great personality of the afternoon. Yet surely it was not
unreasonable to have expected Davies, Gill or Bevan periodically to have nipped his enterprises in the bud.
No matter whether it was McCue, Shannon or Millington, the Keighley middle figured in the most
unfavourable light and the lack of trust in it must have had a psychological effect upon the rest of the side.
Keighley strove desperately hard to overcome the weakness in other directions and their three-quarters
were quite as good as the Widnes line.


The best passing movements of the game were Keighley moves – everybody was unanimous on that point –
and there was an individuality about Towill and Parker that promised well repeatedly, and would possibly,
have had something to show for it with quicker service from the halves and less vigilance – sometimes
preciously near off-side – from the wonderful Widnes cover.
They were selfish at times and seemed to be faulty at kicking at the wrong time, and neglecting Sherburn
and Lloyd. Lloyd was Keighley’s best player, and his try was an example of what he would have done on
other occasions with the employment of other tactics. Sherburn had fewer chances than Lloyd, but filled
his position soundly enough to have been trusted more by Towill. The line, all the same, provided many
fine examples of clever handling, and it was a thousand pities that in front the big weaknesses could not be


Much has been said of Herbert. He has fallen away considerably in recent weeks, and has been harshly
criticised, but no one could blame him for this cup-tie defeat. He had his weaknesses, but with one
exception was fairly reliable on defence, and too often left with anxious situations because of great gaps
created by the failure of Davies, Bevan and Gill to thwart McCue. Before the interval Herbert was the
equal of Bradley, who only became trustworthy when victory for his side was assured.
Keighley’s reputed forward strength never manifested itself. Little was seen of Traill and Hal Jones, and
Dixon was dour and determined but he never got far. Talbot was the best and he was unlucky that what
appeared to be a perfectly good try was disallowed.


Roberts, McDowell, and the great hearted Silcock were dominating Widnes forwards and it was saddening
to the Keighley hearts to find them given so much latitude. Seldom can a side have paid so dear a price for
its errors as Keighley did on Saturday.
Dai Davies won the toss after the teams entered the arena side by side and had been presented to Lord
Cozens-Hardy. The turf was perfect, when the game started on a quiet note, but there came a big thrill
within two minutes when Bevan kicked ahead over Evans head. Turning, the Widnes winger failed to hold
the ball and Sherburn kicked it ahead, Lloyd took up the chase, but Bradley after hesitation managed to end
what looked to be a dangerous situation.
For a time it was all Widnes after this and in the Seventh minute of the game the Keighley line fell. There
was a scrummage well in Keighley’s half and McCue got the ball, hoodwinked Davies, Bevan and Gill and
darted for the line. Seeing that he could not get through himself he gave Shannon a pass that was
unmistakably forward. Unfortunately the referee did not notice this, and the off-half crossed near the posts
for Topping to goal.


Midway in the half Davies got away and, in cutting out Bevan, sent Parker away, and a try should have
been the outcome. Evans spoiled it, however, but Keighley’s next effort was a praiseworthy burst by Towill
who however was tempted to trust himself instead of his wingman and paid the penalty.
The second Keighley blow came in the 28 th minute, and what a blow it was. Keighley backs had the ball,
and McCue took an interception in his stride, and shot like an arrow to score under the posts, though the
ball hardly seemed to be grounded in the approved fashion. Keighley made no other challenge before half
time, and crossed over eight points to the bad.
The first quarter of the last half saw Keighley’s big bid for recovery, within two minutes Sherburn kicked a
fine penalty goal, and then Keighley put in all they knew.


Two glorious moves just failed to produce ties on the Parker- Lloyd wing, and then from close in Talbot
got over, only to be recalled. Penalty shots in reasonable positions were utilised for touch-finding purposes
and the seize certainly heightened the Keighley crowd. One Towill burst thrilled everybody.
Still the try never came and when 18 minutes of this half had gone Keighley lost their cup chance. Bevan
burst away near his own line, and loosing his balance threw the ball to the right. It went straight to the
unmarked Barber, who accepted this golden gift to score the simplest of tries, Topping converted.
Four minutes later McCue was away again, and Millington and Silcock obliged with a couple of
“dummies” that made Keighley look idle, the Widnes captain crossing for the fourth try. Five minutes after
this Topping got a penalty goal for obstruction that might have merited a try award.


Yet Keighley were not done with, and there came a great run by Towill, who dashed through half the
Widnes team only to find his final pass unacceptable. Four minutes from the end came their reward. Bevan
made an opening, and via Parker the ball reached Lloyd who flung himself over the line for a great try,
Sherburn missed the goal, and so the game ended and Widnes received the cup from Lord Cozens-Hardy to
take the trophy back to Lancashire for the first time since they themselves won it in 1930.
It was a bright , cleanly-contested game, and at the close the teams shook hands with one another, and the
Keighley’s congratulations to Widnes were sincere.
Teams –
KEIGHLEY – Herbert, Sherburn, Towill, Parker, Lloyd, Bevan, Davies, Traill, Halliday, Jones, Dixon,
Talbot, Gill
WIDNES – Bradley, Whyte, Topping, Barber, Evans (A), Shannon, McCue, Silcock, Jones, Higgins,
McDowell, Roberts, Millington
Attendance 47,699