Rugby League celebrated the 50th Challenge Cup final at Wembley by enthralling a capacity crowd and a worldwide television audience of millions. I can imagine West Hull folk are reading this with a smirk on their face but no I’m not talking about the Dobins’ 50-0 capital humiliation, but more the astounding final of 1985.
The totals of ten tries and 52 points were both records for a Challenge Cup final at the time. The 1985 contest between Hull and Wigan is considered by many as the greatest Challenge Cup final in history.
For Hull it marked the Golden Age for the club which saw them lift the Yorkshire Cup, Rugby League Championship and most prestigiously of all, the Challenge Cup in a final aplenty period known as the Golden Era.
Though despite the heroics of Elland Road in ‘82, Hull also lost three finals at Wembley in a five year spell, whilst a second Championship also eluded them. The Black and Whites should have one a lot more during this spell, but what was with achieved should always be appreciated.
Many legends of Hull FC, legends that are now in the clubs Hall of Fame, were on display. No more prestigious than Australian icon Peter Sterling, or crowd favourite Steve ‘Knocker’ Norton, nor Hull’s three kiwis, Dane O’Hara, Gary Kemble and James Leuluai, who were also at the peak of their powers.
Kemble from fullback was sublime, O’Hara on the wing unstoppable and Leuluai in the centre agile as ever.
Jimmy tore through defences with his devastating steps and sheer pace both a defenders nightmare. His second try against Wigan at Wembley in that ’85 final was out of the top draw, and one of the best Hull FC have ever seen.
This Golden Era started after that defeat to the old enemy in 1980. Though after an initial 14-14 draw, Hull amended their capital woes two years later with an 18-9 victory over Widnes at Elland Road.
The year after saw Hull win the 1983 League Championship, but the most bitter pill to swallow was a shock defeat to Featherstone at Wembley.
In the build up to the ‘85 final Hull finished second in the league the year before, whilst picking up a hat-trick of Yorkshire Cup triumphs between the 1982-83 and 1984-85 seasons, beating Bradford Northern, Castleford and most famously Hull KR.
Like our nemesis wallying on in their bar named after a god for saken day in North London, the latter is a victory we like to ramble on about.
At a sold out Boothferry Park, Hull were 12-0 down and being taunted by the Rovers fans, but what was to follow was sheer brilliance – 29 unanswered points and an absolutely stunning brace from Kiwi fullback Gary Kemble.
Lifting the Yorkshire Cup for the third consecutive season with a 29 point comeback after trailing 12-0 on the half hour mark, Hull were unstoppable.
Knocker Norton and Aussie legend half back Peter Sterling inspired the remarkable turnabout which captivated the 25,237 Boothferry Park crowd—the largest Yorkshire Cup attendance since 1958.
Though it looked sour for Hull early on as Hull KR’s George Fairburn assisted one and went over himself for an early lead, but the comeback was coming.
After a penalty goal by Gary Schofield, Sterling came into life putting in a well weighted kick for Lee Crooks to touchdown. 12-0 became 12-8 and the second half looked intriguing.
Sterling ran riot, gaining the Man of the Match award. He increased the tempo and Rovers couldn’t live with it.
Hull took the lead through a quite SUPERB 50-yard solo try by that man Gary Kemble, with Schofield adding the conversion and a further drop goal.
Norton—probably still pissed up from the night before—continued to taunt the Rovers defence, by setting up Kemble’s second try.
If that wasn’t enough he then scored himself from close range. Rovers were well beaten, and it was left to Steve Evans to race 90 metres for the final score.
Lee Crooks at just 21 years of age was one of the youngest County Cup final skippers, but he—as he did throughout his career—set a solid example up front.
Sub Paul Rose was also sent off for Hull after a high tackle despite only coming onto the field 90 seconds prior to the incident!
Not that it mattered, as Hull enjoyed a comprehensive final victory over the old enemy in front of a red hot Derby atmosphere.
FT—Hull 29 Hull Kingston Rovers 12, Yorkshire Cup Final, 27th October 1984, Boothferry Park, 25,237
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Gary Kemble, 2. Dane O’Hara, 3. Gary Schofield, 4. James Leuluai, 5. Steve Evans, 6. Fred Ah Kuoi, 7. Peter Sterling, 8. Phil Edmonds, 9. Shaun Patricks, 10. Lee Crooks, 11. Wayne Proctor, 12. Gary Divorty, 13. Steve Norton. Bench: 14. David Topliss, 15. Paul Rose.
Hull Tries: Kemble 2, Crooks, Norton, Evans Goals: Schofield 4. Drop Goal: Schofield