a small town club was on the verge of Super League. Hunslet Hawks
beat Dewsbury Rams in the Northern Ford Premiership Grand
Final but were "disgustingly denied entry to Super League by the
RFL" as the South Leeds Stadium was deemed to not meet ground
A look at the current National League Two and you'll see
Hunslet four from bottom of that league. Formed originally in
1883, they became the first club to win "All four Cups" in a
season during 1907-1908, basically the Grand Slam of that era.
They won the League Championship, Challenge Cup, County League and
County Cup and at the time this was regarded as the holy grail for
any team. Only Huddersfield and Swinton also achieved that feat,
although Wigan in 1994-95 and Bradford in 2003 achieved modern
At the time of the 1965 Cup Final Hunslet were big underdogs
and not expected to give Wigan any problems having finished the
season mid table.
Wigan though were also going through a lean period in their
history. They hadn't won a trophy since winning the league in
1960, although they had just finished the league season in 2nd
place behind St Helens. However in the first round of the
Championship play offs they suffered an embarrassing 15-8 home
defeat to Featherstone who had finished the season 15th (a top 16
play off operated in those days).
The Wigan team was full of legends though. The great Billy
Boston's record of 478 tries in 488 Wigan appearances speaks for
itself. Boston's three quarter partner was Eric Ashton, 14 years a
Wigan player despite being from St Helens. He was also
player-coach at the time of this final. Other legends in the side
that day included Phil Clarke's dad Colin at Hooker and big prop
Matchday weather was great, sunny and warm. 89,016 made the
trek down to Wembley for what would turn out to be a classic
It took Wigan less than a minute to take the lead. Hunslet's
kick off had gone out on the full and Laurie Gilfedder kicked a
penalty goal from half way to make it 2-0. Hunslet soon levelled
up with a penalty of their own. Local Wigan lad Roy Evans was
penalised for tackling off the ball and Bill Langton kicked over
to make it 2-2.
Three minutes after Hunslet had controversially had a try
chalked off for being in touch, Wigan took the lead. Hunslet had
again failed to find touch from a penalty and Wigan made them pay.
Pressure down the right from Gilfedder and Ray Ashby sent Keith
Holden away for the score. It was three points for a try in those
days so Wigan led 5-2. The sides exchanged penalties again, first
Hunslet then Wigan, making it 7-4 with 30 minutes gone.
The South Leeds side was doing well to keep Billy Boston and
Eric Ashton quiet but the other wing-centre partnership of Holden
and Trevor Lake was proving more difficult. They combined for
Wigan's second try with Lake finished off the move. Gilfedder
converted to give Wigan a 12-4 lead which they hoped to take into
Hunslet had other ideas and scored two minutes before the
break. Half back Brian Gabbitas produced a bit of magic to send
centre Geoff Shelton under the posts. Langton's conversion made it
12-9 at half time and all to play for.
Into the second half and Wigan scored work. Hard work up the
middle from McTigue and Evans sent Gilfedder on the breakaway. He
managed to evade two defenders to score in the corner and make it
17-9, with a brilliant touchline conversion from Ashton.
Wigan had a try disallowed for double movement before they
scored the match winner on the hour. Full back Ray Ashby had the
ball well inside his own half. He took on three defenders, beat
them, and on half way he passed out wide to Lake. Lake raced away
and just evaded a desperate tackle to score in the corner. Lake,
born in Rhodesia, had finished off a classic cup final try. The
conversion was missed but 20-9 up with 20 to play, the game looked
Hunslet though didn't give up. In the 65th minute they scored
under the posts through John Griffiths and the conversion made it
20-14. A penalty with four minutes to go made it 20-16 and with
them being well on top now, one converted try was all they needed
to nick the win. Wigan managed to hang on and bring the trophy
home for the 7th time.