Cup Final Countdown - 1948 Challenge Cup Final (Victory 3 of 17)
Posted by Bilko on August 16 2011 - 13:10
Looking back at previous Cup Final successes - This time I take a look at Wigan's 1948 Cup Triumph.
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In the countdown to Wembley I'm going to be looking back at all 17 of Wigan's previous Cup Final victories.
Here we look at the 1948 Cup Final when Wigan met Bradford Northern

Wigan v Bradford Northern - 1947-1948 Challenge Cup Final.
Saturday 1st May 1948. Kick Off 3:00pm at Wembley Stadium, London.

This particular cup final came just two years after Wigan had suffered a heartbreaking Wembley loss to Wakefield. On that particular day Wigan had outscored their opponents by four tries to two but Brian Nordgren's failure to kick any of 7 goal attempts was cruelly punished with a 79th minute Wakefield penalty goal winning the match for them 13-12.

So with that painful memory in mind, and the fact Wigan had won the previous two league titles, Wembley success was probably a big priority for this Wigan team.

Jim Sullivan, who had been captain when Wigan had last won the cup in 1929, was now coach, and his team included players like Martin Ryan, Ted Ward, Ken Gee and Joe Egan who had toured to Australia in Great Britain in 1946.

Now in the post war era, for some reason, Round 1 of cup competitions were played over two legs. So whilst Wigan had cruised to a 27-0 first leg win over Castleford at Central Park, thanks to tries from Jack Hilton (2), Gordon Ratcliffe (2), Ernie Ashcroft, Ken Gee and Cec Mountford, they still had to go away and get the job done at Wheldon Road. Wasn't too much of a chore though. Wigan won the second leg 19-7 with tries from Ratcliffe (2), Ashcroft, Hilton and Johnny Lawrenson sealing a 46-7 aggregate victory.

Round 2 saw Wigan draw Leeds at Central Park in what was a repeat of a quarter final from the previous season. Back then Leeds had come to Central Park and knocked Wigan out in a 5-0 success, so this was a bit of mental challenge. No sweat though, Wigan claimed a good 17-3 victory thanks to tries from Frank Barton, Ted Ward and Les White.

Back in the 1948 the quarter final draw, like this season, "rewarded" Wigan with an away trip to Warrington. I'm trying to sit here and imagine what a 1948 trip to Warrington would have been like. I'm sure the train to Bank Quay would still have been packed but not sure there would have been a Ye Olde Chicago Rock Cafe though.

Amazingly, again just like this season, Wigan were first in the table and Warrington second. Such was the interest in this cup tie, it was actually the first time ever that a Warrington home match had been given "all ticket" status. A huge crowd of 29,300 turned up at the old Wilderspool but it was Wigan who prevailed in a very tight contest. Ernie Ashcroft, Billy Blan and Brian Nordgren scored the tries in a 13-10 success. Warrington would end up winning the Championship Final at the end of the season though - I really hope that isn't an omen for this year.

The Semi Final saw Wigan draw Rochdale who were struggling near the bottom of the table. The result matched league form with Wigan claiming a comfortable 11-0 win at Swinton's Station Road thanks to tries from Gordon Ratcliffe (2) and Tommy Bradshaw.

So Wembley beckoned and the opponents were holders Bradford, who were returning to Wembley having beaten Leeds the previous season. However the week before the big day their was the small matter of a Championship Play Off Semi Final and it just so happened that match was also Wigan against Bradford. The game was at Central Park so Wigan were favourites but Northern came in and stunned the Cherry and White faithful by claiming an impressive 15-3 victory.

That result game Bradford a theological edge going into the final and more nerves were perhaps piled on by the final being attended by the reigning King George VI. Yes, the one who just recently had that film "The King's Speech" made about him. He was the guest of honour and would present the trophy to the winning captain.

Rugby League was obviously on a high in the post war era because this Wembley final attracted a first ever "all ticket" crowd for a cup final with 91,465 in attendance. The weather for the final though was atrocious with heavy rain and wind battering the pitch. That contributed to a poor contest in which chances were limited.

The first try went to Wigan and it came from nothing really in the 20th minute. Bradford winger Eric Batten was trying to clearance kick away but Jack Hilton charged it down and then beat Batten to the ball before scoring. Ted Ward converted for a 5-0 lead.

That lead didn't last long though because Bradford soon hit back. Just four minutes later Ken Traill put a kick over to Alan Edwards on the right wing and he scored. Ernie Ward couldn't convert, so Wigan still remained in the lead 5-3.

Would you believe that 5-3 lead remained all the way until the 79th Minute. Wigan had dominated the territory but the weather was making it hard to score. The match sealing try was scored by Frank Barton. Fortunately Ted Ward's failure to kick an easy conversion didn't matter because the whistle soon went afterwards.

So Wigan had won their third Challenge Cup and it was Joe Egan who received the famous trophy from the King himself. Bradford must have played their part though because it was their prop Frank Whitcombe who won the Lance Todd Trophy despite being on the losing side. I think also the fact a prop won the man of the match, pretty much summed up this final - the weather spoiled it!

1948 Challenge Cup Final - Team Sheets

- Wigan Position Bradford 1
1 Martin Ryan Full Back Billy Leake 1
2 Gordon Ratcliffe Winger Eric Batten 2
3 Ted Ward Centre Des Case 3
4 Ernie Ashcroft Centre Ernie Ward 4
5 Jack Hilton Winger Alan Edwards 5
6 Cec Mountford Stand Off Willie Davies 6
7 Tommy Bradshaw Scrum Half Donald Ward 7
8 Ken Gee Prop Frank Whitcombe 8
9 Joe Egan Hooker Vic Darlison 9
10 Frank Barton Prop Herbert Smith 10
11 Les White 2nd Row Barry Tyler 11
12 Billy Blan 2nd Row Trevor Foster 12
13 Bill Hudson L.Forward Ken Traill 13
- Jim Sullivan Coach Dai Rees -

1948 Challenge Cup Final - Score Sheet

Wigan 8 --- Bradford 3
Tries (2):
Jack Hilton
Frank Barton
--- Tries (1):
Alan Edwards
Ted Ward 1/2
--- Goals:
Ernie Ward 0/1

1929 Challenge Cup Final - Scoring and Incident Pattern

20th Minute Wigan 03 Bradford 00 Try: Jack Hilton
- Wigan 05 Bradford 00 Conversion: Ted Ward (1/1)
24th Minute Wigan 05 Bradford 03

Try: Alan Edwards

- Wigan 05 Bradford 03

E.Ward Missed Conversion (0/1)

Half Time Wigan 05 Bradford 03
79th Minute Wigan 08 Bradford 03 Try: Frank Barton
- Wigan 08 Bradford 03 T.Ward Missed Conversion (1/2)
Full Time Wigan 08 Bradford 03

Other Details

Referee: George Phillips (Widnes)
Attendance: 91,465
Weather: Heavy Rain and Wind.

Additional Information

Try = 3 points. Goals = 2 Points. Drop Goal = 2 Points.