Challenge Cup - Hull Kingston Rovers

The Wigan Rugby Football Club will face the Hull Kingston Rovers in the Challenge Cup for the 10th time in the competitions history in July 2023. Here we will have a look back at the previous fixtures between the two sides since 1895.

Wigan 25 Hull K.R. 6 ~ March 14th, 1953

Challenge Cup, Round 3

Central Park, Wigan. Att: 20,455

The first meeting between Wigan and Hull K.R. in the Challenge Cup competition got a while to get going. Since 1895-6, the two teams first got drawn out of the hat to face each other during the 1952-3 edition. Indeed, it was a rare occurance that Wigan and Hull K.R. faced each other in any competition in those earlier eras and only twice since the end of World War 2.

In Round 2, Wigan defeated Hull F.C. 18-10 at Central Park thanks to tries from Bevan (2), Alty and Nordgren, and the Rovers were hoping to go one better and get in to Round 4. The tie was played on March 14th, 1953 at Central Park. Sadly for them, Dai Bevan and Brian Nordgren were still in try-scoring moods as they both scored a brace of tries, along with Nat Silcock (2) and old timer Jack Fleming. The game ended 25-6 in Wigan's favour but the Colliers exited the competition in the semi final against Huddersfield at Odsall.

In the week leading up to the match, Hull K.R. suffered some injury news with their second row forward Frank Moore breaking his big toe after an accident at work at the Prince of Wales Colliery, Pontefract. 

The game was devoid of drama. Wigan comfortably being the superior team in the backs whilst Hull K.R.'s Knowleden failed to rally his men, despite a great effort running through Wigan's defence only to be ankle tapped at the wrong moment (or right moment if you're a Wiganer). Early exchanges of goals were traded between Gee and Chalkley before tries by Silcock, Nordgren and Fleming gave Wigan a 13-6 half-time lead, with Chalkley adding two further goals for the visitors.

It was one-way traffic in the second half as Brian Nordgren made a forty-yard dash before the flood gates opened.

Wigan 18 Hull K.R. 04 ~ April 20th, 1963

Challenge Cup, Semi Final

Headingley, Leeds. Att: 21,479

Via @NRDCollectables

It was to be a decade until the two teams met for a second time in the Cup. Now, Wigan had a certain William Boston in their ranks and had won the Cup in 1958 and 1959, whilst also being runners up against St. Helens in 1961 (but we won't talk about that).

Wigan had secured their semi final date after defeating Hull F.C., Leeds, and Oldham in earlier rounds whilst Hull Kingston Rovers had the better of Keighley, Featherstone Rovers, and Widnes.

Wigan supporters were a bit edgy in the week going into the semi final as the club had a policy of fielding reserve players whilst the likes of Billy Boston and Eric Ashton were wrapped up in cotton wool. League success or Cup success?

It worked mind you, Wigan having a fully strength squad to choose from to face Hull K.R. at Headingley, Leeds. Despite Wigan having six Internationals in the back line alone, the Wigan forwards, headed by Brian McTigue were the feared pack in the game.

For Hull K.R., they were sweating on the fitness of their Antipodean tourist John Taylor who went to have an x-ray in the week leading up to the game. He was fine.

Any chance of a Cup upset on the part of Rovers were quickly erased. Wigan dominated for the first half hour of the match, Hull K.R. failing to use the strong wind to their advantage. It was ten minutes before half time when K.R. started to get their game together but the game was still close. It was Dave Bolton who got the breakthrough for Wigan leading up to half time always being in support of his fellow backs, this time paying off after good work from Eric Ashton and Alan Davies.

Hull's Cyril Kellett kicked a penalty goal to give a half-time score of 3-2 to Wigan but the Wigan defence were rarely troubled. The second half was basically the Eric Ashton-Alan Davies show. Ashton setting up Davies three times to give Wigan a comfortable 18-4 winning victory and their fifth Wembley appearance since 1958. Hull Kingston Rovers had the chance to use the wind but ultimately failed. They would have to wait for their second ever Wembley appearance for a bit longer.

(Below, Despite being tackled, Alan Davies manages to get the ball to Dave Bolton to open up the scoring)

Wigan 19 Hull K.R. 08 ~ March 21st, 1970

Challenge Cup, Semi Final

Headingley, Leeds. Att: 18,251

Via @NRDCollectables

The third time these two teams met in the Challenge Cup was on familiar territory. It was another semi final, again at Headingley. Gone were Boston and Ashton, in were 70s hair cuts and Roger Millward.

Dewsbury, Oldham and Leigh were taken care of by Wigan in the earlier round whilst the Rovers had seen off Wakefield Trinity, Swinton and Leeds.

Wigan were sweating on the fitness of Bill Francis until he passed a late-week fitness test, he was good to go to play alongside former international sprinter Keri Jones in the right centre position. Kingston Rovers were somewhat buoyant leading up to the match, having twice beaten Wigan in the League competition. 

Wigan were aiming for ther 10th Final since 1946 whilst Hull were still trying to get there for a second time. On the field, eyes were locked on the loose forward battle between potential Great Britain tourists Dough Laughton of Wigan and Cliff Wallis of Rovers.

Special Easter Eggs were created on the East side of Hull (above) for the occasion. Eating the chocolate was about as fun as it got for the Rovers, Wigan won 19-8.

Similar to the previous semi final of 1963, the game had a close first half. Colin Tyrers boot opened the scoring for the Collier men before Rovers' Phil Coupland scored the first try, of which Roger Millward failed to convert. Bill Ashurst managed to convert a drop goal and Wigan led 6-3 at half time.

After the break, Peter Rowe cleverly scampered through to open the try scoring for Wigan in the second half. Eastern Hull heads dropped after this with Wigan's Keith Ashcroft going over not long after Rowe's effort. All that the great Roger Millward (below) could do was watch Colin Tyrer kick the ball over the posts. Wigan marched on to another Wembley appearance but lost against Castleford in a match all but forgotten in Wigan. Hull Kingston Rovers' wait would continue.

Wigan 13 Hull K.R. 18 ~ February 2nd, 1980

Challenge Cup, Round 1

Central Park, Wigan. Att: 6,408

It was not to be a good start for Hull Kingston Rovers supporters on Cup day, 1980. A strike by bus workers in the Hull and Beverley area . At least 100 Rovers supporters were given their money back after two coaches taking them to Wigan for the game were cancelled. They needn't worry however, they won for the first time at Central Park since the War!

A decade since semi final heartache, Roger Millward was still going, but was by now player-coach of Rovers. The old dog ran the show, his fourth appearance of the season, as Hull K.R. beat Wigan by four tries to one in front of the television cameras.

Wigan had in their ranks Green Vigo, George Fairbairn and a young Nicky Kiss, whilst Rovers had Roger Millward (of 'Stand' fame) and Clive Sullivan (of 'Way' fame). This was peak Wigan (un)Glory Days, a period to which most of us choose to forget. 

Millward gave a statement of intent within the first minute of the match, gaining a scrum from a long kick on Wigan's '25. Wigan were under the cosh from the off, Millward nearly gaining a try in the corner and Rovers' Casey being held a yard short of the line. Clive Sullivan thought he had scored the opening try in the corner, for it to be called back for a forward pass. From the resulting scrum, Hull won the ball and worked the ball out to the other flank as Hubbard got in at the corner.

Wigan did, however, gain the lead midway through the first half via a Fairbairn penalty. That was about the only joy for Wigan as the tries mounted for Hull K.R. In a desperate attempt to get back into the match, Nicky Kiss and Mick Nanyn were brought on, Nanyn almost making an immediate impact with ten minutes remaining after Fairbairn sent him through a gap but to no reward.

Hull Kingston Rovers would go on to Wembley and defeat Hull F.C. in the final in front of 95,000, with songs still sung to this day in East Hull. For Wigan there was no shame in losing to the eventual winners.

Wigan 18 Hull K.R. 11 ~ March 23rd, 1985

Challenge Cup, Semi Final

Elland Road, Leeds. Att: 19,275

Via @NRDCollectables

The Giant had been awakening in Wigan for a few years. The Gang of Four were busy doing dastardly things at this time. Wigan had reached the Final a season earlier in 1984 but lost out to Andy Gregory's Widnes, but were back with a stronger squad for the assault on the trophy in 1985.

Batley, Warrington and Bradford Northern were seen off by Wigan, the latter being edged through via a Phil Ford drop goal in Round 3. Hull Kingston Rovers lowered the flags of St. Helens, Rochdale Hornets and Hunslet before another sei final showdown in Leeds.

This time, Headingley was exchanged for Elland Road. As we all know, Wigan were building something for the ages, but Hull K.R. themselves were at the peak of their powers. They had wo the Championship the previous season and were best placed (along with Wigan) to finish top again, lying fourth in the table a point behind St. Helens and Leeds but with four games in hand.

Led by Roger Millward, who by now had retired from playing. The Hull Daily Mail pointed out that the last time Wigan had done the league double over Rovers, Hull K.R. went on to defeat Wigan in the semi final and win at Wembley!

The match, by all accounts (as I was 3 months old at the time) would have been good enough to have graced the Wembley turf but failed in spectacle due to the amount of errors leading to tries. Rovers had failed to dominate in the forward pack, the ultimate difference being two pieces of skill by Graeme West.

The match started as a stalemate, both defences being in top condition. The breakthrough came when a lad named Shaun Wane slipped a ball through to Brian Juliff (who was chosen ahead of Colin Whitfield) who raced former Wiganer George Fairbairn to the corner. Henderson Gill failed at the conversion attempt. Rovers pulled a solitary point back when Paul Harkin (below) opted for a drop goal to make the scores read 4-1 in Wigans favour going into half time.

Mistakes had cost Rovers in the first half in both attack and defence. The second half started quickly and after 55 minutes the score rose to 12-7 in Wigans favour thanks to a try from David Stephenson after clever work by Graeme West. Heading into the final 10 minutes, the score was 12-11 to Wigan and the game finally lived up to the pre-match hype. Wigan's half-back, someone called Kenny, threw out a bad pass which was intercepted by Clark who raced away to the Wigan try line. Somehow, substitute Mick Scott grabbed his leg and stopped a certain try which would have severly damaged Wigan's confidence in the closing stages. As it turned out, it was Rovers who couldn't covert their chances and gain the upper hand. The hammer blow for Rovers fell three minutes from time when West broke a tackle to feed Henderson Gill in at the corner. Stephenson all but secured the victory converting from the touchline.

Wigan went on to face Hull F.C. in the Final, a final for the ages. They had someone called Brett Kenny in their ranks and the rest, the say, is history.

Three Leeds-based Semi Finals: Three wins for Wigan.

Wigan 06 Hull K.R. 04 ~ January 28th, 1990

Challenge Cup, Round 1

Craven Park, East Hull. Att: 8,500

Hull Kingston Rovers' fortunes had taken a turn as the '90s came. Rovers found themselves in the second tier of rugby league whilst Wigan had won the Challenge Cup on the two previous occasions. My only memory of the game was being absolutely frozen and crying aged 6 on a bitterly cold sunday afternoon.

Craven Park put up the Sold Out signs as Mighty Wigan came to town. Every man and his dog had Wigan as firm favourites but the game was anything but a walkover for the Collier men.

Roger Millward was still coaching the Robins. The pitch at Craven Park however was a mudbath. Due to the state of the turf, or lack of, it was always going to be a close encounter. Despite Wigan having unknowns in the team such as Shaun Edwards, Dean Bell, Joe Lydon and someone called Ellery Hanley, the game ended 6-4 in Wigan's favour.

Rovers' Mike Fletcher troubled the scoreboard operator just after the half-hour mark with a penalty goal. It was going ok for the Robins until a moment of misfortune struck fullback David Lightfoot. Shaun Edwards' high kick wasn't taken right by Lightfoot, who spilled the ball leaving the way open for Wigan wingman David Marshall to kick the ball downfield to score, converted by Joe Lydon. That was to be only points of the match.

Rovers did not disgrace themselves. They were hotly tipped to gain promotion but with the muddy conditions, it was hard for the star-studded Wiganers to show any flare with their backs. A scare for Wigan who of course went on to Wembley for the third consecutive time.

Wigan 46 Hull K.R. 14 ~ May 12th, 2013

Challenge Cup, Round 5

MS3 Craven Park, East Hull. Att: 4,280

It was to be another 23 years until Wigan and Hull Kingston Rovers met for the seventh time in the Challenge Cup. Times had changed. Wigan's Glory Days were over but a new era under Ian Lenagan had brought about a new wealth of success. Hull Kingston Rovers had been languishing in the second tier of rugby for years until they started to build their way back to the top tier. By 2013, Hull K.R. were back in Super League and being competitive.

In a weekend where Wigan Athletic had beaten Manchester City in the F.A. Cup Final at Wembley, there was a unique opportunity for the town of Wigan to possibly hold both trophies. Wigan Warriors had to do their bit.

The Warriors had a visit from the Leigh Centurions in the fourth round, defeating the Leythers 60-10 at the DW Stadium. Hull K.R. had beaten St. Helens 26-18 in what was a shock victory on home turf. Despite beating St. Helens, K.R. were not very happy at being drawn against Wigan, after the Warriors had defeated them 84-06 over the Easter period.

It was a great start for Hull as Craig Hall went over to get the lead. The Robins arguably dominated the match approaching half-time but sadly for them, Sam Tomkins woke up and started to play. The Wigan fullback scored an eight minute hat-trick after half-time, whilst adding a fourth try late on in the match to seal their place in the next round.

Wigan went on to claim their 19th Challenge Cup victory with a 16-00 victory over Hull F.C. at Wembley a few weeks later.

Wigan 12 Hull K.R. 16 ~ May 15th, 2015

Challenge Cup, Round 6

Leigh Sports Village, Leigh. Att: 4,677

Wigan had been drawn at home against Hull Kingston Rovers during the 2015 edition of the Challenge Cup. The game had to be played at the local Leigh Sports Village as the DW Stadium was unavailable with sadly a crowd of less than 5,000 witnessing the contest.

The eighth meeting between the sides in the Challenge Cup in the sixth round fell in favour of Hull Kingston Rovers. At the time, Wigan were sitting second in the League table whilst Hull K.R. languished towards the bottom. Two weeks previous, Wigan defeated the Robins 60-00 - so for 99% of the population, it would have been seen that Wigan would comfotably head into the quarter finals.

Hull K.R. entered the contest in the fifth round, defeating Bradford Bulls 50-30 whilst Wigan entered the competition in the sixth round. Hull were without their scrum half Albert Kelly, but had kicking sensation Josh Mantellato. After a tough opening first half, ending 6-6 thanks to tries from Joel Tomkins and Maurice Blair. Wigan were undone by their own discipline and handling errors, but despite this, Joe Burgess had given Wigan the lead on the 64th minute. It was to come crashing down for Wigan after this as Mantellato converted several penalty goals before Dan Sarginson's handling error gave Ken Sio the chance to put the Robins ahead with 6 minutes remaining.

Wigan could have won it at the death but Sam Tomkins' last ditch effort was ruled to be in touch.

Hull K.R. would go all the way to the final, defeating Catalan Dragons and Warrington along the way until their fuel finally ran out, thanks to Leeds Rhinos posting a 50-0 win.

Wigan 28 Hull K.R. 10 ~ May 13th, 2018

Challenge Cup, Round 6

KCOM Craven Park. Att: 3,524

The ninth occasion that the Collier men and the lads from East Hull met in the Challenge Cup came in 2018, during the sixth round of the competition. It was a disappointing crowd to say the least. Sam Tomkins was celebrating exactly a decade since his five-try scoring debut against Whitehaven in the Challenge Cup back in 2008 and he was in the mood to celebrate with a Man of the Match performance.

Wigan were of course favourites but after the hour mark, the scores were tied at 10-a piece. K.R. were missing 10 first teamers due to injury so the odds were against them from the off. You wouldn't have known, however, as Hull started the game better. Despite going behind to a Josh Woods try after 10 minutes (Woods who was standing in for the injured Williams), the Robins managed to push their way through the Wigan defence via a try from Chris Atkin. Wigan winger Liam Marshall, whose father scored on this ground in the Cup in 1990, pulled Wigan to a 10-4 half time lead. The drama started on the hooter as former Wigan forward Danny Tickle had a scuffle with John Bateman. Bateman was sinbinned for his part in the scuffle but Tickle was shown the red card after punching Bateman, leaving Hull K.R. down to 12-men.

Despite being a man down, Hull rallied at the start of the second half and attacked the Wigan defence until it broke after Junior Vaivai found his way through to level the scores at 10-all.

Up stepped Sam Tomkins in the 62nd minute to produce one of his trademark mazey runs to add his try, and showed a smile to the Hull K.R. supporters. Wigan made it comfortable thaks to a late try via Tony Clubb.

Wigan would go on to lose in the next round against Warrington Wolves 23-0 thus ending the chance to win their 20th Challenge Cup.


Head-to-Head in the Challenge Cup

Played: 9 Wigan 7 Hull K.R. 2 Wigan For: 185 Against: 91

Most Tries:

Sam Tomkins - 5

Alan Davies - 3

Nat Silcock, Dai Bevan, Brian Nordgren - 2

Largest attendance: 21,479 - Semi Final 1963

Lowest Attendance: 3,524 - Sixth Round, 2018

Dai Bevan x2

Nat Silcock x2

Alan Davies x3

Thanks to Neil Davies for the use of the programme images.