1953–54 Northern Rugby Football League season
|League||Northern Rugby Football League|
|Top point-scorer(s)||Peter Metcalfe 369|
|Top try-scorer(s)||Brian Bevan 67|
The 1953–54 Rugby Football League season was the 59th season of rugby league football played in England. The championship, which involved thirty teams, started in August, 1953 and culminated in a finals play-off series in April, 1954 which resulted in a championship final between Warrington and Halifax. The season was also punctuated by the 1954 Rugby League World Cup, the first ever, and is also notable for its Challenge Cup final, which was drawn and had to be re-played, attracting a world record crowd for a rugby football match of either code.
- League Champions: Warrington (8-7 v Halifax)
- Challenge Cup Winners: Warrington (18-4 v Halifax in replay after 4-4 draw)
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|29||Hull Kingston Rovers||36||5||2||29||298||737||-439||12|
- Halifax 18, Workington Town 7.
- Warrington 11, St Helens 0.
The Championship Final was played between Warrington and Halifax on 8 May (three days after the epic Challenge Cup re-play) at Maine Road before a crowd of 36,519. The match was televised by the BBC and it was a tremendous defensive effort that helped Warrington to a narrow 8-7 win, with Bath kicking 4 goals.
Halifax and Warrington, the teams that finished first and second respectively on the Championship ladder (separated by only one competition point), reached the Challenge Cup final in 1954. It was played at Wembley and 81,841 spectators saw what turned out to be a lacklustre match. After a couple of penalties, Halifax led 4-0 at half time, then in the second half Warrington drew level, also kicking two penalties. The final score was 4 - 4 and it remains the only time Wembley hasn't seen a single try on Cup Final day. The re-play was scheduled for 5pm the following Wednesday, 5 May at Odsal Stadium, Bradford.
Around 70,000 spectators were expected at Odsal for the replay which was re-scheduled for a 7pm kick-off to avoid the rush hour traffic. The twenty trains and fifty buses, specially scheduled for the match, as well as the 100 gatesmen and 150 policemen at the ground were therefore believed to be adequate. However the closeness with which the two teams were matched and the prospect of the Challenge Cup decider coming north for the first time in a decade seem to have generated immense interest.
People had started queuing a good hour before the shuttle buses started running from 4:25pm. The gates opened at 5.00pm, and by that time some people had already been queuing for an hour and a half. At an hour before kick off there were already an estimated 60,000 in the ground. The traffic on the roads in the surrounding area was at a standstill as more and more spectators converged on the stadium. Some squatted around the pitch, while others climbed onto rooftops for a better view. Fences around the ground had collapsed, as more people struggled to cram into the bowl of Odsal before kick-off. The official figure for the crowd at the match was 102,575, easily the biggest number to see a rugby football match of either code. However it is widely believed that the real figure for spectators present is closer to 120,000.
The match itself was another low-scoring struggle, but an improvement on the last one. Jim Challinor opened the scoring with a try for Warrington after nine minutes. Half an hour later, Tyssul Griffiths kicked a penalty for the Halifax side, who had also had two tries disallowed. This meant a half time score of 3 - 2 in favour of Warrington. The third quarter of the match saw additional goals kicked by both Griffiths and Harry Bath, bringing the score to 5 - 4, still just one point in favour of Warrington. Then Gerry Helme scored a try, which Bath couldn't convert, putting Warrington four points clear of Halifax, but still within a converted try. Controversy reared just before full-time, when Halifax had a third try disallowed by referee Ron Gelder. Warrington had claimed their 4th Challenge Cup, with Helme winning the Lance Todd Trophy for his match-winning performance, the first player to do so twice.
- Baker, Andrew (1995-08-20). "100 years of rugby league: From the great divide to the Super era". Independent, The (independent.co.uk). Retrieved 2009-09-25.
- "The History Of Rugby League". Rugby League Information. napit.co.uk. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
- Hadfield, Dave (2004-05-06). "Mud, blood and memories of the day when 102,575 made history at Odsal". The Independent (UK: Independent News and Media Limited). Retrieved 2009-12-27.
- 1953-54 Northern Rugby Football League season at wigan.rlfans.com
- 1953-54 Northern Rugby Football League season at rlhalloffame.org.uk
- 1954 Challenge Cup final at rlhalloffame.org.uk
- 1954 Challenge Cup final at eraofthebiff.com
- Warrington History (1945-1970) at warringtonwolves.org
- The 1954 Odsal Challenge Cup final replay at rugbyleagueoralhistory.co.uk