|1st May 1915|| Challenge Cup Final||NEUTRAL||8000||HT:0-0|
|MATCH NOTES : Record Challenge Cup Final defeat at the hands of the 'Team of all Talents'. |
|Age in brackets is at time of match - Total average age for this team is 26. - ** non-playing sub|
MATCH REPORT : Mayday! Mayday!
The final was to be held a week later at Oldham on 1st May. Saints' opponents were a Huddersfield side, enjoying phenomenal success. They already held the Yorkshire League and Cup, and had thrashed Leeds 35 - 2 in the Championship final at Wakefield. The rampant ‘claret and golds’ had similarly disposed of Wigan in their Challenge Cup semi-final, and were determined to make it a four trophy season.
On the Tuesday evening before the final, the St. Helens players held a practice session at Knowsley Road, followed by a hot brine bath at the Talbot Hotel. Everyone was in splendid spirits and quite optimistic about the outcome of the match. Captain Barton, as defiant as ever, declared:-
"We have drawn with Huddersfield and we might defeat them this time. Anyway we will play them a good game, and I don’t think they will pile up the points against us as they have done in the last three matches."
Barton’s boys had fought their way through to their second Northern Union Final, round by round – away from home, for ten shillings each per game. Not surprisingly the talk was about money as they stripped in the dressing room at Watersheddings, Oldham. They looked forward to receiving a welcome bonus in their pay packets, especially if they were to lift the cup.
"Never mind that bonus" Saints captain Barton told them, "there's a medal waiting there win or lose forr every man. Each medal is worth at least three pounds, and I am not going back without mine - even if I have to turn out and play Huddersfield myself."
The eight thousand crowd cheered as they waited for the teams to come out. They were not to know of the drama in the Saints' dressing room, and that it was all down to the example of one man whether the ball was kicked off in the final of 1915.
"Listen to those people out there - added Barton, some of them must have travelled miles to see the match. We may have had what seems like a raw deal, but we can't let them down. Come on."
The Captain's words had the desired effect. Saints turned out, but that was about all. The spirit which had carried them through the earlier rounds had all but disappeared. It took under three minutes for Gleeson - the Australian centre, to register Huddersfield's first try. By the time Sam Daniels had scored Saints' only touch-down of the match with eight minutes to go, no fewer than 37 points, nine tries and five goals, had been debited against them! St. Helens were the most decisively beaten team who had ever appeared in a Challenge Cup final before. Barton - a gallant sportsman to the end, congratulated the victorious skipper Harold Wagstaff, and paid tribute to Huddersfields' 'Team of all the Talents' –
"It is no disgrace to be beaten by the best team in England. We have done no worse than many other sides who possessed stronger playing resources than St. Helens."
No-one deserved a medal more than Tommy Barton. Yet a lesser mortal would not have been playing at all! In 1910 -when his ankle had been wrongly set after a break, he went into hospital to have it broken again and re-set, rather than give up the game he loved. Truly one of the giants of of Rugby League, he will always be remembered as the man who saved the Saints' reputation on that rainy day at Oldham in 1915.
From "Saints in their Glory" by Alex Service.
Copyright © Saints Heritage Society 1999-2022