Rovers Close Out The 1970s Season

On This Day... April 8

Fifty years ago, on 8th April 1970, Richard Nixon was still President of the United States and war raged in Vietnam. Two days later, Paul McCartney would leave the Beatles and the world’s most famous pop group would be no more.

Hull Kingston Rovers played their penultimate game of the 34-match league campaign. Just a single point from their three Easter games had seen them lose their third place in the table, as they were overtaken by St Helens and Wigan. They needed to win their last two games to ensure a home first round match in the end-of-season championship play-offs, contested by the top 16 clubs in the then single league table.

On Wednesday 8 April they played a night match under floodlights at Craven Park against a Dewsbury side that were languishing in the lower reaches of the table, having won only 13 of 33 games. Rovers were without stalwart centre John Moore, who had broken his leg in a third round Challenge Cup win over Leeds a month earlier; tough-tackling scrum-half Colin Cooper; powerful second-row Phil Lowe, who missed only his sixth match out of the 42 games Rovers had played, and regular left-wing Phil Coupland. ‘A’ teamers Brian Brook, Roy Gay, debutant former BOCM winger Max Rooms, and 17-year old Paul Rose took their places.

Those who have watched the weekend’s BBC Challenge Cup final programmes will have noted the change in the physiques of the players over the years. Players were significantly smaller back in the seventies; the slightly built player was common, particularly in the back division, and Rovers winger Mike Stephenson and scrum-half Roy Gay were perfect illustrations of that. In general, players were not as tall either – Gordon Young at around 6’2” was the tallest player in a Rovers side in which only three others were six feet tall. ‘Flash’ Flanagan was of a short, stocky build rarely seen in the modern game.

A Flanagan drop-goal got Rovers under way in a match watched by 3,286 spectators and officiated by referee Fred Lindop, who refereed more Rovers games than any other whistler. First half tries by Rooms and Roger Millward, the latter converting his own try, gave the Robins a 10-2 interval lead. Four-point tries and one-point drop goals were unthought-of then. Dewsbury made a fight of it in the second half with an unconverted try making the score 10-5, but Flanagan’s second drop goal ensured that Rovers returned to the winning trail. Three days later the Robins beat Halifax at home to cement fifth place in the table.

Rovers followed up with impressive home wins over Bradford and Salford, but the season ended in anti-climax. In the semi-final they went to Headingley without four of their best defensive players, Millward and Young having been added to the injury list, and were well beaten by a rampant Leeds side.

The Rovers team that day was – Ian Markham; Mike Stephenson, Brian Brook, Geoff Wriglesworth, Max Rooms; Roger Millward, Roy Gay (sub: Paul Longstaff); Terry Clawson, Peter Flanagan, Steve Wiley, Paul Rose, Gordon Young, Cliff Wallis. Sub not used: Terry Major