TWENTY five years ago Easter fell early in April, and provided a landmark day for Todmorden Amateur Rugby League Club.
The Todmorden club sadly folded two seasons ago following an acute shortage of players. Unable to keep the squad up to strength at the higher level they had just won promotion to in the Pennine League, they made the decision not to continue.
They had made good progress through the mid and late 70s, and on Easter Monday, April 7, completed what was certainly a red letter day in the club’s history, when they became part of a century of history by winning the Rochdale and District Amateur Rugby League Charity Cup Final.
Played at Rochdale Hornets’ Athletic Grounds, one of the 700-strong crowd, Charlie Kibble, who now lives in Todmorden, recently found his copy of the match programme.
At the time Charlie was a keen player himself, playing for East Ward - ironically the team Todmorden knocked out in the second round in January 1980 after the Centre Vale side had comfortably disposed of Salem Hornets A 34-0 in the first round in November, 1979.
The East Ward tie was a close affair, Todmorden winning by a 13-11 margin, and the semi-final in mid February saw them clinch their place in the final by defeating Spotland A by another nip-and-tuck margin, 8-5.
Facing Saddleworth Rangers in the final in front of a bumper crowd, Todmorden had the upper hand through much of the first half, despite Saddleworth opening the scoring, thanks to a penalty and a try from Billy Collier and a try from David Slater, the half ending 8-4.
The match reports says both sides were hanging on to the ball too long but Todmorden had dominated in the scrum.
The second half about turn stemmed from Saddleworth developing a battle plan to turn the tables on Todmorden in the scrum and the ensuing domination for a spell after the break saw them lead 9-8 after 28 minutes.
Another turning point had surely occurred just after the break, when hooker Fred Crabtree found touch but lost the ball over the line.
But with five minutes to go, Todmorden grabbed the tie once again by the scruff of the neck with some quick thinking.
Scrum half Paul Adams nipped in from a play-the-ball near the Saddleworth line for a fine opportunist try and, removing any doubts, Crabtree, who won the Fletcher Trophy for man of the match, added the conversion.
Todmorden loose forward and skipper Rod Parkinson was able to step up and receive the trophy which had a proud history, dating back to 1887.
Despite being mothballed for many years, 1979-80 saw it restored to its rightful place as the league’s major event in the season’s calendar.
The programme specially printed for the occasion included a resume of the competition’s history and pen portraits for both squads, included many long-term servants of the sport, with Billy Collier still playing today.
The Todmorden squad comprised Rod Parkinson, Brian Kettleton, Fred Crabtree, Duggie Greenwood, Michael Connor, Max Torris, John Longenotto, Tony Oie, Robert Fox, Paul Adams, Billy Collier, Chris Inman, David Slater, Chris Ashworth, Peter Ward, David Lees, Hans Jochen-Koth, Phillip Watson, David Wray, John Kennedy, Duncan Connor and player-coach Peter Mills.
The side on the day was: Kennedy, Lees, Inman, Slater, Fox, Collier, Adams, Mills, Crabtree, M. Connor, Oie, Longenotto, Parkinson. Subs: Ashworth, Torris.