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Yorkshire Wartime Cup 1940

The Yorkshire Wartime Cup was played for only once. Travel restrictions and petrol rationing plus many Yorkshire clubs closing down during the 1939-40 season, mainly through a shortage of players, meant that after the first season of wartime rugby a cup competition was no longer viable

The 1939/40 competition was proposed by Captain Stanley J. Rhodes from the Bradford club. A meeting of interested clubs held on the 15th February 1940 agreed that, subject to approval from the Yorkshire RFU, the competition would take place. It was hoped that the wartime cup would generate funds for the clubs that took part. A percentage of all the gate receipts were to be pooled and then shared. It was also proposed that at every game a collection would be taken, with the proceeds given to the Red Cross. The wartime cup competition was approved by the Yorkshire RFU, sixteen clubs entered, and the draw was made on the 1st March 1940 at the Midland Hotel, in Bradford. The clubs taking part were all West Riding based. The travel restrictions and petrol rationing probably ruled out clubs like Hull and East Riding and Sheffield even though both would have expected to be very competitive.

The results:

1st round
Sandal 18 Huddersfield Old Boys 0
Morley 20 Bingley 0
Keighlians 8 Skipton 6
Bradford 62 Bradford Salem 3
Otley 26 Ossett 0
Brighouse Rangers 6 Roundhay 0
Halifax 27 Halifax Vandals 6
Harrogate Old Boys 13 Baildon 3

2nd round
Sandal 13 Morley 3
Bradford 41 Keighlians 0
Otley 33 Harrogate Old Boys 0
Brighouse Rangers 11 Halifax 3

Semi finals

1st leg
Brighouse Rangers 9 Otley 0
Sandal 0 Bradford 12

2nd leg
Otley 9 Brighouse Rangers 3
Bradford 9 Sandal 7

Bradford v Brighouse Rangers

The appearance of Bradford in the final wasn’t a surprise but the fact that they were facing Brighouse Rangers was a surprise. Brighouse had exceeded all expectations and produced some unexpected results on their route to the final. They shocked Roundhay in the first round continued their good form by beating near neighbor’s Halifax in the second round but were expected to come down to earth and be knocked out at the semi-final stage when they faced Otley. However, an outstanding defensive display in the second leg saw the underdogs defend their narrow advantage from the first leg and qualify for the final by the narrowest of margins.

The final of the wartime knockout cup was scheduled for Saturday 20th April 1940, at Odsal Stadium, the home of Bradford Northern Rugby League Club. In the town of Brighouse, the appearance of their local team in the final of a cup competition revived memories of forty five years earlier when in 1895 Brighouse Rangers had last appeared in the final of the Yorkshire Cup. As the 20th April approached, the enthusiasm for the game in Brighouse increased dramatically. The Brighouse Echo built up the excitement in its preview articles. Comparisons between the 1895 Rangers team and the 1940 team were made. Pen pictures of the Brighouse players were published and the newspaper expected that several thousand Brighouse supporters would be making the short journey to Odsal Stadium.

The final produced one of the largest attendances ever for a rugby union cup final in Yorkshire. There were 9,442 spectators at Odsal that day with receipts of over £500. Unfortunately, Brighouse Rangers cup run came to an end in the final as Bradford won the game by 22 points to 3. There was disappointment in Brighouse regarding the result, but a great deal of pride in their team of largely unknown local players who had given such a boost to the town by their stirring cup performances.

Stuart Sheard