As you may or may not know, my formative years were spent at the other stadium in Wigan – Central Park, home of Wigan RLFC (not Warriors). I attended my first game around the 1981/82 season, when they were shit basically. I have a vivid memory of watching Wigan play the touring Australian team in 1982- known as The Invincibles and went to games home and away for many years thereafter.
On the latest Podcast episode the lads had a discussion around one of lowest points supporting Latics. The consensus was the relegation in 1993 and the home game against Plymouth, which was made even lower by some of the ‘antics’ of rugby fans, who hadn’t even gone to the final but took delight in taking the piss out of desolate Latics fans.
I quipped that I was at Wembley that day, which I was. The rugby team went to Wembley and won the Challenge Cup, eight times in a row between 1988-1995. It did become a ritual, the coach down in the morning, butties and pies on the coach, walk up and down Wembley way, see the team lift the cup then back home.
Once home I would usually watch the game again, and then look at the football results of the day to see how the Tics had gone on.
So I decided to look back on those days when the rugby played at Wembley and see who Latics played that day and how they went on.
The first Wembley win took place on 30th April 1988. Wigan ran out comfortable winners over Halifax, and one of the greatest tries ever seen at the famous old stadium was scored by Ellery Hanley. Sadly for the Tics, they came back from the West Country pointless with a future legendary manager on the scoresheet.
Bristol City 4 v Wigan Ath 1 (Jewell) Att 7,340
1.Hughes, 2 Senior, 3 Knowles, 4 Hamilton, 5 Kennedy, 6 Beesley, 7 D Thompson, 8 C Thompson, 9 Pilling, 10 Jewell, 11 Butler, sub 12 Bobby Campbell
Wigan 32 v Halifax 12 – Tries K Iro (2), Gill, Lydon, T Iro, Hanley Bell – Att 94,000
Lydon, T Iro, K Iro, Bell, Gill, Edwards, Gregory, Case, Kiss, Shelford, Goodway, Potter, Hanley. Subs Byrne, Wane
We all remember that famous day in May 2013 don’t we? Mention it at every opportunity don’t we? Well, for rugby fans, Saturday 29th April 1989 is on a par. Beating your fiercest rivals in a final is one thing, but to nil them is the icing on the cake. Bragging rights lasted a long time. And on the same day, a year later, Latics played Bristol City away again but this time came out victorious…Allen Tankard scoring the only goal.
Bristol City 0 v Wigan Ath 1 (Tankard) Att 5,156
1. Adkins, 2 Senior, 3 Tankard, 4 Atherton, 5 Beesley, 6 Pilling, 7 Thompson, 8 Rimmer, 9 Entwistle, 10 Page, 11 Griffiths,
Wigan 27 v St Helens 0 – Tries, K Iro (2), Hanley, Gregory, Hampson – Att 78,000
Hampson, T Iro, K Iro, Bell, Lydon, Edwards, Gregory, Lucas, Kiss, Shelford, Platt, Potter, Hanley Subs Betts, Goodway
The hat-trick came on 28th April 1990 as Wigan beat Warrington convincingly. Wigan legend Shaun Edwards played 75 minutes of that game with a broken cheekbone, made of tough stuff us Wiganers…. Meanwhile, at Springfield Park, Latics drew with Notts County with Darren Patterson getting on the scoresheet.
Wigan Ath 1 v Notts County 1 (Patterson) Att 2,433
1.Hughes, 2 Senior, 3 Tankard, 4 Parkinson, 5 Atherton, 6 Johnson, 7 Thompson. 8 Rimmer, 9 Daley, 10 Page, 11 Griffiths, subs 12 Carberry, 14 Patterson
Warrington 36-14 Tries Preston (2), Iro (2), Betts, Hanley – Att 77,000
Hampson, Lydon, K Iro, Bell, Preston, Edwards, Gregory, Shelford, Dermott, Platt, Betts, Goodway, Hanley. Subs Goulding, Gildart
Four in a row on 27th April 1991 came at the expense, again, of local rivals St Helens. This time they put more of a fight up and it was a closer game…still beat em though (insert Partridge Back of the net gif here). Latics, though, lost at home to Cambridge United…
Wigan Ath 0 v Cambridge Utd 1 Att 3,273
1 Hughes, 2 Worthington, 3 Tankard 4 Atherton 5 Johnson 6 Langley 7 Jones 8 Rimmer 9 Daley 10 Powell 11 Griffiths Subs 12 Appleton 14 Carberry
St Helens 13-8 Tries Myers, Botica– Att 75,000
Hampson, Myers, K Iro, Bell, Botica, Edwards, Gregory, Lucas, Dermott, Platt, Betts, Clarke, Hanley. Subs Goulding, Goodway
On 2nd May 1992 Latics travelled down to play Reading at Elm Park. Darren Patterson and Joe Parkinson were on the scoresheet but they ended up on the losing side as Reading won 3-2. Over at Wembley, Wigan beat Castleford to seal the fifth cup win in a row… and nothing else sticks in my mind from that game.
Reading 3 v Wigan Ath 2 (Patterson, Parkinson) Att- 2,748
1 Adkins 2 Parkinson 3 Tankard 4 Johnson 5 Jones 6 Langley 7 Doolan 8 Pilling 9 Daley 10 Worthington 11 Patterson Subs 12 Powell 14 Skipper
Castleford 28-12 Tries Offiah (2), Edwards, Hampson – Att 77,000
Lydon, Botica, Bell, Miles, Offiah, Edwards, Gregory, Skerrett, Dermott, Platt, Betts, McGinty, Clarke Subs Hampson, Cowie
1st May 1993 – a dark day in Latics history as they are relegated for the first time in their history. A miserable afternoon ended a miserable season for the Tics. Down in London, win number six came courtesy of a tough win against Widnes.
Wigan Ath 0 v Plymouth 2 Att 1,432
1 Adkins 2 Doolan 3 Tankard 4 Johnson 5 Pilling 6 Langley 7 Skipper 8 White 9 Nugent 10 Sharratt 11 Griffiths Subs 12 Ogden 14 Robertson
Widnes 20-14 Tries Skerrett, Bell, Panapa – Att 78,000
Hampson, Robinson, Lydon, Farrar, Offiah, Botica, Edwards, Skerrett, Dermott, Platt, Betts, Clarke, Bell Subs Panapa, Farrell
30th April 1994 and Latics beat Gillingham at Springfield Park in front of 1,300 hardy souls with goals from Andy Lyons and Neil Morton and, down in the Big Smoke, win number seven arrived as Leeds were put to the sword (another worldie of a try from Offiah) in style.
Wigan Ath 2 (Lyons pen, Morton) v Gillingham 0 Att 1,346
1 Farnworth 2 Carragher 3 Wright 4 Robertson 5 Skipper 6 Strong 7 Langley 8 Morton 9 Daley 10 Rimmer 11 Lyons Subs 12 Patterson 15 Pennock
Leeds 26-16 Tries Offiah (2), Farrell, Panapa – Att 78.000
Connolly, Tuigamala, Bell, Mather, Offiah, Botica, Edwards, Skerrett, Dermott, Platt, Betts, Farrell, Clarke Subs Panapa, Cassidy
The last final in this run was on 29th April 1995, again Leeds were the opponents and, again, Wigan won easily to clinch 8 in a row. Latics went down to the only goal away at Rochdale.
Rochdale 1 v 0 Wigan Ath – Att 1,949
1 Statham 2 Carragher 3 Whitney 4 Miller 5 Robertson 6 Millett 7 Black 8 Kilford 9 Leonard 10 Rimmer 11 Lyons Subs 12 Doolan 14 Benjamin 15 Farnworth
Leeds 30-10 Tries Robinson (2), Hall, Paul, Tuigamala – Att 78,000
Paul, Robinson, Tuigamala, Connolly, Offiah, Botica, Edwards, Skerrett, Hall, Cowie, Betts, Cassidy, Clarke Subs Atcheson, Farrell
The 43 game winning run came to an end during the following season after a shock loss to Salford, who were coached by ex Wigan player and Wigan lad Andy Gregory, who had played in so many of the Wembley wins, and 3 ex Wigan players.
That same weekend, 10 February 1996, Latics beat Colchester United at Layer Road with 2 goals from fan favourite Graham Lancashire.
Colchester United 1 v 2 Wigan Ath (Lancashire 2) – Att 3,082
1 Farnworth 2 Carragher 3 Johnson 4 Greenall 5 Pender 6 Sharp 7 Farrell 8 Martinez 9 Lancashire 10 Biggins 11 Rimmer Subs 12 Barnwell-Edinboro
Dave Whelan had been the owner for 12 months and was starting to shape the club and the team into what was to follow over the next 25 years. As one era ended, it truly was the start of another era….one none of us will never forget.
A big thank you to Tony Topping & Rod Prescott for researching the Latics teams and scorers for this article.
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