THIS is the story of one of Warrington’s notoriously toughest cup games that took place 50 years ago this weekend – the Challenge Cup First Round “battle” at Halifax.

Warrington were top of the table with only one defeat in 21 league games, Halifax languished down in 18th, having been hammered the week before 8-50 at Featherstone.

They also had had a recent setback with the loss of leading points scorer Bruce Burton to a jaw injury.

For Warrington, changes too – Mick Hennighan had the week before been transferred to Swinton and Mike Nicholas on the Thursday before the game had been suspended for two matches, for his part in a brawl on Boxing Day!

The venue was Halifax’s sloping Thrum Hall pitch and the conditions were made doubly difficult because of rain and drizzle, making the ground soft and muddy – a perfect recipe for a possible cup upset.

The teams lined up as follows…

HALIFAX: Hepworth; Kelly, Davies, Willicombe, Tudball; Sanderson, Baker; Dewhirst, Hawksley, Callon, Fogerty, Martin, Halmshaw.

WARRINGTON: Whitehead; Curling, Reynolds, Noonan, Hart; Murphy, Gordon; Chisnall, Ashcroft, Wanbon, Gregory, C. Jones, B. Briggs.  Subs: Wells for Murphy (38 mins), Murphy for Gordon (49 mins)

Halifax fancied their chances and the teams tore into each other, like a typical cup-tie.

Referee Dennis Brown (Preston) was quickly handing out penalties for minor offences when in the 18th minute, Parry Gordon from inside his own “25” made a half break to send Hart way, only for the winger to be flattened by a high tackle from Dewhirst on half-way.

At the same time, Gordon had been laid out after the ball had gone. Referee Brown saw the Hart incident, the nearby touch judge, apparently not. Dewhirst escaped with a warning.

A few minutes later, player/coach Alex Murphy, whose face was splattered with blood from an earlier skirmish, was laid low. Once again the referee looked over to a touch judge, and got no response!

Warrington could not step aside from this provocation and football was forgotten.

It all erupted in the 38th minute. Prop forward Dewhirst came charging in, taking exception to a Murphy tackle on Sanderson, and flattening him!

After getting his marching orders he appeared to take a kick at Murphy, riling the Warrington players, and sparking off a brawl. Murphy was carried off and all the players are spoken to by the referee.

Half time came with the scores level at 4-4 courtesy of two penalty goals by Derek Whitehead, and a penalty and drop goal in return by Dave Willicombe.

Early in the second half, Gordon had to go off with a shoulder injury and Murphy returned in his place.

With his first touch of the ball near the Halifax line, he shaped to go right but with that way blocked sent out a pass left and Barry Briggs sends Clive Jones in at the corner for a try, Whitehead’s conversion going narrowly wide.

In the 57th minute came the decisive moment of the match.

A fine run by Fogerty saw him weave his way past five Warrington players from the 25-yard line. Only needing to dive over between the posts for a certain score, he somehow let the ball slip from his grasp, in anticipation of Derek Whitehead’s challenge.

Gone was the ball, and with it their hopes.

It came as a cruel blow to Fogerty as he had backed Halifax at 40-1 Wembley odds!

The drama hadn’t finished when 13 minutes from time, Clive Jones went down on a loose ball and Halifax captain Halmshaw kicked him, cracking him on the shoulder.

In pain and knowing he was going off injured, Clive got up and threw a punch in retaliation and walked off. It was only after the game that he realised he had been sent off along with the Halifax man!

Warrington had won 7-4, but that wasn’t the end of the matter.

Referee Mr Brown told both teams that he intended to report them for brawling. Then the Rugby League Council were to meet to inquire into Halifax allegations of intimidation!

What – when Alex Murphy had to have seven stitches in his cut head and both Parry Gordon and Clive Jones left the ground with their arms strapped up because of damaged shoulders!

The Cup favourites suddenly found themselves being possibly banned from the competition – Challenge Cup Rule 16 stating “The Council shall have the power to disqualify any club for rough play for such period as it may think.”

Both clubs were found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute and fined.

In the end thankfully, Warrington weren’t thrown out of the cup and played Widnes in the next round. However it was a painful reminder off when the going gets tough.