Our resident Warrington rugby league historian and statistician ‘Stanksi’ takes a look at what is a significant anniversary for the game in our town…

FIFTY years ago, Warrington staged its one and only Test Match.

The 1973 Ashes series was finely balanced at one game each. Great Britain had won the First at Wembley 21-12, inspired by a towering display from second row forward Phil Lowe in a magnificent game.

The Second, at Headingley, Leeds, played in a gale force wind, saw Australia win 14-6, and gain their first ever win there in nine Ashes attempts! They were helped with British prop Brian Lockwood being sent off in the 47th minute for a late tackle on Fulton.

And so to the decider at Warrington….

Great Britain coach and former Warrington player Jim Challinor had some problems – out of the side had gone Topliss, Mantle, Atkinson and Lockwood, and in came Eckersley, Smith, Harrison and Nicholls.

Then Featherstone’s Steve Nash withdrew from the scrum half spot due to an ankle injury, his replacement being Roger Millward.

To compound matters further, on the Tuesday before the game loose forward Ray Batten was injured in a Floodlight Trophy game, meaning a late recall for Doug Laughton.

Australia had no such issues – only captain Bob McCarthy was out, having dislocated his shoulder scoring a try in the previous Test, with Ken Maddison coming into the second row spot…more of him later! Loose forward Paul Sait also escaped any match punishment at an RL Disciplinary two days before the game.

Tickets for the game then cost £1 to stand, 50p on the terraces for adults. Warrington were mid-table at that point of the season, but home fans were still disappointed that no players from the ‘Wire’ were picked for the Great Britain team.

A petrol crisis, an early kick off (2.15pm) due to Government restrictions on power usage, and a bitterly cold day transpired towards a disappointing gate.

Eighteen tons of straw had been laid to protect the Wilderspool pitch. Had the game been anything but an Ashes decider then there is little doubt that it would never have taken place.

The Arctic cold had frozen the surface and left icy patches, and tractor tyres had produced solid jagged ruts – a masochist’s dream!

For the Kangaroos they took to using specially commissioned rubber studs, which gave them a better footing, plus they were used to bone-hard pitches back home.

The Australians got off to a dream start when Clawson turned the ball straight into Bobby Fulton’s hands after only 2 minutes play. Playing in the town of his birth, Fulton raced 45 yards to score in the corner.

It set the tone for the day, as Australia powered forward, scoring five tries to one, two of them for Ken Maddison, who had a game to remember.

The 15-5 defeat could have been a lot worse, but the Aussies missed seven goal attempts!

The significance of that game is since that date we have never been able to regain those Ashes!

GREAT BRITAIN: Paul Charlton (Salford); Alan Smith (Leeds), Syd Hynes (Leeds), Chris Hesketh (Salford), Clive Sullivan (Hull) capt; David Eckersley (St.Helens), Roger Millward (Hull K.R.); Terry Clawson (Leeds), Colin Clarke (Wigan), Mike Harrison (Hull), Phil Lowe (Hull K.R.), George Nicholls (St.Helens), Doug Laughton (Widnes)

Subs: David Watkins (Salford) for Millward, Colin Dixon (Salford) for Clawson

Try: Millward. Goal: Millward

AUSTRALIA: Graham Eadie (Manly); Lionel Williamson (Newtown), Geoff Starling (Balmain), Ray Branighan (Manly), David Waite (Wests, Wollongong); Bobby Fulton (Manly), Tommy Raudonikis (Wests) capt; Bob O’Reilly (Parramatta), Elwyn Walters (Souths), Arthur Beetson (Easts), Ken Maddison (Cronulla), Gary Stevens (Souths), Paul Sait (Souths)

Subs: Tim Pickup (Norths) for Eadie, John Lang (Easts, Brisbane) dnp

Tries: Fulton, Maddison (2), Starling, Walters

Referee: Billy Thompson

Crowd: 10,019

Receipts: £6,419.50