DCSIMG

John Ledger: Legend Croston's starring role in real golden era of the Cup

HERE'S a question which may help jump-start those little grey cells while you're dribbling Golden Shred down your front this morning: which professional club was the first to win a Challenge Cup tie under the golden point ruling?

Congratulations if your answer was Castleford.

A tad too easy, you reckon, even for someone who is struggling to keep both Rice Krispies and milk on the same spoon?

All right then, clever clogs, try this one: Who did Castleford beat, what was the score and when did the match take place?

Was that a yawn I just heard before you said Halifax, 35-34 and last Saturday night? Oh dear. Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

Castleford did indeed beat Halifax by the slenderest of margins when Brent Sherwin spared the Super League club's blushes with an extra-time drop-goal to break the hearts of a Halifax side which nonetheless made a bold statement about their own ambitions.

However, it was not the first time the Wheldon Road club had progressed to the next round of the Cup with a winner-takes-all score, a feat they achieved fully 37 years before Mr and Mrs Sherwin became the proud parents of a budding scrum-half.

The year was 1941 and Castleford were drawn against neighbours Featherstone in the first round of the Challenge Cup. After 80 minutes, the tie was deadlocked at 3-3 – a proper rugby score – prompting two 10-minute periods of extra-time, which produced a penalty each for both teams.

With 100 minutes played and no scope for a replay because of Wartime regulations, the tie went into sudden-death and even then it was a further 17 minutes before Castleford's legendary centre Jim Croston scored the match-winning try.

Whether the fans at Post Office Road on that cold winter's day in 1941 knew what the rules in the event of a draw were remains unclear, just as was the case at Castleford last Saturday when the public address announcer informed the crowd that extra-time would now be played.

Fortunately, both coaches and the officials were aware that the next score would be decisive and gave their pep talks accordingly – imagine the reaction had Halifax been expecting another 19 minutes of play when the referee called time following Sherwin's 81st-minute drop-goal.

The clubs and officials have not always been as well informed as they were last Saturday – Castleford's PA announcer excepted – for it is only 10 years since mayhem broke out at the end of a Challenge Cup third round match between Doncaster and Oldham St Annes.

The tie was Doncaster's first game of the season and drew the club's biggest crowd of 1999 when 1,614 people filed into Belle Vue to see one of many false dawns for rugby league in the South Yorkshire town.

Unfortunately, by the time the 'final' hooter sounded for a second time, there were no more than 300 onlookers to applaud Doncaster after their 35-21 success at the end of extra-time because most had left half-an-hour earlier anticipating a replay.

The hooter had blown after 80 minutes with the scores at 16-16, prompting wild celebrations from the plucky Oldham amateurs, who did a lap of honour before disappearing down the tunnel to the dressing rooms, where the home side were still getting a stern dressing down from coach St John Ellis.

At the same time, the journalists in the press box were asking the RFL's then chief executive Neil Tunnicliffe why extra-time wasn't being played, as was supposed to happen under the Cup's new rules.

Tunnicliffe duly disappeared down the tunnel to alert referee Russell Smith, who belatedly brought both team back out on to the field where Doncaster went on to beat deflated opponents 35-21 in a near-empty stadium.

Extra-time saw a former Great Britain player score his one and only try as a Doncaster player – who was he? Answers on a postcard please.

And brush those toast crumbs from your tie.

 
 
 

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