Defeat still hailed as 'a magnificent achievement'

PICTURE FROM THE PAST: Keighley reach the 1937 Wembley Challenge Cup final

IT WAS, and remains, the most glorious sporting day in the history of Keighley.

Not even the fact that they were beaten 18-5 by the favourites Widnes could detract from the sense of pride felt by the West Riding town when they made their one and only appearance in a Challenge Cup final on Saturday, May 8, 1937.

Indeed the match at Wembley, which was played out in front of a crowd of 47,699 people (generating receipts of 6,579), was the first final Keighley had played in since their formation 60 years earlier.

On the day of the final, Keighley were never in with a chance of upsetting the formbook against a Widnes side who were superbly marshalled by scrum-half Tommy McCue, who scored one of the eventual winners' four tries.

Keighley did go close in the first half through Welsh centre Gwyn Parker and Reg Lloyd, a 19-year-old left wing who would later do what no Keighley player has since been able to by scoring a Cup final try at Wembley.

The Manchester Guardian reported on the Monday after the final: "Nobody expected it to be great football and it was not, but it was an admirable exposition of the Widnes style, which, to the true adorer of Rugby League football, has its own genuine interest."

The Wembley crowd featured 9,000 Keighley fans who had headed south on 16 special trains and the final was the sole topic of conversation in and around the town for weeks before and afterwards, according to a brochure produced by the club.

"The team was hero-worshipped as it had never been before," it said. "There were never-to-be-forgotten scenes when the team returned to Keighley.

"As a demonstration of the loyalty of the club's supporters it cannot have been equalled. Something like 10,000 people turned out to welcome the team home; two bands attended – and indeed the whole scene made one wonder what sort of reception it would have been had they won the cup.

"Honours which Keighley have gained since their foundation in 1876 are so few that the partial satisfaction of being runners-up in a Cup final must be considered a magnificent achievement."

Keighley had defied the odds to reach the final, a journey which began with a 5-2 defeat of Hunslet at Parkside, a ground where they had not won since before the Great War.

Defeats of Broughton Rangers (11-5) and Liverpool Stanley

(7-2) followed before a semi-final meeting with Wakefield at Headingley in front of a 40,034-strong crowd, who witnessed a thrilling 0-0 draw.

Keighley won through in the replay at Fartown four days later when a try by Welsh scrum-half Llew Bevan and goal from Hull-born winger Joe Sherburn were enough to complete a 5-3 win.

The nearest Keighley have been to a return to Wembley was their semi-final appearance in 1976 when they were beaten 5-4 at Fartown by eventual Cup winners St Helens.

The Cougars will hit the Wembley trail once more on Sunday with a Carnegie Challenge Cup third round tie against Toulouse, the French club who are hoping to join Catalans Dragons in Super League next season.