On this day in 1957, Hull FC secured victory in the first and only European Club Championship – Club Historian Bill Dalton explains how it was won.
As trophies in the grand scheme of the history of the Northern Union/Rugby League game have not been particularly plentiful, the occasions upon which the team has been successful in winning one have naturally been noteworthy and tend to be remembered perhaps, for example, the number of times that Wigan or Leeds have had a Glory Day.
One such occasion was the 1956 Championship Final success over Halifax at Maine Road, Manchester. That occasion spawned an inaugural European Championship, to be played for the following season between the winners and runners-up of the English and French competitions. So, as Hull and Halifax were to be the British representatives in the tournament, Albi and Carcassonne qualified on behalf of the French League.
The format was simple – the European Championship league table was to be constituted through the league results of the teams in each country together with home and away fixtures between the British and French teams.
Hull had succeeded in the league game at Thrum Hall on 20th October 1956 before the two teams sailed over to France for the games against Albi and Carcassonne. On 1st November, Hull overcame Carcassonne by 13-5, in a match noteworthy for a 70-yard try by Stan Cowan, whilst Halifax saw off Albi by 19-11. Three days later, the fixtures were reversed. Hull triumphed over Albi 23-7 and Halifax had no trouble with Carcassonne beating them 24-9.
The French teams then came to Yorkshire in Easter week of 1957. On Good Friday, 12th April, Carcassonne were accounted for by 28-5 and Halifax scraped home by 21-20 over Albi.
After Hull had then fitted in a league match with Bradford on the Saturday (won 23-3), they managed to secure a draw 19-19 with Albi on The Boulevard on Easter Monday whilst Halifax hammered Carcassonne 33-10.
Three matches in four days – the shock that present day coaches must be feeling at that prospect, although perhaps pay-as-you-play was a great antidote to bumps and bruises in those days.
Just a week later, on this day in 1957, Halifax had to visit the Boulevard and Hull wiped the floor to the tune of 35-12, to secure the European Championship – a title the club still holds as it was never played for again.
The season wound up with Hull finishing in second place in the Rugby Football League, although they could not manage to retain the Championship title, going down 14-15 in the Final to Oldham at Odsal Stadium, Bradford.
They did, of course, regain it the following year, beating Workington Town. There were some very fine teams among that lot, and it was certainly a great time to be a Hull supporter.