Blast from the Past: Halifax win the 1987 Challenge Cup

Although they are considered one of the biggest threats in the Kingstone Press Championship, Halifax are a shadow of their former selves.

Fax have got a long and proud history as one of the oldest rugby league clubs and perhaps their greatest era was in the late eighties.

Back then the club were challenging for top honours, and instead of being an also ran of English rugby league, they were one of the best teams in the country.

This was officially confirmed by a Division One title success in 1986 as Chris Anderson led his history makers to a record of 19 wins and only 5 defeats.

The likes of Graham Eadie and Colin Whitfield made up the Halifax side in ’86 and the following season, as the squad was kept together, they had even more glory.

It was not to be in the league, as their attempts to retain their champions title were thwarted by a reinvigorated Wigan.

Fax finished 5th, but in the 1987 Challenge Cup they would go all the way for the first time in 48 years, overcoming St Helens in a dramatic final.

Wembley was packed for the occasion on May 2nd and Halifax did not disappoint their half of the stadium.

Andrew Hardcastle, the club’s historian, was there, and he recently told Love Rugby League all about the 19-18 win:

“Halifax had a great team at the time, so the Wembley win was not unexpected. They had been champions the previous season, and were 5th in 1986-7. They were also back at Wembley again in 1988.

“Chris Anderson was an exceptional player-coach, and built a tremendous team spirit. He and Graham Eadie were key players, but all the others had a part to play in the side. They all played for each other, and did their jobs superbly.

“Many of them were experienced campaigners. Eadie won the Lance Todd trophy, but perhaps it should have gone to John Pendlebury. His drop goal and his match-saving tackle on Mark Elia when he knocked the ball from Elia’s grasp as he was about to touch down, were pivotal incidents.

“Halifax built up a lead, but St Helens came back, and it was a nail-biting finish. I was time-keeper that day and was mightily relieved to press the buzzer at the end. A special moment.

 “Also memorable was the open top bus tour and civic reception on arrival back at Halifax on the Sunday. There had been a similar event the previous year when the title was won, but this time all of Halifax seemed to have turned out. Halifax is a great rugby league town capable of drawing big support.

“It is a shame that licensing later threw them on the scrapheap, seemingly consigned to a life outside the limelight for evermore. Hopefully that system will soon bite the dust.”

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