In the spring of 1983 young men’s thoughts in Saddleworth turned to winning. In an abridged version of the late Don Yates’s article, we recall the events of April and May
Saddleworth’s Championship aspirations were hampered by the success the club was having in the two major cup competitions, the League Cup and the National Cup. A huge backlog of fixtures mounted up as Rangers swept their way through to the final of the League Cup. In that competition Rangers beat Heworth 28-6 at home, gained revenge over Mayfield with a 29-22 win and then recorded an impressive 36-9 win at Barrow Island in the semi-final. Askam had been equally impressive on their way to the final which was scheduled to be played at Watersheddings on Easter Sunday. Bad weather caused Watersheddings to be unplayable so Rangers, anxious to avoid even further fixture congestion, switched the final to Twist Lane, the Leigh Miners ground. The Rangers team in that final was:
Colin Garrett; Barry Greenwood, Shaun Cooper, Pete Gallagher, Paul Coates; Paul Garrett, Chris Garforth; Gary Dobbs, Jason Wilks, Andy Proctor, John Fleming, Steve Maudsley, Sean Whitehead. Substitutes, Terry Shaw, Colin Smith.
Askam brought a huge following down the M6 for this final but they went home disappointed. Pete Gallagher and Steve Maudsley saw to that, both having big games with ‘Muckers’ taking the official man-of-the-match award. After a fierce opening, Rangers pulled away and were always in command. They led 12-4 at half-time and coasted to a 25-10 victory. Colin Garrett, Paul Garrett, Jason Wilks and Steve Maudsley scored tries with Sean Whitehead landing four goals and a dropped goal. To complete a successful Easter weekend, Rangers ‘A’-team won the Riley Cup twenty-four hours later, beating Spotland Rangers 21-2 in the final. Led by coach Norman Widdall, the Rangers second string also won the fifth division Championship of the North West Counties League and the Oldham League Championship during this remarkable season.
Almost 200 clubs entered the National Amateur Cup so Rangers, despite being exempt from the first two rounds, had to negotiate six rounds in order to reach the final. They began with a 38-4 win at Wigton before beating Embassy 54-4 at home. Next up was another clash with Mayfield, this time away, but it brought a most satisfying 40 points to eight victory. Two home ties followed and resulted in victory over West Hull 27-18 and Travellers Saints 19-10. A semi-final trip to Leigh Miners was not the tie Rangers would have chosen but Saddleworth came through with flying colours, winning 20-12.
Knowsley Road, St.Helens was the chosen venue for the final with Hensingham providing the opposition to the following Saddleworth team:
Colin Garrett; Barry Greenwood, Shaun Cooper, Pete Gallagher, Paul Coates; Paul Garrett, David John; Gary Dobbs, Jason Wilks, Terry Shaw, John Fleming, Steve Maudsley, Sean Whitehead. Substitutes, Phil Cunliffe, Colin Smith.
Once again Saddleworth produced a clinical performance against worthy opponents. Paul Garrett snubbed out the threat posed by Hensingham half-backs Craig Murdock and Gary Hewer whilst Sean Whitehead marshalled his troops superbly to win the man-of-the-match award. He landed three goals and a dropped goal as Rangers overcame stubborn opponents to win 23-16. Pete Gallagher (2), Paul Coates and Terry Shaw scored the tries as Rangers completed their unique treble.
Earlier in the month Rangers finally caught, and passed, season long league leaders Egremont. The spirit within the club during this historic season was clear for all to see. Even after lifting the Championship, Rangers were determined not to relax and to carry their long winning sequence into the National Cup Final. They ended the season five points clear of runners-up Egremont and having won the admiration of everyone connected with the National Conference League, the best and toughest competition in amateur rugby.