Thursday, 5 March 2015

Saturday's Coming: Kells

Kells' cliff-top ground by the sea. A tough gig for ball-boys.

And so the magic of the Challenge Cup hauls us up the M6 to deepest West Cumbria. On a Saturday teatime. The ony compensation is that we at least we get to play a team with a rich Challenge Cup history

Perched on a cliff just to the south of Whitehaven, Kells was originaly a coal-mining community - and the foundation of the rugby league club is entwined in the town's colliery past. Formed in 1931, the original club used Haig Pit's changing and bath facilities until the pit closed.

Post-war, the club reformed and in 1946 Kells were called into Challenge Cup action, drawn against  Warrington in a two-legged first round tie. Kells lost the first game at the Recre' by
3-0. In the return game at Wilderspool they lost 27-0. It was the first of a number of Challenge Cup appearances - in which Kells and the city of Leeds seem magnetically drawn together!

In 1959 Kells reached the first round of the Challenge Cup losing 55-9 to Hunslet (who, at the time, were top of the RFL!) .  It was an interesting contest as it pitted the country's top pro-side against the country's top amateurs. Indeed, it was the season in which Kells created history by winning all available honours: the Cumberland Challenge Cup, Cumberland Championship Cup and Cumberland Under-21s Shield. They also went through the 1958-59 season undefeated, with crowds of up to 1,000 watching their home games.

That season's record read: Points for: 790. Against: 74. Their only loss in all competitions was to Hunslet. It's interesting to note that the Kells side's fitness and physical dominance was attributed to the fact that most of the side were Haig Colliery miners.

Just in case you thought RFL cock-ups were a recent thing, in1965 Kells qualified for a place in the Challenge Cup but due to an admin mix up, were not registered at Rugby League headquarters & were removed from the draw.

Ah, we knew we had one
of these somewhere.
In 1986 Kells lost - again - to Hunslet, 20-8 at Elland Road in a preliminary round tie. Twelve months later they produced a stunning 4-4 draw with Fulham at the Recreation Ground before losing the replay at Chiswick by 22-14. The year after they played the mighty Leeds at Whitehaven going down by a creditable 28-0 in front of 6000 fans!

Almost inevitably, in 1992 Kells were drawn against Hunslet at the Recre. - Hunslet again winning, this time by 32-14.

Fast forward to the present and Kells is a club on a bit of a roll.

18 months ago TLCRF80mins saw Kells play Underbank Rangers at The Cross, eventually going down 28-18 in a high-quality see-saw of a game. And, as it turns out, it was a rare defeat!

Having only joined National Conference Division 3 (what, effectively used to be the 'Summer Conference' level) in 2013 after decades as a stalwart of the Cumberland League, Kells made an immediate impact: promoted as champions at the first attempt.

Then last year - just to prove it wasn't a fluke - they repeated the feat; steaming through Division two and promoted as champions with two games to spare. Impressive stuff.

Kells secured their place in the third round of this year's Challenge Cup with an emphatic 52-6 win over Blackbrook, featuring a pair of hat-tricks from Scott Lofthouse and Troy Armstrong, with Dom Wear kicking 8 from 9 conversions - and weighing in with a try.

Indeed, this game has 'banana-skin' writ large across it - so Hornets will have to be on their mettle if we are to progress and secure a tie with one of the 'medium-time' clubs who come in at the next round. And yes, we know it's a long way; and yes we know it clashes with Ant & Dec's Saturday Takeaway - but we expect the lads to give their all, so we should reciprocate. Go on - stick three mates in the car and get yourself up to the recre. You can't possibly have anything more interesting to do on a Saturday evening. We'll see you there.

See here:
For more on Kells, we found a great sports blog with some great photographs . Go take a look  at this really good sports blog!