Taken from the book "The rugby league challenge cup" by John Huxley (ISBN 0-85112-511-5)
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While Welsh Rugby Union has always provided the northern professional clubs with a plentifull sup-ply of very nearly ready-made players there have been spells during the history of Rugby League when other areas have been subject to attention.
Rochdale Hornets were a case in point just before and after the First World War. They established a repu-tation for bringing west country men into the paid ranks and it worked well for the famous Lancashire cotton town club.
The burr of west country accents held its own as the Hornets went into the 1921-22 season and it enriched a dressing room vocal mixture already featuring players from St Helens, Wigan, Wales and even of Italian de-scent.
Hornets succeeded in reaching the Challenge Cup Anal for the first and only time in their peacetime history in 1922 and, of their six-man forward pack, three came from west country rugby union.
In the team they fielded for the final at Headingley on Saturday, 6 May 1922, the open-side prop Tommy Harris was imported from Redruth in 1920 after he had represent-ed Cornwall seven times; Hornets were impressed by both his tackling prowess and scrummage ability. The blind side prop Dicky Padden origi-nally turned professional as a winger from Newton Abbot in 1910 but the former Devon county player success-fully made the transition from the backs into the forwards in Northern Union.
Tommy Woods the second row forward had joined the trek north in 1909. He played for Bridgwater Albion and was an England internation-al with 30 games for Somerset to his credit before deciding to turn profes-sional with Hornets. He became a dual international playing for the Northern Union against the Aus-tralians before the First World War.
Rochdale Hornets had been one of Northern Union's eternal brides-maids. Their collection of honours could hardly be described as impres-sive. In the early days they provided stiff opposition without actually mak-ing the big breakthrough themselves. Either side of the Great War they en-joyed their golden age winning the Lancashire Cup twice in three appear-ances over five years.
They had reached the Challenge Cup semi-finals in 1911 and 1915, falling at the final hurdle, but by 1922, however, they had assembled one of the finest teams to grace the club's fa-mous red, white and blue colours.
Their determination to have a worthy team was demonstrated in January 1922 just before the start of the Cup campaign when they signed centre Eddie McLoughlin, the St Helens captain and Lancashire three-quarter.
The build up to the Cup games provided ample evidence that they were in the mood for a meaningful at-tempt at the game's highest honour. In the first round they were drawn against Cumbrian amateur side Broughton Moor and they won 54-2 with winger Joe Corsi grabbing five tries to establish a club record for one game that has been equalled just twice since.
The Corsi family played an important role in the Hornets development of the time. There were six brothers in a Cardiff-based family of Italian de-scent and four of them went to Northern Union Rugby.
Jack, the first Italian to win a Welsh schools international cap, went to the Athletic Grounds in 1914 as a centre and stayed for eleven years before being transferred to York. He was an incredibly talented man. Be-sides his Rugby career, he was a boxer securing the Italian national title dur-ing the 1914-18 War, and a water polo player. At the end of his career he toured the music halls as an accordion player with his dancer wife!
Brother Louis went to Rochdale in 1921 and was the loose forward of the time. He returned to Rochdale after the final sporting two trophies — his winner's medal and a shining black eye. He to moved on to York in the December after the Cup final joining his brothers Jack and Angelo at the Yorkshire club.
Joe Corsi had joined Rochdale in 1920 and was one of the noted wingers of his era. Like his brother Jack, he had played for the Crumlin and Cardiff clubs and three years later he moved over the hill to Hornets' nearest and deadliest of rivals, Oldham.
In the second round Hornets faced Leeds at home, they won 15-7 and their victory was aided by a massive goal-kicking feat from one of their all-time great players Ernest W. Jones, the stand-off half from Somerset, who had joined Rochdale in 1910 at the age of 19, who hit the target from an amazing distance.
Reports of the time suggest that he was at least five yards inside the Hor-nets half and that it was one of the greatest efforts seen on the ground. He was, however, destined to miss the final. Injury is believed to have taken its toll although Hornets ensured he had a specially struck medal.
Their third round encounter was against Oldham. This derby game ri-vals any other similar kind of game for intensity and pressure. Local pride is at stake and a Joe Corsi try boosted Rochdale to a 5-2 victory in front of a massive crowd of 26,664.
Widnes were swept aside 23-3 in the semi-finals and Hornets faced Hull, who were seeking to improve in their amazingly unsuccessful return of one win from seven appearances, in the final.
The Humbersiders were clearly the pre-match favourites. The match pro-gramme stated: 'The Hull team are re-ported to be in splendid condition
and are popular favourites... Hornets' backs are generally supposed to be weaker than the men from Hull.' Pre-diction is, however, an inexact sci-ence and the underdog still had a powerful bite.
Hull had not had an easy route to the final. All their opponents came from the top half of the league. In the first round they had to contend with Halifax, then a derby clash at Hull KR, a third round trip to Dewsbury and a semi-final win over Wigan, who had finished second in the table.
Billy Batten was still the darling of the Boulevard crowd and he scored the second of their two unconverted tries in the first half. The first had come from centre J.E. Kennedy. Winger Tommy Fitton had registered a try for Rochdale while Paddon land-ed two goals to keep Hornets in front 7-6 at half-time.
Fitton struck again to extend Rochdale's lead to 10-6 but Hull sec-ond row forward Bob Jones put the
Humberside team back into con-tention at 10-9 with a try. Hull need-ed the conversion to take the lead but winger Billy Stone's kick curled wide leaving Hornets to win by the narrow-est possible margin.
The Lancastrians were ecstatic about upsetting the odds and when they returned to Rochdale there was a crowd of 40,000 to meet them.
A Rochdale diarist catalogues the highlights of the final, as far as Hor-nets were concerned, as follows: 'Hughie Wild's tackling on Batten ... Jack Bennett's hooking ... Dai Woods' shadowing of the mighty Taylor ... Heaton led Caswell a merry dance ... the magnificent work of all the Hornets forwards ... and the way Frank Prescott at full-back played courageously for the greater part of the second half with his right arm practically useless because of injury.'