In the 1950s Barrow Rugby League built a team that, while it did not always do itself full justice in the league, had a formidable record in the Challenge Cup competition. They reached the semi-final on six occasions between 1949 and 1957, winning three of them with the first in 1951.

That team was of course led by Willie Horne (a tourist to Australia with Great Britain in 1946 and 1950) with a stellar three quarter line of Lewthwaite, Jackson (recently signed from Vickers RU), Goodwin and Castle (also a union convert, from Coventry). Jack Grundy, who arrived from St Helens at the start of the season, was the outstanding forward although it was in the pack that Barrow sometimes struggled to match the strongest opposition.

The 1951 cup run started with a two-legged affair against Llanelli, better known in the union code but in brief existence as the rugby league made another attempt to expand into Wales. Barrow did nothing to help that cause by knocking them out by an aggregate score of 62-14.

The next two rounds were a different order of business entirely as first Workington and then Bradford visited Craven Park. On both occasions the crowd was over 21,000 and they saw Barrow beat Town 12-5 and Northern 5-4.

Leeds now stood between Barrow and Wembley and a crowd of 58,000 watched the semi-final at Odsal. There was high drama at the end of the match as ex-Furness Rugby Union full-back Harry Stretch kicked a penalty from the touchline to snatch a 14-14 draw. In the midweek replay at Huddersfield Barrow were a team inspired and in what fans of that era recalled as one of the team’s finest displays Leeds were beaten 28-13.

Unfortunately Barrow were unable to reproduce that form at Wembley in front of 92,250 fans. Conditions were wet and slippery with heavy rain falling during much of the match. Barrow defended valiantly but struggled to win possession and when they did made too many handling errors. An early penalty to Wigan was the only score until the hour mark when a Barrow defender slipped on the wet turf, allowing Wigan to break clear and score. When prop Gee burst over for a second try from a play the game was up for Barrow. They had lost 0-10.

Barrow might have been back at Wembley the following season when they lost to Workington in the semi-final. Prop John Pearson crashed over under the posts but was rolled onto his back by three Town forwards before the referee arrived on the scene and he ruled that the ball had not been grounded. If only VAR had been invented 70 years earlier! As it was, Barrow had to wait until 1955 for redemption.