AS John Jordan appeals today for the return of his father Johnny’s runners-up medal from the 1931 Challenge Cup final, it’s worth taking another look at the feats of the only York RL side ever to reach the final of rugby league’s showpiece cup competition.

It would be a campaign that would assume the slogan “Wembley now or never” and, given that the closest any York or Knights outfit has been in the 82 years since is the semi-finals (against Wigan in 1984), it has since proved prescient.

The glorious run began at Birch Lane, where a struggling Bradford Northern outfit didn’t even score a point in an 11-0 reverse.

But the signs that this might be a special year came at the next stage when York produced a giant-killing display to beat Huddersfield and rock the rugby league world.

Jordan scored in that game and he was among the try-scorers when the Minster club beat Salford 12-2 to power into a semi-final against Warrington at Headingley.

The Wasps, who had yet to concede a try in the competition up until that point, fell behind in the last-four clash but Jordan and Harold Thomas crossed the whitewash to seal a superb fight-back and delight the York supporters in the 32,500 crowd.

Injured with a pulled muscle after his semi-final exertions, Jordan harboured hopes right up until the day of the final that he would be fit to step out on to the already famous Wembley turf but, while team-mate Billy Thomas was cleared by a London specialist to take part, Jordan had to watch from the sidelines along with Sep Aspinall.

The full line-up was: Owen, H Thomas, Rosser, J Davies, W Davies, A Lloyd, W Thomas, D Pascoe, E Myers, W Davis, W Johnson, H Davies, G Layhe.

Their opponents were Halifax in what the Yorkshire Herald called the first “all-county final” staged at Wembley.

Thousands of York supporters travelled south – estimated at more than 10,000 by train alone – and a special Yorkshire Evening Press train left at 1.15am on the morning of the match for the capital.

A crowd of around 500 had earlier filled the span bridge at York Station to cheer off the players and officials of the club the previous day and George Stembridge, chairman of the club’s directors, implored the Yorkshire Herald to “Give this message to the people of York”.

“We certainly think we shall beat Halifax,” he said. “We shall beat them on stamina alone, for at the end of the game we shall still have 13 fit men on the field.”

It didn’t quite work out as planned.

“It was as delightful a final as anyone would have wished to see,” wrote Forward in the Herald following the game.

“The standard of football was higher than in the two previous finals in London, and leading officials of the Rugby League were agreed that it was the best final for many years from the standpoint of quality in the play.”

In front of a crowd of 40,368, York got off to the better start – taking the lead twice in the Wembley final.

A Pascoe penalty put them in front after just three minutes and, soon after the quarter-hour mark, there was more celebration for the York supporters after Harold Thomas scored an unconverted try.

It was just reward for a side that had been dominant in the Halifax half and, following a scrummage in midfield, Billy Thomas whipped the ball out to Arthur Lloyd who, selling a dummy to Ivor Davies, moved forward and passed to Rosser.

“The ex-Leeds man bore over on to the right,” added the Herald reporter.

“After a clever side step reminiscent of Jordan – who was seated anxiously looking on at the touch-line – he passed to Harold Thomas, who, like a hare in front of hounds, raced over for a glorious try.”

Halifax were soon back in the game, drawing level with a try by Dai Rees, which was goaled by Adams, but York’s try hero Thomas wasn’t finished yet – going over in the corner to give York an 8-5 lead at the break.

But, from here, it all went wrong.

“York always deserved to be in front in the first half,” wrote Forward.

“And they lost the cup because they failed just where they were expected to win. They could not ‘stay the course’.”

Just as key a factor, though, was an injury to Lloyd.

Fifteen minutes into the second half, the influential stand-off collided with skipper Billy Thomas and, clearly concussed and “wandering aimlessly about the field”, he collapsed on his way to the dressing rooms and was taken to a succession of London hospitals.

Halifax were boosted and capitalised with an Adams penalty and a drop goal by Dick Davies.

Once the Wasps fell behind, they rarely looked capable of hitting back as Halifax lifted their performance considerably.

They extended their lead when a penalty try, for obstruction, was awarded to Higgs, who sealed the victory with a late try when, it appeared, that Halifax could score at will.

“York lost, but they lost gallantly,” was the verdict.

“There need be no recriminations. York played delightfully and skilfully so long as they could get the ball but when they were obliged to hand over the control of the game to Halifax their defence was found wanting.”

They still returned home as heroes.

Travelling plan

The Knights Independent Supporters Society are organising a coach to tomorrow’s Championship clash at Dewsbury which departs the Ainsty pub at 12.30pm, Clarence Street at 12.45pm and Huntington Stadium at 1pm. A seat costs £15. Phone 07763 121732 to book.

Jack high as June’s winner

JACK LATUS’ display against Barrow Raiders last week didn’t just land him man-of-the-match honours, it set the seal on his elevation as June’s The Press Player of the Month.

The centre was praised for his work down the left side against the Cumbrians and his efforts have not gone unnoticed by readers of this newspaper, who have voted him as the Knights’ top dog over the last four weeks.