HEAD to HEAD
Here you will find from my research the rugby clubs that Wigan have played against between the 1879-80 season and 1894-95. In 1879 the Wigan Wasps formed after a two-year absence of rugby in the town. After the 1894-95 season the Northern Union formed and such data can be found elsewhere such as Ian Morrison's bible of a book "Wigan R.L.F.C. 1895-1986" (Derby: Breedon ,1986) or online over at the Cherry and White website that carries on post-1986 to modern times.
I am into statistics and feel that it is important that the data should be correct. By all means, critique the data found on this site. The following covers the rugby clubs that Wigan faced between 1879-1895. At the bottom will be data showing 1872-1876 from the original rugby club. It is interesting to note for the earlier data that the Warrington club, for example, was different to the one Wigan faced after 1879, as the modern-day Warrington Wolves were formed in 1876.
Wigan played plenty more matches than these given below. These include matches agaist scratch teams, friendlies (such as 6 men turning up so they played on regardless), the Maoris, or district teas such as a slection of West Lancashire Clubs or 'Mr Suttons Team' made up of County players (mainly). I am always open to include this data given an argument as to why so please get in touch.
(if you cannot see 1872-1876 I am still updating it all.)
Wigan's Head-to-Head record: 1879-1895 (alphabetical)
As you can see, Wigan had a 60% success rate in terms of wins, and losing 1 in 4 matches. Thats quite good, but during this period, Wigan were not as dominant as they were 100 years later.
Many Clubs regularly lowered Wigans colours, as an old saying goes. When Wigan went on their traditional South Wales Tour around Easter they made requests to play Cardiff. Cardiff were one of the premier teams in South Wales and were littered with International players but Wigan could just not seem to beat them, despite runing them close and gaining plaudits against them on a few occasions.
Swinton, spearheaded by the immortal Jim Valentine, the Lancashire captain and England back, had a better record against us also. Swinton were regarded as the best team in Lancashire in the late 1880s and early 1890s and many battless between Valentine and Slevin took place. The greatest match came on New Years Day, 1890, when Slevins men defeated the Lions to become, unofficially, the best team in Lancashire in a match that would be regarded, by me at least, as one of the Great Wigan moments.
The Yorkshire teams of Dewsbury and Batley were much more established than Wigan, who had a dismal record against them. The Yorkshire competitions were far ahead of those found in Lancashire and naturally, when Wigan did come up against quality, they learned from it.
Some obscure names you will find. Wigan Shop Assistants were, as it says on the tin, a group of young shop workers from the town who formed a team. Wigan thrashed them by 10 goals, 11 tries to 1 goal in September 1891. The match report doesnt even bother telling us who scored them all. St. Elizabeths of Aspull, St. Lawrences of Chorley, St James of Poolstock (Wigan) and Wigan Parish Church all had the pleasure of playing Wigan, and failing. The most famous Church team would be Leeds St. Johns are the best known church team to develop into a modern day behemoth. Today they are called Leeds Rhinos. Wigan had the upper hand and when Wigan first visited Headngley, all the reports suggested that the Headingley ground was the finest in the world.
Wigan once played Hartlepool Rangers on Christmas Eve, 1888. The interesting fact was that the Wigan committee had arranged the fixture after learning how close a team from Hartlepool pushed the touring New Zealand Maoris in a match. The problem was, the team in question was Hartlepool Rovers! Wigan invited the wrong team! It was quickly evident that the Rangers were, well, quite bad. The team playing took their foot off the gas and went through the motions in an easy win. Similarly outclassed, Owen's College Manchester, in 1885, got battered by Slevins men. Ji scored a hat-trick with Jack Anderton and Tom Brayshay scoring twice each in a hammering. The College requested the Wigan first team not to turn up for the return fixture, instead, Wigan sent their "A" team and a similar result happened.
There were three clubs in the Broughton area of Manchester. Higher Broughton didn't last long, nor did Broughton who lasted a cuple of seasons in the 1890s. The more famous of the Broughtonites were Broughton Rangers. Wigan had a healthy head-to-head with a 10-5-2 record. Broughton v Wigan on 3rd September 1892 saw the opening of Wheaters Field, that legendary stadium on the banks of the River Irwell, which saw many a classic game of rugby league, and indeed, Challenge Cup finals.
Some of the best attended and popular matches came against Tyldesley. Again, the "Bongers" had one or two Lancashire and England Internationals no bigger than half-back "Buff" Berry. Wigan edge the head to head winning 9, losing and drawing on four occasions. The greatest matches between the two came in the West Lancashire and Border Towns Union Cup matches (West Lancs). Tyldesley drew first blood in 1888 during a semi-final tie played at Wilderspool, Warrington in front of 10,000 spectators. The following year during the same competition, Tyldesley took Wigan to a replay after a 6-4 scoreline meant, according to the rules of the tournament, the game had to go to extra time. As no score was recorded, Wigan edged the replay a week later on their way to their first triumph.
Wigan played Warrington on 23 occasions between 1879-1895, winning 14, losing 5 and drawing thrice... with one game abandonned due to torrential rain! (Which doesn't show on the table above). These games were the highlights of many a Wiganer and attracted large gates. Wiganers travelled in large numbers also, often taking between 1,500 and 2,000 spectators to the Wire town. The local Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company often put on 'Specials' at a reduced fare on match days taking advantage of the rugby interest. It was common that gates ranged from 7-10,000 at either ground.
It may be hard to fathom, but the best rivalry between a club from over Billinge Hill, the dark side, was fought between Wigan and St. Helens Recreation. The best was possibly between the two during round 2 of the West Lancs Cup in 1888. Over 10,000 turned up to see Jack Mitchinson score the try to put Wigan through in a tight match.
St Helens were quite poor. The poorer team from the glass town. It took the Saints a considerable time to establish themselves and really only managed to start giving Wigan a decent game in the 1890s. In April, 1888, for example, the Saints were happily thrashed by Slevins men, the score standing at 1 Goal, 5 tries and minors to 4 minor points. Wigan had six different scorers (a 'goal' included the try within it) which in those days was a landslide victory. Playing 21 times and only losing 3 tells you alot about that rivalry. Of course, history would change and St Helens would become the yin to Wigans yang, the Ant to Wigans Dec, the Sith to...(cut)
The biggest rivalry before the Northern Union was between Wigan and Aspull. Today, travelling supporters from Yorkshire travel through it from the motorway on their way into Wigan. Aspull were a powerhouse, I cannot stress this enough and sadly would probably never do the villagers any justice. Here, in the earlier days at least, the matches between the two saw crowds swell, peaking at an estimated 18,000 in 1886 during the Wigan Union Charity Cup Final. Aspull on many occasions defeated Wigan in Cup Finals. Indeed, up to 1890, the teams only seemed to meet only in Cup competitions, that of the Wigan Charity and West Lancs. Aspull supplied Wigan with many players such as Dick Seddon, Ned Bullough, Charlie Samuels, Johnny Roberts... the list continues. You can see the results elsewhere on this site. It was late into the mid-1890s that Aspull folded financially, a great sadness. Aspull matches were the talk of the town and district. People were noted to come from as far as Oldham and Liverpool to witness the big games between the two. Crowds regularly tipped over 10,000. It really was a alking point between the Cherry and Whites versus the Dark Blues. For whatever reason, both club committees seemed to not organise matches between each other, despite coming to blows on 26 occasions. They operated in different circles. Only when we get to the 1890s did they play more often just when Wigan finally got the upper hand and crowds dropped as the gulf between the two sadly grew.