|Peter Topping by Alex Service |
The 1930 Challenge Cup final is considered to be one of the most disappointing matches for Saints’ fans. Despite being one of the brightest attacking sides in the league, the Saints has effectively burned themselves out with a glut of matches before Wembley. Yet in the first few minutes, they scored the first try, when Widnes centre Peter topping, aged just 20, failed to gather a kick from Alf Ellaby, enabling Lou Houghton to score Saints’ first-ever try at the stadium. And yes, the fact that Ellaby actually kicked emphasised the fatigue in the team! Widnes gradually got into the match, with second-rower George van Rooyen becoming more and more dominant.
Widnes won 10-3 and, unfortunately, a decade later, were forced to disband early on during the war years. Some of their players were able to play for other clubs, including Peter, who enjoyed a cameo with the Saints. His first match was against Dewsbury, a team who had assembled a powerful team at the time. As Clericus wrote in the St. Helens Reporter, he looked ‘out of position’ at full-back: “Topping, the ex-Widnesian had been groomed in the full-back position. He was tired out on Saturday. The results were not uniformly successful, probably because he is not used to the proper positional play of a full-back, having been a centre all his career. He fielded a bit shaky earlier in the game and improved later. His kicking was useful and well-placed. Topping has to settle down yet in the position”. Saints only lost narrowly [17-26], although in his second game Peter went into the stand-off half position, with excellent results.
At Knowsley Road, the Saints beat Wakefield 15-7, with Peter getting a try and he also booted over three goals. The correspondent ‘Recorder’ was full of praise: “Certainly the choice of Topping at out-half absolutely revitalised the backs…Topping was all thrust and activity with good hands and perfect positional play”.
Peter’s third game was a marvellous 21-8 victory over Wigan in the Yorkshire Cup at Knowsley Road. Peter played well, but local lad Jimmy Stott stole the plaudits. His last match was a return match at Dewsbury on 12th December 1942, when the Saints lost 7-19. Peter was full-back again, back where he started: same team, same position; same result! In 1939 Peter was living in Alder Avenue, Widnes. He was employed as a Process Worker in a Lithography plant. He died in his hometown in July 1989 at the age of 78.