It was the scoreline that rocked rugby union - Wigton 24, Sale 7. Still one of the biggest upsets in knockout competition. That unlikely result came in the preliminary round of the John Player Cup in 1979 and, 40 years on, has never been forgotten by the men who took part.

This really was a David slays Goliath giant-killing performance as, in the days before league rugby, Sale were considered among the elite of the land.

Wigton have already highlighted the 40th anniversary of the game at the club and, on November 16, there will be a special reunion at Lowmoor Road when Wigton have a tasty Cumbria League clash against Whitehaven.

The Greens might be down the Cumbrian pecking order these days but few county rivals can look back at a result of this magnitude.

Sale, fielding several internationals and captained by Fran Cotton of England and the British Lions, were highly fancied to win the competition outright until they came to Lowmoor Road on an early autumn Sunday for a preliminary round tie.

One of the Sale players wasn’t best pleased and in the annals of club history, repairing the dressing room door after it had taken the full force of his wrath, was not one of the easier joinery jobs ever tackled at Lowmoor Road.

Wigton skipper Raymond Graham recalls the damage was done by a Scotsman in the Sale side, who was close to international honours at the time.

“I don’t remember much about the game now, apart from fact that we were really tenacious and completely focused,” he says.

“We concentrated on what we had to do and, basically, that was to stop them from playing.”

But Graham says the game provided special memories for members of both sides, and he has had personal experiences of Sale reactions years later.

“I was at Sale watching my son playing for the North of England against New Zealand Under-21s when a chap, sitting in front of me, asked where I was from,” he adds.

“When I said Wigton, he said ‘Oh no’ and proceeded to explain that he had been chairman of selectors at the time. It was his vote that had decided the team would play in Ulster on the Saturday, and ‘take care of Wigton’ on the way home.

“He said that to make matters worse, a lot of them had been ill with food poisoning when they got home. I believe it might have been the chicken legs provided for the after-match buffet.

“Then, when I was leaving the Manchester ground after watching my son play again, a big 4x4 came slowly past, stopped and the driver wound down his window. It was Fran Cotton and he asked why I hadn’t let on to him in the clubhouse.

“I said that I didn’t think he would remember and he responded with - “we’ll never forget ------- Wigton!’ which he repeated some years later at Keswick.

“He had been doing some coaching and, before he started, asked if there was anyone there from Wigton, adding that he would never forget the time he played there!”

Two of the Wigton tries that day was scored by lock Dave Dewis who recalls: “Those of us who played in the game, or those who were there in the large crowd, will never forget that day playing against one of the top sides in the country at the time.

“Wigton were the better side, a feat which will never be repeated in the modern professional era.”

They had gone in front with a drop-goal from Mike Fell after 20 minutes and that was increased soon after with a penalty by Brian Reay.

When Norman Foster went in for the game’s first try, converted by Reay, the Wigton fans were in dreamland as their side held a 12-0 lead at the break.

The expected Sale surge didn’t materialise and, instead, a searing break by Alan Fell sent Dave Dewis over for the second try, again converted by Reay.

Sale did manage to cut the deficit with a penalty but, when Dewis went over for his second try, converted by Reay, the biggest shock in John Player Trophy history was only minutes away.

Although Sale did manage an unconverted try before the end, it made no difference and Sale’s ire was taken out on the dressing room door.

The Wigton team was: Malcolm Hutton, Alan Fell, Brian Reay, David Hankin, Martin Connolly, Norman Foster, Mike Fell, Eddie Little, Howard Graham, Mike Blake, Raymond Graham (Cap), Dave Dewis, David Miller, Chris Pattinson and Lenny Miller with Alan Thompson, Keith Warwick and Tony Wharton on the bench.

Other squad members were Chris Law, Martyn Johnstone and the coach was Arnold Pattinson.

Sadly four members of the squad have since died - Malcolm Hutton, Howard Graham, Alan Thompson and Alan Fell, as well as the coach Arnold Pattinson - but they will all be toasted and remembered on November 16.