Ernie Cooper and the kick that put Bridlington in the record books - 75 years ago this month

Ernie Cooper, when he was president of Bridlington, with his son, Tim, who was president of rivals Driffield in 2011.
Ernie Cooper, when he was president of Bridlington, with his son, Tim, who was president of rivals Driffield in 2011.

This month sees the 75th anniversary of a sporting achievement which ended up putting Bridlington in the record books - and has remained there ever since.

Ernie Cooper was playing rugby for Bridlington School's first XV when he launched a kick which made history.

Ernie Cooper

Ernie Cooper

He landed an 81-yard penalty in the closing stages of a match in January 1944 - a feat which has never been matched.

Ernie played for Bridlington RUFC at the age of 17 and was a member for more than 70 years. He was club president at Dukes Park for a number of years.

Friends described him as a gentleman and ‘a unique character.”

As well as Bridlington, Ernie also played for York, Scarborough, Headingley, Roundhay and Hull. A sporting all-rounder, he also boxed for the Navy and represented them at sprinting.

Ernie celebrating a Yorkshire Shield win with Bridlington RUFC officials and coaches.

Ernie celebrating a Yorkshire Shield win with Bridlington RUFC officials and coaches.

The Free Press gave Ernie a Lifetime Achievement award at the Bridlington Sports Awards in 2014.

Ernie lived in Hull in his later years and died in July 2016.

Here’s the story of the remarkable kick which we read out at the awards ceremony:

On January 19, 1944, Bridlington School’s rugby team were trying to avoid defeat in their final game of the season against an Army select team.

But they found themselves behind when they were awarded a penalty five yards in from the touchline and one yard outside his own 25-metre line.

A young winger called Ernie Cooper picked up the ball, a staggering 81 yards from the posts

“What does that silly bugger think he’s going to do from there?” the opposing captain was heard to say.

What he did, was land a kick which remains in rugby folklore today. No-one has recorded a successful kick from further out. Not even at international level.

Bridlington drew the game, kept their unbeaten record and the rest is history. But it is history the town can be proud of .

Ernie wasn’t even a regular kicker, there wasn’t a strong wind at his back, but his effort cleared the crossbar comfortably.

Almost 30 years later, it was put into the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest kick in the history of rugby union.