Flashback: Leeds Rhinos second best as all-conquering Wigan complete clean sweep in 1995

Craig Innes.
Craig Innes.
0
Have your say

TWENTY TWO years ago Leeds were reflecting on a Premiership Trophy campaign which featured one of their most remarkable wins and a deeply embarrassing loss.

Leeds staged a stunning fightback to reach the decider at Old Trafford, but were then humbled in the most one-sided major final in the sport’s history.

The Loiners had finished second in the Stones Bitter Championship, seven points adrift of Wigan who beat them 30-10 in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley at the end of April.

The Premiership was a play-off competition with first on the league table at home to eighth in the opening round, second against seventh and so on.

Leeds romped to a 50-30 win over Bradford in round one and then beat St Helens in a dramatic and controversial semi-final at Headingley.

Fourth-placed Saints looked to be heading to Old Trafford when they led 20-6. Leeds had Garry Schofield sent-off – for verbally abusing referee Stuart Cummings – and Alan Tait sin-binned, but staged a stunning fightback to win 30-26.

George Mann stood in at stand-off and was the star of their fightback. He was among the hosts’ try scorers along with Francis Cummins, Craig Innes, Kevin Iro and Gary Mercer, while Graham Holroyd added five goals.

That rally – and a 33-28 league win over Wigan at Headingley in December – sent Leeds into their first Premiership final since 1979 in upbeat mood.

But realistically, they were on a hiding to nothing with their two best players – the suspended Schofield and Ellery Hanley who was injured – both missing.

Opponents Wigan, who beat Sheffield Eagles 48-16 in the first round and won their semi-final against Warrington 50-20, were aiming for a grand slam of silverware after lifting the Regal Trophy earlier in the season.

They produced a nearly perfect performance in front of a capacity 30,160 crowd, on May 21, running in 12 tries in a 69-12 triumph. Teenager Kris Radlinski scored a hat-trick in a Harry Sunderland Trophy-winning man-of-the-match performance.

Gary Connolly also crossed three times and other try scorers were Kelvin Skerrett, Shaun Edwards, Denis Betts, Henry Paul, Martin Hall and Simon Haughton.

Frano Botica kicked 10 goals and Andy Farrell added a one-pointer. Leeds levelled the scores at 6-6 through a Richie Eyres try and the first of Holroyd’s two conversions.

But they trailed 36-6 at the break and did not add to their score until Innes crossed 11 minutes from time.

****

MATCH STATS

Leeds 12 (Tries: Eyres, Innes. Goals: Holroyd 2)

Wigan 69 (Tries: Radlinski 3, Connolly 3, Skerrett, Edwards, Betts, Paul, Hall. Haughton. Goals: Botica 10. Drop goal: Farrell)

May 21, 1995, At Old Trafford

Leeds: Tait, Fallon, Iro, Hassan, Cummins, Innes, Holroyd, Howard, Lowes, Faimalo, Mann, Eyres, Mercer. Subs: Vassilakopoulos, Harmon.

Wigan: Paul, Robinson, Radlinski, Connolly, Offiah, Botica, Edwards, Skerrett, Hall, Cowie, Betts, Farrell, Clarke. Subs: Haughton, Cassidy.

Referee: Stuart Cummings.

Attendance|: 30,160.

Leeds Rhinos 16 St Helens 14: Rhinos dig deep to edge out St Helens