Leeds Rhinos Bygones: Final foes fought out famous battles in ’69

Bev Risman.
Bev Risman.
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LEEDS AND Castleford have never met in a Challenge Cup final and Saturday’s Wembley showdown will be the biggest game between the sides since 1969.

That year the West Yorkshire rivals faced off in a Championship final at Bradford’s Odsal Stadium, on May 24, after Leeds had finished top of the table and Tigers were fourth.

The two arch rivals – older fans will always say Castleford are Leeds’ real derby opponents, rather than Bradford – faced each other five times over the course of a bruising campaign.

In the league, tries by Ronnie Cowan and Syd Hynes, plus three Bev Risman goals and a Hynes drop goal, earned Leeds a 14-5 Headingley victory on Boxing Day.

And it was even more emphatic at Wheldon Road on January 31, when Leeds were 18-3 winners thanks to tries by Bernard Watson (2), Alan Smith and Bill Ramsey, plus three Risman goals.

The Loiners also triumphed in October’s Yorkshire Cup final, played at Belle Vue, Wakefield. John Atkinson, Watson, Alan Smith and David Hick were the try scorers – Risman adding five goals – in a 22-11 success.

But Castleford gained revenge in the third round of the Challenge Cup, winning 9-5 at Wheldon Road thanks to Trevor Briggs’ clinching try. Risman scored all Leeds’ points from a try and goal.

Cas went on to win the final that year and so were bidding for a double a week after Wembley in the Championship decider, which attracted a crowd of 28,442. Risman booted Leeds ahead with an early penalty goal, but Alan Hardisty levelled with a drop kick, only for the Loiners to regain the lead when Cowan crossed from Hynes’ pass.

Cas hooker Clive Dickinson powered over almost immediately and Mick Redfearn’s conversion edged the Wheldon Road outfit into a two-point lead after just 13 minutes.

Redfearn added a penalty, but Risman replied in kind as Cas went into the break with a four-point lead.

Fighting broke out in the crowd as Risman kicked another goal, after Redfearn hit a post with a penalty, but Cas seemed to be gaining control when Hardisty crossed for an interception try.

But Ramsey landed a drop goal to close the gap to three points and with five minutes left Risman made a break, kicked ahead and Atkinson swooped over to score. That made it 14-14 and Risman kicked Leeds to their second Championship triumph with the conversion, though the game ended with Dennis Hartley being sent-off for a foul on Mick Shoebottom.

The bad tempered game, plus crowd trouble, caused tension between both sets of supporters, but there was a happier postscript when Atkinson and Cowan guested for Cas in the following Monday’s Whitsun Sevens at Headingley.

Having spent the weekend celebrating, the hosts were eliminated in the first round and Cas wore Leeds’ shirts – as a gesture of goodwill – in their semi-final against Salford.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan.

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