ON THIS day in 1981 Leeds toughed out a win at Halifax in a game which now could best be described as old-fashioned.
The Slalom Lager Championship showdown was played on the sloping pitch at Halifax’s now defunct Thrum Hall ground and there was none of the modern, top-of-the-ground, free-scoring rugby Super League has become known for.
It was a real dogfight, Leeds – who were eventually to finish 10th in the table – eventually climbing out of the mud as 3-2 winners thanks to a try by Terry Naylor, one of eight the winger scored in 16 appearances that season.
Despite the low scoring, Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Trevor Watson described it as a “rousing game” and said both teams “rose splendidly above the conditions”.
Halifax made the early running, creating a series of chances, but Leeds clawed their way back into the contest and could have had more points but for poor goal kicking and a failure to use the overlap on several occasions when they had the home defence on the rack.
The only try came when John Atkinson moved into midfield to create an extra man and then combined with David Ward to put Dave Heselwood in possession.
He drew the cover and timed his pass perfectly for Naylor to finish off. Watson reckoned: “It was good centre play on his [Heselwood’s] part and should underline for him the fact that the dummy is not always the best move.”
Heselwood almost created a second try for Naylor, but this time the winger halted and looked for support when he could have gone for the corner himself.
Watson wrote: “That all goes to show that Leeds have not yet got their attacking work right but there was certainly nothing wrong with their defence. It was superb as they kept their line intact for the first time this season.”
David Ward (an excellent leader), Steve Pitchford (for his hard running) and Graham Eccles (with his tackling) were all singled out for praise, along with half-backs Andy Mackintosh and Kevin Dick.
Dick had a touchdown ruled out for a forward pass and also missed three kicks at goal, with Ian Wilkinson off target once.
As more evidence of how things have changed, Bradford Northern retained the Championship title in 1981 – and Wigan finished as runners-up in Division Two, behind York.
Leeds RLFC 3 (Try: Naylor)
Halifax: Feeney, O’Bryne, Garrod, Cholmondeley, Waites, Blacker (Snee), Langton, Callon, Maskill, Standidge, Walton (Sharp), Busfield, Loxton.
Leeds: Wilkinson, Naylor, Heselwood, Holmes (Dyl), Atkinson, Mackintosh, Dick, Harrison (Dickinson), Ward, Pitchford, Eccles, Cookson, Heron.
Referee: Alex Givvons.