Leeds Rhinos Bygones: Leeds look on green with envy as Wigan wing Vigo cuts loose

Wigan's Green Vigo who tormented Leeds in 1977.

Wigan's Green Vigo who tormented Leeds in 1977.

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IN THE 1970s rugby league was a key ingredient in the BBC’s Saturday afternoon sports coverage.

The Grandstand programme, which ran from 1958-2007, regularly broadcast live matches with commentary by the legendary Eddie Waring.

Leeds often played in front of the live cameras, particularly in the depths of winter when Headingley’s electric blanket undersoil heating system guaranteed games would go ahead.

One of the most famous – or notorious, from Leeds’ point of view – of these Grandstand games was played on October 22, 1977, when Wigan visited Headingley in the first round of the John Player knockout competition.

At the time Leeds were possibly the most erratic team in the English game, capable of outstanding attacking brilliance and moments of abject disappointment.

The clash with Wigan featured both, but is mainly remembered for a stunning performance by Wigan’s South African winger Green Vigo.

He scored a dazzling, match-winning hat-trick which traumatised his opposing winger John Atkinson so much he briefly announced his retirement, though he returned to action within three months.

Wigan took an early lead through a try by Jim Hornby, converted by Jim Nulty, but Leeds levelled when John ‘Sammy’ Sanderson crossed and Kevin Dick landed a goal from the touchline.

Graham Eccles touched down for a try which Dick improved, but there was a warning for the hosts when Vigo rounded Atkinson for a brilliant try from halfway.

Nulty levelled matters at 10-10 and Loiners full-back John Holmes made three try-saving tackles either side of half-time before Les Dyl touched down from his own kick.

Sanderson went in for Leeds’ fourth try, Dick converting both and the Loiners seemed home and dry, leading 20-10 with 15 minutes left.

But Nulty pulled a try back, which he also improved and then Vigo again beat Atkinson to score his second spectacular touchdown.

Nulty levelled the scores with his fourth conversion and again squared matters with a penalty goal, after Dick had edged Leeds in front in similar style.

A classic tie was settled in the final minute when Vigo broke away for his hat-trick, completing a 25-22 win for the visitors.

Vigo’s performance that afternoon featured on a BBC compilation video of 101 top tries, released in the 1990s.


Leeds 22

(Tries: Sanderson 2, Eccles, Dyl. Goals: Dick 5)

Wigan 25
(Tries: Vigo 3, Hornby, Nulty. Goals: Nulty 5).

October 22, 1977

John Player Trophy 
round one.

Leeds: Holmes, A Smith, D Smith, Dyl, Atkinson, Hague, Sanderson, Harrison, Ward, Pitchford, Eccles, Cookson, Fearnley. Subs Dick, Dickinson.

Wigan: Swann, Vigo, Davies, Willicombe, Hornby, Taylor, Nulty, Hogan, Aspinall, Irving, Ashurst, Regan, Melling.

Referee: JV Moss.