Leeds Rhinos Nostalgia: Loiners prove point to new coach Bamford as relegation goes to wire
THIRTY YEARS ago Leeds were deep in a battle against relegation.
The Loiners had a dismal 1986-87 campaign and ultimately avoided the drop only on points difference from Oldham after both finished on 26 points from 30 games.
Four teams dropped out of the Stones Bitter Championship at the end of the season and Leeds finished fifth from bottom following a run of just three wins from their final 11 league matches.
They recorded a 46-4 home victory over fellow strugglers Wakefield Trinity on Boxing Day, two days after coach Peter Fox had been sacked, but 1987 began with successive defeats, Leeds losing 26-20 against Oldham at Headingley on New Year’s Day and 20-6 away to Warrington on January 4.
That was actually an encouraging performance from new boss Maurice Bamford’s side, particularly after a 54-16 drubbing by the same opponents at Headingley less than two months earlier.
The Yorkshire Evening Post’s Trevor Watson wrote: “Leeds suffered their expected defeat at Wilderspool but succeeded in [their] primary aim of avoiding another humiliation at the hands of the Rugby League’s form team.”
Leeds were without injured duo Andrew Ettingshausen and Trevor Skerrett and it was a damage-limitation exercise from the start.
“The Headingley men never looked like winning and rarely looked like scoring, but their defensive effort in the first half was their best of the season,” Watson reported.
“At least the spirit was right even if the flesh couldn’t meet the Warrington challenge.”
With Kevin Rayne setting a strong lead and Roy Powell and Colin Maskill also digging in, the visitors trailed only 4-0 – to a long-range try by Mark Roberts – at the break.
Leeds’ Trevor Clark knocked on over the line soon after half-time and Warrington responded with two quick tries to make the game safe and ensure a 14th successive win in all competitions.
Joe Ropati bagged a second-half brace and Paul Bishop also touched down and landed two goals.
David Creasser was Leeds’ lone try scorer and Mark Conway added the conversion.
(Tries: Ropati 2, Roberts, Bishop. Goals: Bishop 2)
Leeds 6 (Try: Creasser. Goal: Conway)
January 4, 1987
Warrington: Johnson, Meadows, Cullen, Ropati, Forster, Kelly (Bishop), Peters, Boyd, Tamati, Jackson, Humphreys, Roberts (Rathbone), Sanderson.
Leeds: Gill, Gibson, Clark, McGaw, Fox, Creasser, Conway, Kevin Rayne, Maskill, Turner, Powell, Price (Gunn), Heron.
Referee: Kevin Allatt.