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Flashback: Cliff Lyons recalls Elland Road final triumph as Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers collide again

Cliff Lyons: Man of the match in the Elland Road final.
Cliff Lyons: Man of the match in the Elland Road final.
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CLIFF LYONS thinks back: “I remember it pretty well. Schoey scored three tries didn’t he?”

Well, not quite. It was two. And not even the legendary Garry Schofield, with all his fondness of talking and powers of persuasion, can re-write history.

Australian Lyons, his former Leeds team-mate, is recalling the 1988 Yorkshire Cup final when the star-studded Loiners beat Castleford at Elland Road.

Tonight the two West Yorkshire rivals meet at Leeds United’s ground for the first time since that day 30 years ago so the showpiece occasion has been recollected plenty in the build-up to the Super League game.

Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post from Australia, Lyons has more reason than most to remember it given the gifted stand-off was man-of-the-match as Mal Reilly’s Leeds prospered 33-12.

But his memory lapses slightly as Schofield – then still a centre before making his own switch to No 6 – did only manage a brace, admittedly a crucial one including a classy 80m interception.

There was some great people at Leeds. Harry Jepson came to pick me up at the airport when I first flew over. He was a lovely man. I loved it over there. I made some good friends.

Cliff Lyons

With his distinctive moustache, curly locks and nuggety frame, Lyons was unmistakable out on the Elland Road pitch, picking passes and making kicks that saw Leeds turn a 15-12 interval advantage into something far more convincing.

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Arriving unheralded, he first played for Leeds in 1985-86, scoring 16 tries in 29 games, and, the following British season was signed by current Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington for a short six-game stint at newly-formed Sheffield Eagles.

In between, though, he joined Manly where he would become a living legend, helping them to Grand Final successes in 1987 and 1996, playing more than 300 games and forming a famously piercing right-edge partnership with Steve ‘Beaver’ Menzies.

In any other era, Lyons would have won countless Test caps but he came up against the likes of Wally Lewis and Brett Kenny so did not even make his Kangaroos debut until the age of 29 when he was back in England on tour.

However, he thrived and, overall, has fond memories of his time in Yorkshire, too.

READ MORE - Leeds Rhinos’ news, match reports, features and analysis

Looking back at that Yorkshire Cup final, Lyons said: “It was a good team we had out. Mal was great. I thought he was a great coach and, in my first spell I had Peter Fox, too.

“There was some great people at Leeds. Harry Jepson came to pick me up at the airport when I first flew over. He was a lovely man. I loved it over there. I made some good friends. I’m still friends with (hooker) Colin Maskill and talk to him a bit, and Ray Abbey, one of the trainers.

“I actually learned a lot over there. I got to experience some tough footy and learn how to steer the boys around the park a bit. It was great. I had an awesome time with Leeds.

“Lee Crooks was a good bloke and Roy Powell was fantastic. He was a real nice guy and it was a real shock when he passed away.

“There was Ray Ashton at scrum-half, Carl Gibson on one wing and ET (Australia international Andrew Ettinghausen) on the other.

“As well as ET, there was Sam Backo from back home, too, and we still keep in touch and chat about our good times at Leeds.

“On that day itself, I enjoyed it at Elland Road as it was a big ground and we got a huge crowd in. I think it was about 22,000.

“Cas had Ronnie Gibbs there, who I knew from back home at Manly, and Gary Belcher, the Australian full-back.

“But there was John Joyner, the Beardmore twins as well as big Kevin Ward who I played with for Manly, too.

“They were a good team and I remember David Plange on the wing as well. For a while they were on top of us. They took some getting over.

“We had to work our way into the match and David Stephenson scored a penalty just before half-time which was important.

“Schoey had scored his tries then Carl Gibson got two in the second half, Paul Medley got in as well, and David Stephenson kicked his goals.

“We eventually pulled away,” he recalled.

READ MORE - Castleford Tigers’ news, match reports, features and analysis

Lyons admitted he would have liked a third spell back at Headingley.

“There was always talk about it but I had to concentrate on my work back at home so it never happened,” he said.

“I worked in the development side for Manly and go out to all the schools working with the kids. But my daughter Courtney was actually born in Leeds.

“She’s 29 now. She’s been over there and visited the hospital where she was born.

“I’ve been over a few times since as well, obviously with the 1990 Kangaroos. That was my first tour. I didn’t get picked for the first Test (loss) at Wembley which was a shame but I did for the second and then the decider which was at Elland Road as well.

“My only regret is not playing at Wembley. We had a good opportunity to get there with Leeds in 1986 but drew with Hull KR in the semi and I’d gone back before the replay. I still watch Leeds, though, and I will be turning the box on on Friday.”