Flashback: When Leeds Rhinos turned the tide in inaugural summer Super League season

Graham Holroyd and Gary Mercer. PIC: Steve Riding
Graham Holroyd and Gary Mercer. PIC: Steve Riding
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LEEDS RHINOS are Super League’s most successful club with eight Grand Final wins, but there have been ups and downs along the way. As preparations begin for the new campaign, each Monday the Yorkshire Evening Post will pick out a key game from one of the past summer seasons, beginning with the inaugural 1996 campaign.

LEEDS RHINOS seem to struggle in years ending in a six. The 1996 and 2016 seasons were the club’s poorest of the Super League era and they also came out of 2006 empty-handed.

Tony Kemp. PIC: Steve Riding

Tony Kemp. PIC: Steve Riding

Twenty-one years ago the club was in deep trouble on and off the field.

Dean Bell took over as coach from Doug Laughton and, forced to field a host of untested youngsters, endured a nightmare year.

Cash-strapped Leeds – not yet known as Rhinos – were never outside the bottom three and managed just six victories in the league.

One of the most crucial was away to Workington Town on June 6.

Garry Schofield

Garry Schofield

The Cumbrian team were bottom of the table, with Leeds just one place better off in 11th.

Defeat would have been a disaster for Leeds, but Bell’s men overcame a dismal start to ease to a precious 48-18 success. That lifted them to 10th in the table, where they remained for the rest of the year.

In front of a crowd of just 2,949, Leeds, who gave a debut to new signing David Hulme, trailed 8-0 after just 10 minutes, but then scored 18 unanswered points before the break.

Workington got off to a flier when Marvin Golden spilled Wayne Kitchin’s bomb in the first minute and Mark Johnson took advantage to cross for the opening try.

Kitchin converted and added a penalty, but Leeds – led by halves Tony Kemp and Graham Holroyd and prop Barrie McDermott – gradually gained the upper hand.

Kevin Iro’s pass sent Kemp over to get Leeds off the mark and Holroyd landed the first of his eight goals from as many attempts.

Kemp put Holroyd in and, after Town’s Paul Burns had been sin-binned for holding down, an interception by Holroyd set up a touchdown for Kemp.

Golden’s score, off an outstanding pass by Gary Mercer, at the start of the second half, extended the advantage.

Lee Chilton pulled a try back, improved by Kitchin, but the Loiners replied immediately through substitute Adrian Morley, then Mercer touched down.

Lafaele Filipo crossed late on, but Town were reduced to 12 players when Brad Nairn was sent-off for protesting at being sin-binned and Dean Clark finished off a fine Leeds move to complete the scoring.


Workington 18 (Tries: Johnson, Chilton, Filipo. Goals: Kitchin 3) Leeds 48 (Tries: Kemp 2, Holroyd 2, Golden, Morley, Mercer, Clark. Goals: Holroyd 2)

Workington: J Smith, Chilton, Burns, Allen, Johnson, Carter, Kitchin, Filipo, Bethwaite, Phillips, Palmada, Holgate, Nairn. Subs: Armstrong, Whalley, Grima, Howarth.

Leeds Rhinos: Maher, Golden, Iro, Cummins, Hassan, Kemp, Holroyd, Harmon, Newton, McDermott, Mann, Mercer, Clark, Subs: Tait, Morley, Fozzard, Hulme.

Referee: Karl Kirkpatrick.

Attendance: 2,949.

Other blasts from the past ...


Simon Irving scored a try and nine goals when Leeds beat visitors Halifax 58-6 in a Regal Trophy preliminary round tie on November 18. Garry Schofield and Mike Kuiti both crossed twice and other try scorers were Phil Ford, David Creasser, Paul Delaney, Colin Maskill and Paul Dixon.


Leeds were beaten 28-10 by Castleford Tigers at Headingley 34 years ago today. John Holmes and David Ward scored Leeds’ tries and David Creasser added a goal.


Kevin Dick kicked three goals and was then sent-off in a 25-11 defeat at Leigh on November 15. Les Dyl scored a fine solo try and John Holmes added a goal.


A 27-14 home win over Hull on November 16 was Leeds’ fourth game in 10 days, after home and away victories against York and a Floodlit Trophy defeat at Leigh. Try scorers against Hull were Bernard Watson and Frank Brown with two each, plus Syd Hynes. Bev Risman added six goals.