ONE OF Leeds’ finest wins of the 1980s happened 28 years ago this week.
Leeds’ form on the road early in the 1988-89 season was excellent and they travelled to Naughton Park – graveyard of their hopes so often in the past – having won four of their five away games, but lost three of their previous four at home.
After a 30-14 victory at Headingley in September, reigning champions Widnes were expected to be too strong when the teams met on December 18.
But instead of rolling over, Leeds defied the odds to pull off a remarkable 20-8 victory which left their hosts battered and bruised.
The Loiners – without key man Garry Schofield – did it the hard way, trailing early on to a magnificent try by Martin Offiah and being hammered 17-2 in the penalty count.
Offiah outpaced Andrew Ettingshausen to give Widnes a flying start and the home team might have run away with the game but for a moment of magic from Leeds forward Roy Powell.
Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Trevor Watson wrote: “If there was an incident which swung the match it came in the 15th minute, when Leeds were still 4-0 down.
“Alan Tait swept up the right touchline with Rick Thackray on the outside and Ettingshausen to beat. But Roy Powell gave covering chase and when Tait dummied and cut inside, the big second-row man, after running a long way, dived to click his ankles for a vital save.”
After that Widnes were unable to find a way through Leeds’ defence and had to settle for two penalty goals by Andy Currier.
Packmen Lee Crooks, Colin Maskill and Hugh Waddell led Leeds’ fightback with support from halves Cliff Lyons and Ray Ashton, who were both among the try scorers.
Maskill scored a vital try for Leeds, from a pass by Lyons and Watson reported: “He has rarely played better, making some important breaks and doing a solid tackling stint.”
It was a memorable afternoon for winger John Bentley, who scored his first Leeds try and pinned Widnes back in the second half with some long-range kicking.
(Try: Offiah. Goals: Currie 2)
Leeds 20 (Tries: Lyons, Bentley, Maskill, Ashton. Goals: Stephenson 2)
December 18, 1988
Widnes: Tait, Thackray, Currier, Wright, Offiah, Myler, D Hulme, Pyke, McKenzie, Grima (Dowd 65), O’Neill, Evans, P Hulme (Koloto 46).
Leeds: Ettingshausen, Bentley, G Lord, Stephenson, Gibson, C Lyons, Ashton, Crooks, Maskill, Waddell, Powell, Price (Medley 51), Heron. Unused sub Backo.
Referee: Ray Tennant.