VICTORY WAS snatched from the jaws of defeat as Leeds sneaked past Castleford in the Premiership Trophy 26 years ago this week.
A thrilling first-round tie at Wheldon Road was decided in the final seconds when Garry Schofield forced his way over from close range after Simon Irving had been tackled just short.
The 24-20 win was a remarkable escape for Leeds, who had wasted an opportunity to snatch a replay just seconds earlier.
Trailing 20-18, Leeds were awarded a penalty in front of the posts, but Carl Gibson opted to take a quick tap and possession was lost.
The error seemed to hand the game to Castleford, but Leeds – controversially – got the feed at a scrum deep in home territory in the 80th minute and that set up Schofield’s winning touchdown.
Castleford had home advantage after finishing fourth in the Stones Bitter Championship, one place and four points clear of Leeds.
Schofield was also involved in controversy in the first half. John Joyner scored the opening try for the hosts, but Schofield seemed to have edged the Loiners in front when he intercepted Joyner’s pass and raced 70 metres to score.
Or not. Referee Jim Smith instead awarded Castleford a scrum, where Schofield had snatched the ball, for an alleged knock-on by the Leeds stand-off.
Schofield was incensed and received a yellow card for his protests. After the game Leeds coach David Ward said Smith had admitted at half-time he had made a mistake and apologised for the error.
That incident spurred Leeds into taking a 10-4 lead into the break, through tries by Cavill Heugh and Vince Fawcett and the first of Irving’s three goals.
Schofield added a one-pointer early in the second half, but Castleford refused to lie down and Kevin Beardmore’s try and a Lee Crooks conversion gave them hope.
Schofield booted a second drop goal and Gary Divorty sent Paul Dixon in for a converted try which made it 18-10, after Leeds’ Colin Maskill and Jeff Hardy of Cas had been sin-binned for their role in a huge brawl.
The hosts handled the disruption better. A mistake by John Gallagher led to a try for Keith England, Crooks converting and Cas went ahead when Grant Anderson set up a try for St John Ellis.
Despite almost letting Castleford off the hook, it was one of Leeds’ best performances of the season with Divorty, Dixon, Schofield and half-back partner Paul Harkin all on top of their game.
(Tries: Joyner, Beardmore, England, Ellis. Goals: Crooks 2)
(Tries: Heugh, Fawcett, Dixon, Schofield. Goals: Irving 3. Drop goals: Schofield 2)
April 21, 1991. Premiership first round
Castleford: Fletcher, Wray, Irwin, Anderson, Ellis, Steadman, French, Crooks, Beardmore, Sampson, England, Hardy, Joyner. Subs Battye, Larder.
Leeds: Gallagher, Fawcett, Gibson, Irving, Ford, Schofield, Harkin, Powell, Maskill, Wane, Heugh, Dixon, Divorty. Subs Heron, Lord.
Referee: Jim Smith.
Four years ago today Leeds beat Castleford 28-12 in the Challenge Cup fourth round at Headingley. Try scorers for Leeds were Danny McGuire (2), Rob Burrow, Kallum Watkins and Chris Clarkson and Kevin Sinfield kicked four goals.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats lost 52-22 at Headingley on this day in 2002. Chev Walker scored a hat-trick, Ben Walker crossed and kicked seven goals and other try scorers were Francis Cummins, Keith Senior, Ryan Sheridan, Matt Adamson and Rob Burrow. Kevin Sinfield added a goal.
Leeds suffered two derby defeats in three days, beaten 36-25 at Castleford on April 17 and 18-10 at home by Bradford on April 19. David Smith and David Ward scored tries against Northern and Chris Gibson kicked two goals.
Leeds beat Widnes 31-17 at Headingley in a Championship play-off at Headingley 49 years ago today. Frank Brown scored two tries and two goals, Mick Shoebottom (pictured) bagged a brace and added a drop goal and Albert Eyre, John Atkinson and Syd Hynes also crossed. Barry Seabourne added two goals.