LOCAL HERO Maurice Bamford was the toast of Leeds 32 years ago this week.
Appointed coach of his local club, who he had supported all his life, Bamford inspired the Loiners to an 18-match unbeaten run at the start of his reign.
His first game in charge was a home win over Hull KR in the John Player Special Trophy second round on November 20, 1983 and Bamford did not taste defeat until a league visit to Hull on March 21 the following year.
Leeds’ ninth match under Bamford was against Widnes in the John Player final at a storm lashed Wigan, on January 14, 1984.
Leeds had been far from convincing in their run to the final, edging past hosts Blackpool 12-9 in the first round before seeing off Hull KR 12-6 and winning 16-12 at Swinton.
They faced Leigh in a semi-final at Huddersfield, which attracted a crowd of just 5,740 and survived a scare to go through 18-11, but Widnes were known as the knockout kings and were tipped by many to be too strong in the decider.
That was despite Leeds going into the final buoyed by a 17-8 victory at Naughton Park a week earlier and the fact Widnes were lacking stand-off Tony Myler.
The final was played the afternoon after a fierce storm had battered the north of England, snapping one of the Central Park goal posts in half, but it was Widnes who were blown away by an outstanding Leeds performance.
Widnes began strongly and took an early lead through a try by Ralph Linton and Mick Burke’s conversion, but teenager David Creasser got Leeds off the mark with a penalty goal on 10 minutes.
John Holmes – who had played the only other time Leeds had lifted the trophy, 11 years earlier – began to take control of the game, linking well with scrum-half Kevin Dick.
The No 7 began the move which led to Leeds’ opening try, sending man of the match Mark Laurie on a run. Dean Bell was in support and his perfectly timed pass was finished by Holmes.
Creasser’s conversion nudged Leeds ahead and then Laurie and Holmes created space for Keith Rayne to send Dick in for their second try, on 22 minutes. Creasser added the extras to make it 14-6, but Joe Lydon narrowed the gap at the interval to four points with an unconverted touchdown.
Widnes’ pack battered Leeds in the second half, but they could not find a way through and Creasser added two more penalties to seal an outstanding 18-10 success.
John Player Special Trophy final
January 14, 1984
At Central Park, Wigan
Leeds 18 (Tries Holmes, Dick. Goals Creasser 5), Widnes 10 (Tries Linton, Lydon. Goal Burke).
Referee: Billy Thompson. Attendance: 9,536.