A MASSIVE cash windfall was the consolation for Leeds after they were dumped out of the Challenge Cup by Widnes 26 years ago this week.
A huge crowd of 26,282 turned up at Headingley for the quarter-final blockbuster – on February 26, 1989 – and the majority of them went home disappointed after Leeds were beaten 24-4.
It was Leeds’ biggest home crowd for 27 years and just the third Challenge Cup tie played away from Wembley to produce receipts of more than £100,000.
Before then the only club match – other than semi-finals or finals – to bring in six-figure receipts was the World Club Challenge clash between Wigan and Manly, in 1987.
The attendance was the highest for a Leeds game at Headingley since 1962, when 27,741 turned up for a league derby against Wakefield Trinity, producing receipts of £2,979. Having been involved in the preliminary round, it was Leeds’ fourth Challenge Cup tie of the season and they shared in total receipts of more than £200,000, but hopes of a Wembley appearance were dashed by a superior Widnes team.
The Loiners had an early chance when Cliff Lyons kicked over the line after only three minutes, but John Bentley couldn’t touch down and from then on Widnes were in complete command. It was 14-0 at the interval and Widnes maintained their dominance in the second half, wrapping up their win through a Martin Offiah interception try.
Joe Grima bagged a brace and Richie Eyres and Andy Currier – who added two goals – were the visitors’ other try scorers.
Leeds avoided a whitewash thanks to a try by captain Lee Crooks, who was one of the few home players to emerge from the debacle with any credit.
Hugh Waddell also worked hard for the Loiners and Paul Delaney was spirited at scrum-half, but Phil Ford provided their only real attacking threat.
One brilliant run took him close to the line in the first half and he also threatened on one occasion in the second, though he was starved of quality passes. Ford’s finest moment, however, was a stunning cover tackle on Offiah before half-time.
It was Leeds’ fifth Challenge Cup defeat of the decade at Widnes’ hands and came only two months after they had recorded an impressive 20-8 league win at Naughton Park – though the Chemics won 30-14 in Headingley’s first competitive game of the campaign.