Leeds Rhinos Flashback: Leeds defy the odds to claim Premiership title

Les Dyl.
Les Dyl.
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LEAGUE FORM throughout the year was poor, but Leeds came good at the right time to snatch silverware in their final match of the campaign.

Sound familiar, but this wasn’t 2011 or 2012, it was 1979 and the honour in question was the Premiership Trophy, a play-offs competition introduced in 1974-75 when the sport switched to making the league leaders champions.

Leeds won the Premiership Trophy twice, in 1975 and four years later, on May 27, 1979. That was one of the club’s more unexpected triumphs, after a disappointing season when they finished fourth in the league table.

Leeds had an ace up their sleeve, in Headingley’s undersoil heating. A bad winter left many clubs facing a fixture backlog, but the Loiners’ home matches were unaffected and they were able to win nine of their final 10 league games.

They then had almost a month off between their last league match and opening Premiership tie, a 21-10 home win over St Helens.

Wigan were beaten 20-10 in the semi-final, also at Headingley and Leeds went on to face Bradford Northern in the decider, at Huddersfield’s old Fartown ground.

Northern were the holders and reached the final from eighth spot in the table, but it proved to be a game too far as Leeds hit top gear to brush them aside, 24-2.

That was despite losing John Holmes, for the first time that season, shortly before kick-off and Les Dyl after just five minutes.

In front of a 20,000 crowd, Leeds dominated despite going behind to an early Steve Ferres penalty goal.

Northern boasted a huge pack, but they were weary after a hectic schedule over the final few weeks of the campaign. Leeds, much the fresher side, ran them off their feet with Kevin Dick’s kicking game pinning Bradford back throughout the match.

It took the Loiners until the 32nd minute to go ahead, Mick Harrison and Neil Hague linking to put David Smith in at the corner, for a try which Dick – who went on to win the Harry Sunderland award as man of the match – converted.

He added a penalty before the interval and then two more – plus a drop goal – afterwards as Northern began to get frustrated.

With Leeds back-rowers Graham Joyce and Graham Eccles snuffing out Bradford’s attacking threat, the game became increasingly one-sided. Alan Smith put the result beyond doubt after namesake, but no relation, David, had been pulled down just short. Dick kicked two more penalties and completed the scoring with a conversion after David Ward’s late touchdown.


Leeds 24

(Tries: D Smith, A Smith, Ward. Goals: Dick 7. Drop goal: Dick)

Bradford Northern 2
(Goal: Ferres)

Premiership trophy final 
may 27, 1979

Leeds: Hague, A Smith, D Smith, Dyl, Atkinson, Dick, Sanderson, Harrison, Ward, Pitchford, Joyce, Eccles, Cookson. Subs: Fletcher, Adams.

Bradford Northern: Mumby, Parker, Okulicz, Gant, Spencer, Ferres, A Redfearn, Thompson, Bridges, Forsyth, Trotter, Grayshon, Casey. Subs: Van Bellen, Mordue.

Referee: B Thompson.