LEEDS CAME back from the dead to pip St Helens in one of the great Challenge Cup finals, 37 years ago this week.
The Loiners, captained by David Ward and under the coaching of Syd Hynes, retained the trophy they had won a year earlier with a thrilling 14-12 victory, after trailing 10-0 after 13 minutes and 12-5 at half-time.
Leeds got off to a disastrous start in the May 13 showdown, conceding the opening try after just five minutes, when Willie Oulton dropped Harry Pinner’s kick, John Atkinson also failed to collect and Graham Liptrott touched down, with Geoff Pimblett adding the extras.
Oulton missed with a penalty kick and then Bill Francis touched down, Pimblett again tagging on the conversion.
Leeds hit back brilliantly when Atkinson made up for his earlier error with a stunning finish from Les Dyl’s pass.
Oulton landed a touchline goal, but Pimblett added a penalty before the Leeds full-back missed with his third kick of the match.
Ward kicked a drop goal soon after half-time and then David Smith crossed for an unconverted try, slipping in-goal as he tried to improve the angle for the kick.
Pimblett hit a post with a drop goal which could have won the game for Saints, but it was all Leeds now and with five minutes left Phil Cookson powered over to level the scores, though Oulton couldn’t convert.
John Holmes edged Leeds ahead with a stunning left-footed drop goal and Ward added another one-pointer, but – with seconds remaining – Saints almost snatched it only for Derek Noonan to knock-on just short of the Leeds line, on the final play of the game.
George Nicholls received the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match, though the voting was carried out when it seemed Saints would win and most pundits after the game felt Holmes was the game’s outstanding player.
(Tries: Atkinson, Smith, Cookson. Goal Oulton, Drop goals: Ward 2, Holmes)
St Helens 12 (Tries: Liptrott, Pinner. Goals Pimblett 3)
Challenge Cup final, May 13, 1978.
Leeds: Oulton, D Smith, Hague, Dyl, Atkinson, Holmes, Sanderson, M Harrison, Ward, Pitchford, Eccles, Cookson, Crane. Subs: Dick, Dickinson.
St Helens: Pimblett, Jones, Noonan, Glynn, Mathias, Francis, Gwilliam, Chisnall, Liptrot, James, Cunningham, Nicholls, Pinner. Subs: Ashton, Karalius.
Referee: Billy Thompson (Huddersfield).