ToMORROW’s TETLEY’S Challenge Cup quarter-final between Leeds Rhinos and Leigh Centurions will revive memories of one of the biggest controversies in the competition’s history.
In 1971 Leeds and Leigh met in the final at Wembley, with the Headingley outfit expected to lift the trophy for the eighth time.
Leeds were hot favourites, despite having finished just one place and four points clear of Leigh, who were an impressive fourth at the end of the one division league campaign.
The Loiners were missing some of their leading lights, most tragically Mick Shoebottom, who never played again after suffering a head injury in a play-off tie against Salford at Headingley a couple of weeks before Wembley.
Also missing were Alan Smith (knee) and Ray Batten (shoulder), so Leeds had to field a reshuffled side for the final with John Langley on the right-wing, Bill Ramsey at loose-forward, David Hick in the second-row and Barry Seabourne – who had not played in any of the earlier rounds – at scrum-half.
Despite Leeds’ problems and how well Leigh had done that year, the crowd of 85,514 turned up expecting a one-sided contest and they got one, though not in the manner predicted.
Leigh, led by player-coach Alex Murphy, were on top from the start.
They were ahead as early as the fifth minute through a Jim Fiddler drop goal.
Then Stuart Ferguson booted a penalty after an offence by Syd Hynes, who was Leeds’ captain on the day despite Seabourne’s return.
Stan Dorrington went over for the opening try and when Ferguson added the extras shell-shocked Leeds trailed 9-0 after just 25 minutes.
Things got even worse for Leeds when Murphy potted a drop goal and Ferguson added a second penalty to send Leigh in at the break 13-0 ahead.
John Holmes missed with a penalty kick – at 13-0 down, which shows how much tactics have changed – before getting Leeds on the board with a similar effort on 48 minutes.
That gave Leeds hope, but Leigh responded with another Murphy drop and Ferguson’s third penalty to make it 17-2 – and then came the controversy.
Murphy and Hynes clashed, the latter went down and Leeds’ skipper became the first man sent off in a Challenge Cup final, referee Billy Thompson making the historic decision.
Murphy was stretchered off and some Leeds fans still claim he winked at them as he left the field.
He later returned to lift the trophy and the Lance Todd prize of man of the match, after David Eckersley added another drop goal for Leigh and then crossed for a try, converted by Ferguson, before Tony Wainwright was awarded a penalty try and Holmes completed the scoring with the conversion.