FOR LEEDS RHINOS fans, Christmas means Boxing Day at Headingley.
From the 1960s – when Christmas Day games were dropped and undersoil heating was installed at Headingley, ensuring matches would go ahead, whatever the weather – Leeds were regularly handed a home fixture on December 26.
The tradition was continued when rugby league switched to summer and since 1996 Leeds have arranged an annual festive fixture to boost finances in the middle of pre-season.
A shared gate ensures regular opponents Wakefield Trinity are happy to begin their pre-season campaign at Leeds on December 26.
But when rugby league was a winter sport other clubs were not always pleased about Leeds’ Christmas advantage and in 1994 they were handed a Boxing Day road trip, to their Boulevard bogey ground.
It was a tough assignment for Leeds but, aided by a starring performance from hooker James Lowes, they gave their fans a late present with a superb 24-20 success over Hull.
In typical Christmas conditions – wind and driving rain – Leeds showed their class to build an 18-2 interval lead and then withstood a ferocious second half fightback.
Ellery Hanley bagged a brace of tries – taking his tally to 11 in Leeds’ last six matches – and Garry Schofield had a fine game against his former club.
That was despite a trip to the sin-bin for holding down, a fate also suffered by team-mate George Mann and Hull’s Mark Hewitt, all in the second half.
Other stand-outs for Leeds were full-back Alan Tait, whose handling in difficult conditions was top-class, Richie Eyres, Harvey Howard and Graham Holroyd.
Leeds trailed to an early penalty goal, but rallied to dominate the opening period.
They went ahead when Holroyd sent Eyres away and Craig Innes and Francis Cummins also handled before Hanley touched down.
Schofield put the captain in for a second and on the stroke of half-time Holroyd dummied over for a fine try, again off Schofield’s final pass.
Leeds looked to be sitting pretty, but a handling error at the start of the second half led to Dean Busby getting Hull back into the game.
Then, after Schofield had been sin-binned, Gary Nolan crossed followed what looked to be a knock-on by the home team and Mark Hewitt’s third goal made it 18-14.
Cummins steadied the ship with a try from Holroyd’s kick – the stand-off maintaining his 100 per cent record with the boot – and Leeds held on through a tense finale after Lee Jackson had given Hull hope with a try which Hewitt converted.
Hull 20 (Tries: Busby, Nolan, Jackson. Goals: Hewitt 4)
Leeds 24 (Tries: Hanley 2, Holroyd, Cummins. Goals: Holroyd 4)
December 26, 1994
Hull: Gay, Danby, G Nolan, Vaikona, Sterling, Endacott, Hewitt, McNamara, Richardson, Rose, Jackson, Sharp, Cassidy. Subs Busby, R Nolan.
Leeds: Tait, Fallon, Hassan, Innes, Cummins, Schofield, Holroyd, Howard, Lowes, Faimalo, Mercer, Eyres, Hanley. Subs Mann, Harmon.
Referee: Robert Connolly.