A LAST-GASP converted try snatched an 18-17 victory for Leeds over Salford in a classic John Player Trophy tie at Headingley 41 years ago today.
The following season’s Leeds Supporters’ Club handbook described the second round clash as “one of the best games seen at Headingley for years”.
For much of the game Salford looked on course to end a terrible record away to Leeds. They had not won at Headingley for 17 years and been beaten in 11 successive visits.
The visitors produced a stylish performance to race into a 13-5 interval lead through tries by Sam Turnbull, Ken Gill and John Butler, two of which David Watkins converted.
Neil Hague finished off a stunning long-range move – also involving Peter Banner, John Holmes and Les Dyl – for Leeds’ only first half try, David Marshall adding the extras.
There was controversy when Leeds winger David Smith seemed to have scored, but referee Mick Naughton disallowed the try for a knock-on.
Leeds looked out on their feet at half-time, but the rest revived them and they stepped up a gear in the second half to throw a series of attacks at Salford’s defence.
The visitors eventually cracked when Holmes and Steve Pitchford carried Leeds upfield and Dyl was in support to score.
That was unconverted, but the Loiners struck again through David Smith, after outstanding play by Hague and Phil Cookson and Marshall’s touchline goal levelled the scores with nine minutes left.
Salford found the energy to rally with a try by Maurice Richards. Watkins could not convert, but did add a drop goal to give his team a four-point lead with just seconds left.
There was one last twist though as, in stoppage time, Leeds launched a final desperate assault which ended with substitute Paul Fletcher touching down wide out.
With Leeds one point behind and time up everything hinged on the conversion, which Marshall coolly landed from the touchline to send the home team through to the next round.
Leeds 18 (Tries: Dyl, Hague, D Smith, Fletcher. Goals: Marshall 3)
Salford 17 (Tries: Turnbull, Gill, Butler, Richards. Goals: Watkins 2. Drop goal: Watkins)
November 6, 1976, John Player Trophy round two.
Leeds: Marshall, A Smith, Hague, Dyl, D Smith, Holmes, Banner, Harrison, Ward, Pitchford, Eccles, Dickinson, Cookson. Subs: Fletcher, Dickens.
Salford: Watkins, Fielding, Butler, Graham, Richards, Gill, Nash, Coulman, Clarke, Mantley, Dixon, Turnbull, Knighton. Sub: Sheffield.
Referee: Mick Naughton.