When Featherstone Rovers was Leeds Rhinos' home from home

Quiz question: How many grounds have Leeds rugby league/Rhinos played home games on?

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 31st May 2020, 5:00 pm

Headingley has been the club’s base since 1890 and will celebrate its 130th birthday as a rugby venue in September.

On Christmas Eve, 1938, Salford were beaten 5-0 in a game played on Headingley’s cricket pitch, because the rugby ground was frozen.

In 2018, during rebuilding work at Headingley, Rhinos faced Hull KR and Castleford Tigers at Leeds United’s Elland Road. The football stadium was also used for four World Club Challenge ties, against Canterbury Bulldogs in 2005, Melbourne Storm in 2008 and 2010 and Manly Sea Eagles in 2009.

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Richie Myler scores for Leeds Rhinos in their Cup win over Leigh at Featherstone. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

Two years ago today, Rhinos staged a home Challenge Cup tie against Leigh Centurions at Featherstone Rovers’ Post Office Road.

The quarter-finals were due to be played over four days, from Thursday, May 31, to Sunday, June 3.

Headingley had already been booked to host the second cricket Test between England and Pakistan from June 1.

That ruled out not only the entire weekend, but also Thursday night as the stadium could not be used the day before the Test for security reasons.

Jordan Lilley kicks for goal in Leeds' 'home' Cup tie at Featherstone. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

The solution Rhinos’ management came up with was to move the tie 18 miles to partner club Featherstone, which became Leeds’ third ‘home’ ground of the season and their fourth in all.

Playing on neutral turf - and a ground their opponents were familiar with - was necessary, but far from ideal for Rhinos.

Leeds were on the crest of a slump, having won only two of their previous seven games. Leigh, in contrast, were flying high in the Betfred Championship and on a 10-game winning run.

It looked like a potentially tricky assignment for Rhinos, but they proved far too strong - helped by a moment of madness from Leigh full-back Peter Mata’utia.

Coach Brian McDermott watches on as Jimmy Keinhorst trains at Post Office Road the day before the game. Picture by Tony Johnson.

The Aussie, who later joined Castleford Tigers, was sent-off by referee Chris Kendall after just eight minutes, for a dangerous tackle on Matt Parcell.

The Leeds hooker was upended through 180 degrees and the official had little choice but to show a red card.

At that stage Leigh led 6-0 and it looked like Rhinos were in for a difficult night, but the 12 men were overwhelmed.

Rhinos scored from the penalty and soon afterwards hit a purple patch which produced five tries without Leigh having possession.

Leeds, who had nine players missing through injury and lost three more to knocks picked up during the game, were 40-12 up at the break.

They eased off in the second period, playing up the slope, but were even more convincing winners than the 52-22 scoreline suggests.

The tie finished 12 versus 10, Rhinos forward Brett Ferres being sin-binned, along with opponent Jamie Acton, in the 73rd minute.

Then, in the final seconds, Leigh were shown a second red card when Matty Dawson-Jones was sent-off for dissent.

Both Mata’utia and Dawson-Jones were charged with a grade E offence, which could have led to an eight-game ban.

Mata’utia was suspended for four matches and his teammate ordered to miss five.

The crowd was announced as 3,277. Try scorers Jack Walker and Ashton Golding - who was introduced off the bench at acting-half after Parcell was injured - were Leeds’ most impressive players.

Tom Briscoe touched down twice and Ash Handley, Jimmy Keinhorst, Richie Myler, Cameron Smith and Adam Cuthbertson also crossed. Jordan Lilley landed eight goals.

As well as the four venues mentioned above, Leeds’ first game - in 1890 - was played at the former St John’s club’s Cardigan Fields ground as the new Headingley stadium was not ready. That was a rugby union fixture.

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