Challenge Cup quarter final evokes memories of Leigh’s 1971 triumph

Leigh's Challenge Cup winning team of 1971
Leigh's Challenge Cup winning team of 1971

Leigh Centurions face Super League heavyweights Leeds Rhinos on Friday in the quarter finals of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup.

The game, which will be shown live on Sky Sports, takes place at Headingley Carnegie Stadium with an 8pm kick-off.

Later this year the surviving members of Leigh’s 1971 Wembley Cup-winning side will have a reunion based around the Heritage Weekend game against Workington Town on Saturday, August 30. That 24-7 victory, one of the biggest upsets in Challenge Cup history will be re-lived many times without doubt. That game remains Leigh’s last win over Leeds in the Cup. Since then Leeds have visited Hilton Park twice, in 1980 and 2006 and the LSV for a quarter-final in 2012 and run out winners on each occasion.

The sides first met in the competition in 1911 at Headingley when a late try by Barron, his second of the game, eventually sealed the tie in Leeds’ favour. In 1923 Leeds beat Leigh 11-5 at Mather Lane with a fine try by Binks and the dribbling of the visiting forwards the highlights. Leeds returned to Mather Lane eight years later when three-quarters Eric Harris, O’Rourke and Smith each scored two tries in their 24-7 win in a game that saw a player from each side dismissed. One year later Leigh put up a plucky display at Headingley in a quarter-final tie but eric Harris scored two of his side’s five tries and Leeds went on to lift the cup.

It was to be 1950 before the teams met again in the competition. First round ties were staged over two legs in those days and two huge crowds saw Leeds edge through on aggregate. A crowd of 25,000 saw Leeds win 14-7 at Headingley and 19,500 were at Kirkhall Lane one week later but Leigh’s 7-2 win was to no avail. In 1951 a Headingley crowd of 38,000 saw Leeds win 20-3 in a second round-tie.

Leigh gained revenge one year later, winning 9-5 at Kirkhall Lane before a crowd of 26,262, Harry Green scoring the decisive try and Jimmy Ledgard kicking three goals. They then lost 12-3 in a second round-tie at Headingley two years later.

In 1962 Leigh edged through the second round-tie after a replay. The first game at Hilton Park ended in a 7-7 draw after a titanic struggle, Piet Botha tying the scores with a penalty ten minutes from time. But two days later Leigh had a famous win by 17-16 when Stan Owen was their cup hero. The long-serving, iconic Leigh prop drove over for the match-winning try ten minutes from time, Botha converting. Leigh So Leigh now go to Headingley for a Challenge Cup-tie for the first time in 52 years hoping that history will repeat itself.