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Leeds Rhinos

2017 Super League Champions

The Trinity Boxing Day tradition

20th December 2017 | 11:44 am

By Phil Daly

The Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge is fast approaching on Boxing Day and here we look back at previous battles with Wakefield on 26th December as we travel to Beaumont Legal Stadium for the first time on Boxing Day, kick off 11.30am.

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The Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge is fast approaching on Boxing Day and here we look back at previous battles with Wakefield on 26th December as we travel to Beaumont Legal Stadium for the first time on Boxing Day, kick off 11.30am.

Wakefield became the fourth side to play at Headingley in a Boxing Day festive friendly in the summer era in 2005 – following on from Halifax four times, Castleford three and Bradford – in a repeat of the fixture that these sides traditionally became synonymous with.

In all, the great Yorkshire rivals have faced each other nearly 40 times with an 18-18 draw back in 2013 only the second draw matching the 13-13 draw in 1974 when a season’s best attendance of just over 8,000 saw Les Sheard star for the visitors and Les Dyl’s try – following a typically destructive run out wide – providing the home highlight.

With feisty matches against derby neighbours Hunslet occupying the popular slot in the early part of the twentieth century, Leeds and Wakefield first met at Headingley on the 26th December in 1928 when Welsh international forward Dan Pascoe’s try and the redoubtable Joe Thompson’s boot ensured a narrow 5-3 victory, the Loiners 17th successive match without defeat. Because of the punishing Christmas holiday schedules in those early years of the Northern Union, as the battle to build up a committed fan base intensified, the sides had met in two notable encounters prior to that but not on the actual day itself. In 1902, the excellent half back George Mosley, whose high profile transfer with a number of team mates from the Leeds Parish Church side the year before had ensured that the code would be a huge success in the city, scored the only goal for Leeds as they lost 5-2 at Belle Vue on December 27th after Leeds had already beaten Manningham at home on Christmas Day and lost at Normanton the following afternoon. Similarly, six years later Wakefield triumphed 24-11 at Headingley on December 28th – a match which saw future war hero Bill Jarman make a try scoring debut for the Loiners – as Leeds lost their third game in four days having succumbed to the inaugural Australian tourists on Christmas Day and at Parkside the next.

The sides met regularly during the 1930’s, Leeds exacting their biggest holiday success to date in the 1929-30 campaign. Aussie centre Jeff Moores crossed for four of their eight touchdowns in a 43-3 thrashing as the Loiners went on to reach their third Championship Final, only to be thwarted by Huddersfield on each occasion. The following season, Leeds arrived at Belle Vue on Boxing Day again on the back of a 17 match unbeaten run and although both sides scored two tries – the blue and amber brace coming from former Trinity favourite, international winger Stan Smith – the hosts ran out 10-6 winners. During the late 30’s, the fixture tended to be played on Christmas Day (matches against Batley taking the Boxing Day spot) with a noteworthy clash occuring at Headingley in 1937-38 as the sides fought out the rarest of outcomes a 0-0 draw which saw Leeds end that calendar year as league leaders.

The next season, the last before war time intervened, it was back to Boxing Day where a Cliff Evans try and goal just saw the Loiners home 5-4. With the resumption of full time competition after the hostilities, the Boxing Day clash with Trinity was re-instated in 1946, Leeds going two successive clashes without conceding a point. Dickie Williams’ electrifying hat trick set up a 24-0 success and the following season Australian winger Len Kenny matched him, Ernest Whitehead collecting 13 points from a try and five goals as Leeds won comfortably 31-0. The tradition of free-scoring blue and amber fliers having success in the fixture was maintained in the 1950’s, George Broughton and youngster Garry Hemmingway both claiming three-timers in Headingley victories before the tide turned in favour of Trinity as they became the dominant force in the game. In 1959, a Leeds side in transition had only a Don Robinson try to show in a 39-6 Headingley thrashing and five years later Wakefield did the double in the course of three days by an aggregate score of 56-10.

The mid-morning Boxing Day fixture generally between the sides became the staple diet of BBCTV’s extended ‘Grandstand’ coverage after undersoil heating had been installed at Headingley in 1963, the last two regular clashes producing the identical outcome. In 1977 a try and four goals from Willie Oulton against his former club saw Leeds home 22-6 and it was the same score line a year later when current Chief Executive Gary Hetherington kicked a goal to compliment Les Dyl’s two fine tries. After a gap of almost ten years, the sides renewed battle in 1986 in a match dominated by Aussie pin up Andrew Ettingshausen who romped over for a hat trick in a stunning 46-4 success and set up one of the fastest tries ever seen at Headingley when running almost the length of the field from the kick off to send David Creasser over.

The last time the sides met in a competitive fixture on the ‘Feast of Stephen’ was in 1993 when a crowd of around 14,500 witnessed tries by Francis Cummins, Jim Fallon, Garry Schofield and Alan Tait which just saw the Loiners home 20-16, former Headingley Carnegie star Mark Conway kicking four goals for Trinity in reply.

Since the reinstatment of the annual fixture between the two side’s Leeds won the first two before Wakefield took the spoils in the next two meetings. Leeds won the next four meetings however three year’s ago the game was not actually played on Boxing Day because of a frozen pitch. It was switched to New Years Day and was part of a dual code day of rugby. The Rhinos won 40-22 on that occasion.

Wakefield have won the last two Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenges and will be looking to make it three in a row on home soil on Tuesday morning.

Tickets are on sale now for this season’s Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge. Call 0371 423 1315 or go online to tickets.therhinos.co.uk to buy 24 hours a day.

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