On this Day – 31st July

Joel Moon congratulated by Kallum Watkins

On this day in 1965, New Zealand Test player George man signed for Leeds, aged 26, in 1994 and was one of three overseas signings made that season, along with Esene Faimalo and Patrick Entat. He made his debut on the opening day of the 1994-95 season in the 22-16 win over Workington, coming on as a substitute and went onto make a further 19 starts and a further 15 appearances off the bench that debut season.

One of his most impressive displays for the side that campaign was against Australia, and despite many of the Leeds side being out-muscled in the 48-6 defeat George was able to break tackles and get into clear positions. Mann’s efforts brought Leeds their only moments of real hope, twice forcing the Aussies to turn and chase him on a night when most Leeds players were frustrated with their lack of chances.

The following year he made 23 starts and scored 6 tries. He stayed with the team for one more season and was part of the side’s first Super League campaign, making 15 starts, 4 substitute appearances and scored 4 tries. Prior to joining Leeds, George played for St Helens, with whom he spent 5 years. He had joined Saints from New Zealand club Mangere East.

After leaving Leeds George went onto play for Widens and Warrington where he played 24 tomes before a tackle which left him with horrific facial injuries, including a broken jaw ended his career.

On this day in 2005 the Rhinos played Toulouse in the semi final of the Challenge Cup. Toulouse, who came into the game as underdogs actually scored in their first set of six.

Loose forward Adrien Viala ran direct at the Leeds defence and forced his way though the tackle of Keith Senior to touch down and give Toulouse a surprise 4-0 lead after three minutes. The Rhinos however soon hit back when four minutes later Richard Mathers pin point kick to the corner was palmed back into play by Chev Walker and Chris McKenna collected to touch down in the corner. Burrow then kicked the conversion to give the Rhinos the lead. Toulouse were undeterred though and enjoyed a spell of pressure in the Leeds quarter which brought about their second try. Barrie McDermott tried to offload twenty metres out but Toulouse were quickest to react and eventually scrum half James Wynne stepped back inside and just had enough strength to hold off the tackle of Lauitiiti and Mathers to stretch out and score. The conversion gave Toulouse a 10-4 lead after 15 minutes.

Gareth Ellis then took a well timed pass off Danny McGuire to slice through the Toulouse defence and touch down in the corner giving Burrow another tough conversion attempt which he cooly slotted over to retake the lead 12-10 after 17 minutes. The Rhinos had other chances the best of which fell to Willie Poching who drove his way through the defence and was just unable to get the pass away one handed to set up Marcus Bai. The men from the South of France though were not overawed by playing the World Champions and Damien Couturier levelled the scores with a penalty from 20 metres out. Once again the Rhinos responded and Matt Diskin made a brilliant break from dummy half that caught the Toulouse defence napping. Then, just as the chance seemed to be snuffed out, he produced a brilliant offload to the supporting Danny McGuire who scored. Burrow’s conversion made it 18-12 after 34 minutes.

The Rhinos now looked to turn the screw as the semi professional side began to tire. The Rhinos moved the ball down field and Ali Lauitiiti cut a good angle to make the extra man and score. Burrow could not add the conversion though. However, with the half time hooter about to blow the first half still had one more trick up it’s sleeve. Danny McGuire was harshly penalised for a late tackle on full back Sam Murphy. Murphy seemed to have given himself up by just lying on a loose ball and McGuire completed the tackle by dragging him into touch. From the ensuing penalty, Toulouse moved the ball across field and Sebastien Raguin skipped through some weak defence by the Rhinos before stepping passed Mathers to score. The conversion from Couturier brought the scores to 22-18 and the French could have gone in at half time in front when they nearly scored from the last play of the half only for David Delpox to be caught short of the line.

The Rhinos got off to the best possible start to the second half when Marcus Bai was on hand to take the pass from Matt Diskin to round off a great team move after 42 minutes. Burrow added the conversion to stretch the lead to ten points. Burrow then made a perfectly timed 40:20 kick and from the next set the Rhinos were in again. McGuire took the ball in centre field then floated out a pass to Calderwood to score in the corner with Burrow again adding the extras to make it 34-18 after 53 minutes. The Rhinos then finally looked to have taken control of the semi final when seven minutes later Burrow added to his points haul for the day with a converted try. McGuire then added another try, racing from 40 metres out and Burrow added the conversion.

The Rhinos did eventually broke the 50 point barrier when Chev Walker used every ounce of his power and strength to force his way over for a try after 72 minutes, Burrow again successful. The game finished on a high for the Rhinos as Willie Poching scored with the final touch of the game before Barrie McDermott attempted the conversion but pushed it wide to leave the final score 56-18.

In 2015, Leeds Rhinos were also in Challenge Cup semi final action as they took on St Helens at Warrington, looking to get back to Wembley having won the Cup the previous season.

In a last-four tie between Super League’s two leading sides, Zak Hardaker and Joel Moon put Leeds ahead.

A superb effort by Rhinos veteran Jamie Peacock made it 18-4, but two tries by Mark Percival kept Saints in touch.

However, Kallum Watkins crossed late to set up a clash with Hull KR at Wembley.

In 1920 the Northern Union were in action on tour in New Zealand as they took on the Kiwis in Auckland at the Domain Cricket Ground in front of a crowd of 30,000 fans.

Unfortunately the game did not live up to expectation with the tourists proving too strong. Leeds stalwart Jim Bacon crossed for a try in a 31-7 win.

In 1954, Great Britain played the Kiwis at Greymouth for the first time as the NZRL took international Rugby League to New Zealand’s West Coast district for the first time. It proved a wise decision by the hosts as they produced a strong second half performance to turn a 8-12 half time deficit into a famous 20-14 win.

Lewis Jones kicked four goals from full back for the Lions as the sole Loiner in the Test team.