On this Day – 30th April
ON THIS DAY in 1994, Leeds returned to Wembley for the first time since the 1978 Challenge Cup win but there was to be no glory in the end for the Loiners as they lost out to all conquering Wigan side.
The game is remembered for two of the greatest Cup Final tries in the history of the old competition. Martin Offiah’s long range effort is now immortalised in the bronze statue at the new Wembley Stadium however Francis Cummins marked his record breaking appearance with a special effort of his own. Cummins, at 17 years 200 days, became the youngest player to appear in a Challenge Cup Final when he played on the wing and scored a try in the defeat against Wigan in 1994.
ON THIS DAY in 2001 Leeds played Halifax in the league and recorded their fifth win of the season. Leeds had begun 2001 strongly, with wins against London Broncos and Wakefield in the league, and had progressed to the semi final of the Challenge Cup. At the end of March though the Rhinos’ form began to slip and they suffered three consecutive league defeats and were knocked out of the Cup by St Helens. The team bounced back from this with back to back victories against Castleford and Salford and in this game they made it three in a row.
Francis Cummins and Keith Senior grabbed two tries for Leeds and Robbie Mears and Iestyn Harris got a try apiece. Harris also landed seven goals to secure the 38-26 win.
ON THIS DAY in 2004 the Rhinos played away at Knowsley Park against St Helens, who ended Leeds’ winning start to the season. Saints dominated from the off, heaping pressure on Leeds from the moment from the start and after Bai was unable to get to Sean Long’s bomb, Saints took the lead immediately from the scrum, Long and Paul Wellens linking for Willie Talau to put Ade Gardner in at the corner.
They added a second try within a minute of the restart, Keith Mason’s offload allowing Keiron Cunningham to race through and give Lee Gilmour a 40 metre gallop to the line, Long goaling. Francis Cummins twice prevented Talau extending the lead, but there was little Leeds could do to stop Saints adding a third try on 20 minutes through Jason Hooper. Long converted, and then put Sculthorpe over three minutes later after Gilmour had been held short, a third goal creating a 22-0 cushion.
Paul Wellens put Jason Hooper through a gap from the play-the-ball for a fifth score. Wellens produced a great tackle on Cummins at the corner a minute before the break to keep Leeds scoreless at half time. Long moved Saints’ lead out to 32-0 with two early penalties in the second half, and while Chev Walker stopped Hooper, the misery continued on 53 minutes. This time, it came from a classic kick return from Darren Albert, after Sinfield’s reverse kick bounced past McGuire and the Australian winger raced 70 yards up the middle to score.
Tongan centre Willie Talau almost matched that feat by powering through from Martin Gleeson’s pass after a scrum to power half the length of the field, Long’s goal giving them a 44-0 lead.
Rob Burrow, who started the game at hooker in the absence of Matt Diskin, got Leeds off the mark on the hour when he darted out of dummy half and scooted 25 yards to the line. Sinfield missed the conversion attempt, but Burrow’s re-introduction had given Leeds a new lease of life. Sculthorpe’s 40-20 eased the pressure, and Saints used that position to re-assert their advantage, fast hands allowing Gleeson to put substitute Ian Hardman over at the corner.
Hooper brought up the half century with a magnificent touchline conversion, and although Chris Feather dived in with seven minutes remaining Saints had already done more than enough to half the Rhinos’ charge.