On this Day – 19th May

Kallum Watkins leaves the field injured at the Dacia Magic Weekend

ON THIS DAY in 1996 Leeds played Halifax and lost their sixth game of the season and in 2000 Leeds took on Bradford and suffered their biggest home defeat of the year.

ON THIS DAY in 1996 Leeds played Halifax and lost their sixth game of the season. Leeds had started the season off with four consecutive defeats and then turned this around by recording their first win of the season over Sheffield Eagles only to follow this up with defeat to London Broncos. In the fixture prior to this one though the Rhinos had beaten Paris St Germain 40-14 and in this game were looking to build on this win against fellow Yorkshire side Halifax, but there was to be further disappointment though for the Leeds fans as Leeds lost 32-18. Anthony Gibbons, Mick Shaw and Graham Holroyd all scored tries and Holroyd also kicked 3 goals.

ON THIS DAY in 2000 Leeds took on Bradford in Super League and suffered their biggest home defeat of the season. The victory for the Bulls was their 15th consecutive win and helped them to leap frog Wigan and St Helens to take the top spot in the league. Bradford had already established a 14-0 by the time Leeds had even managed to score any points and it was Leeds skipper Iestyn Harris who was the scorer. A 25th penalty for Leeds sore Harris register his 1000th point for the club to become only the 10th player in the history of the club to do so. This was the only highlight for Leeds however and in the end they lost 44-2 in front of a 18,769 crowd.

ON THIS DAY in 2006, the Rhinos welcome Rochdale to Headingley in the Challenge Cup. Despite a spirited display from Rochdale the Rhinos produced a professional showing to score 12 tries and book their place in the Quarter final with a 66-0 victory.

ON THIS DAY in 1973, Leeds lost out to Dewsbury in the Championship Final at Odsal.

The title was decided by a top 16 play in the 1972-73 season and Leeds had defeated Bramley, Castleford and Saints on their way to the Final.

Leeds had beaten Saints twelve months earlier and were expected to win back to back titles for the first time in the clubs history. However, hooker Mike Stephenson inspired Dewsbury after Leeds were reduced to 12 men in the first half when Alan Hardisty was sent off for the first time in his career.

Leeds fought back in the second half but there was no denying Dewsbury a famous win.

ON THIS DAY in 2018, Leeds took on Castleford in a repeat of the previous years Grand Final at St James’ Park in Newcastle at the Magic Weekend.

The Tigers gained revenge on the Rhinos with a well earned win and the day was made even worse for Leeds firstly when Kallum Watkins was helped from the field with a serious season ending knee injury and then the team coach broke down on the way home from Newcastle to compound a miserable day for Brian McDermott’s side.

ON THIS DAY in 1949, legendary former Leeds player Graham Eccles was born.

Belying his 13 stone frame, Eccles was a hundred percenter every time he took the field in the shirt he so cherished, never letting the highest standards slip. He was one of the finest technical tacklers and his work rate phenomenal, perhaps best exemplified in the 1978 Challenge Cup Final. When it seemed that Leeds were down and out in the early stages, his cover tackling kept them in the game and set the foundations for the dramatic climax – in many ways, that performance summed up his career and approach. Signed from Market District Boys Club, he made his debut in the last game of the regular season in mid-April 1969, scoring a try in defeat at Odsal.

Within a year, under coach Derek Turner who valued the relentless nature of his performances, he was contesting a Championship final, typically industrious against a much more experienced St Helens pack who eased to victory, again at Bradford’s bowl. Two years later, facing the same opposition in a repeat final at Swinton this time, he was superb in tackling John Mantle out of the game as Leeds won 9-5.

Remarkably, he had been an unused substitute a week before, also against Saints, at Wembley. In all he played in 14 finals, winning every medal available, scoring tries in both the 1972-3 Yorkshire Cup and Championship deciders against Dewsbury, the first won, the latter surprisingly lost.

By 1976-77 and near-indispensable, he made 43 appearances and as well as winning at Wembley – the moment caught in an iconic post final whistle smiling, handshake picture with Chemics skipper Mick Adams, that sums up all that is best in sport – he was equally as proud to win the Player of the Year award. By the time he put the boots in storage, after a brief swansong with Wakefield and having made over 300 appearances for Leeds, it was that recognition, rather than caps, that resonated the most.