St. Helens 16 Wigan 12 (VIEW MATCH)
1971 Championship final
Saints are Champions at the death!
The Saints went into this match at Swinton’s Station Road ground chasing a unique opportunity to become back-to-back League Champions for the first time. Twelve months before, they had defeated Yorkshire rivals Leeds at Odsal Stadium, Bradford. On this occasion, their opponents were much nearer home and Wigan were out to win the Championship themselves after a gap of eleven years.
1971 Champ Fina teaml
As expected, the game began at a cracking pace with all the intensity of a typical ‘derby’ clash. Wigan clearly had the chance to pick up a commanding first half lead, but full-back Colin Tyrer missed four attempts at goal and the only thing they had to show for their dominance was a 9th minute try from Dave Robinson. Saints’ skipper Kel Coslett kicked two penalties and a drop-goal to give his team a 6-3 advantage at half time.
Things got worse after the interval, when Saints’ John Mantle was sent off and Wigan, courtesy of their second rower Bill Ashurst, had snatched a 12-6 lead with just seven minutes to go. With time ticking away ominously, Saints scored a magnificent try in the corner by Bob Blackwood and Kel Coslett booted over an incredible conversion to make the score 11-12. As the seconds ticked away, centre John Walsh sliced a drop-goal attempt from 40 yards that flashed to the right of the Wigan posts. Bill Benyon, despite a bad shoulder injury, followed up, caught the ball and threw himself over the line with Wigan’s Stuart Wright powerless to stop him. Although Wigan players and officials claimed he was offside, referee Lawrinson had no hesitation in awarding the try. Saints’ very own ‘one-armed bandit’ had turned a certain Wigan victory into an unbelievable victory against all the odds. Saints were ‘double’ Champions – something they would not achieve again until the start of the new Millennium!