St. Helens 21 Widnes 4 (VIEW MATCH)
1976 Challenge Cup final
Saints win a real scorcher!
Battle honours all round was the order of the day after 'old campaigners' Saints earned a superb tactical victory in this compelling derby clash in the Metropolis. Fielding several players over thirty, Saints were dismissed by the media as 'Dad's Army' in tackling a youthful Widnes squad, also having physical superiority and included eleven of the side which lifted the trophy against Warrington in 1975. But it was long-in-the-tooth Saints who lasted the pace better in soaring temperatures, while Coach Eric Ashton's master-plan of first stifling the Chemics' ponderous pack before counter-attacking in the last quarter paid rich dividends.
However, the issue hung in the balance until the 68th.minute with Saints clinging to a tenuous 7-5 lead. then a try by Jeff Heaton allowed a little breathing space prior to a late points surge which sealed Saints' fifth-successive Challenge Cup win. This came via substitute Peter Glynn - ironically a Widnesian - who became the first Saint to score two tries in a Wembley showdown, and he might not have had the chance but for being preferred to Frank Wilson at the eleventh hour. Captain Kel Coslett marshalled his troops admirably for this final assault on the Chemics' fortress, while five-goal full-back Geoff Pimblett proved an able lieutenant in winning the Lance Todd Trophy on an energy-sapping afternoon, when all fifteen Saints were worthy of consideration.
The key to Saints' success was epitomised by veteran Welsh prop John Mantle, who covered every inch of the hallowed Wembley turf in his quest for a third winner's medal. Versatile Mantle, incidentally, appeared at loose forward versus Wigan in 1966 and then in the second row against Leeds in 1972. Jubilant John said later: “We were like marathon runners even though some of the Saints were on the wrong side of thirty. We kept going in searing heat that left us dehydrated and needing salt tablets and cold baths after the game. But Saints were all over Widnes in the last twenty minutes and that was crucial.”