On This Day: Saints lift Challenge Cup at Wembley – 1972!

Each day whilst we are all in Lockdown we will recall a famous Saints moment from the current day thanks to Saints Heritage Society.

13 May 1972

Challenge Cup Final: St. Helens 16-13 Leeds Rhinos at Wembley.

Saints’ preparations for this match could not have been any worse, disrupted by constant injury worries! Both second-rower Eric Prescott and hooker Tony Karalius were injured at Bradford in the Championship semi-final seven days before and were declared unfit. During a light training session at Blackpool, Jeff Heaton twisted an ankle; Eric Chisnall pulled a thigh muscle and front-rower John Stephens was rushed to an osteopath who manipulated the displaced fourth and fifth vertebrae in his neck back into place! Then more bad news: John Mantle was hurt in a car crash and played at Wembley in a scrum-cap, protecting 12 stitches [instead of the recommended 13] in a nasty head wound!

There was even more drama to come in the first minute of the match, during Leeds’ first spell of possession when Saints’ veteran front-rower Graham Rees charged down a clearance kick on the fourth tackle to score the quickest-ever try at Wembley. It is true to say that Leeds never recovered from this early blow and the Saints maintained a winning lead throughout the eighty minutes.

To a large degree the game then became a ‘battle of the kickers,’ with Terry Clawson off target for Leeds with several crucial attempts at goal, including some he would normally have had no trouble with whatsoever! Loose forward and captain Kel Coslett was on form, however, kicking a conversion and 3 penalties, before sending over a towering drop-goal on the hour to ensure success on the day, despite a brief Leeds revival with a try from Cookson just after half-time. Saints’ second try, after 16 minutes, which made the score 8-2, was expertly fashioned by Eric Chisnall’s long cut-out pass, another highlight of a real battling performance in adversity and a never-to-be-forgotten day in the history of the St. Helens club!

Captain Coslett won the Lance Todd trophy for his brilliant performance and in his post-match interview with BBCs Frank Bough said this: 

“We’ve got the Championship final next Saturday, but we’ll let ourselves go a bit tonight and have a few drinks…and some chips for Chissey.”

Check out the team that played on that day!

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