On This Day: St.Helens win back to back Championships – 1971!

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

22 MAY 1971

Championship final: St.Helens 16-12 Wigan at Station Road, Swinton.

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.

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 through Bob Blackwood before Kel Coslett booted over an incredible conversion to make the score 11-12.

As full-time approached, centre John Walsh sliced a drop-goal attempt from 40 yards that flashed to the right of the Wigan posts. Billy 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!

Click here for the team that took to the field that day. 

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