Remembering a Saints championship win 50 years on

Next month marks the 50th anniversary of an epic derby encounter between Saints and Wigan in a winner--takes-all Championship Final at Station Road, Swinton.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 9:24 am
Saints - Championship winners in 1971

More than 20,000 fans packed into the Manchester stadium on Saturday, May 22, 1971, and witnessed a showdown which ebbed and flowed from start to finish before Saints' centre Billy Benyon plunged over the whitewash to earn his hometown club a 16-12 victory.

Wigan players and fans claimed Benyon had been offside and the try should have been overturned by the man-in-the-mddle but their protests fell on deaf ears.

A very sore loss for Wigan supporters in a game they led 12-6 early in the second-half and against a St Helens outfit reduced to 12-men with the dismissal of Welshman John Mantle.

It looked like the end of the road for the pre-match underdogs but a try from Bob Blackwood and goal by skipper Kel Coslett reduced the deficit to 12-11

Desperate, Saints attempted a drop goal (worth two points in 1971) to win the match. Johnny Walsh's effort sliced well wide. However, the ball bounced awkwardly for the defending Stuart Wright and Colin Tyrer and Benyon pounced to score the winning try as Wigan's players were screaming that the centre was offside

Harold Mather in the Guardian Newspaper wrote at the time that Wigan had been the better team but paid the full penalty for relaxing once Mantle had been dismissed.

Worth noting also that Wigan's normally reliable goal kicker Colin Tyrer landed only one of seven goal attempts which proved crucial at the end of the day.

St Helens: 1. Geoff Pimblett, 2. Les Jones, 3. Billy Benyon, 4. Johnny Walsh, 5. Bob Blackwood, 6. Alan Whittle, 7. Jeff Heaton, 8. John Stephens, 9. Tony Karalius, 10. Graham Rees, 11. John Mantle, 12. Eric Chisnall, 13. Kel Coslett. Sub: Bobby Wanbon.

Tries: Billy Benyon, Bob Blackwood

Goals: Kel Coslett 5.

Wigan: 1.Colin Tyrer, 2. Kevin O'Loughlin, 3. Bill Francis, 4. Peter Rowe, 5.Stuart Wright, 6. David Hill, 7 Warren Ayres, 8. Brian Hogan, 9. Colin Clarke, 10. Geoff Fletcher,11. Bill Ashurst, 12. David Robinson, 13. Doug Laughton. Sub Eddie Cunningham.

Tries: Robinson. Ashurst. Goals: Ashurst (2), Tyrer. Drop goals Ashurst (2)

Half- time: Wigan 3 St Helens 6.

Attendance: 21,745.

Referee: Mr E. Lawrinson (Warrington)

Harry Sunderland man of the match: Ashurst.