Remembering a Wigan v St Helens Boxing Day clash of 50 years ago

Wrapped up in warm coats and scarves - and no doubt some brandishing a hip flask containing a drop of the hard stuff - 13,800 fans flocked to Central Park to watch an event which had been synonymous with Christmas since the 19th century.

Sunday, 26th December 2021, 10:19 am
Updated Sunday, 26th December 2021, 10:20 am
Colin Tyrer

It was one of the traditional Boxing Day derby games between Saints and their old foes, Wigan Warriors, staged at the Riversiders' home exactly 50 years ago.

Much water has passed under the bridge since then with fitness at a greater level than ever before, pitches resembling carpets and just as significant the switch to summer rugby in 1996.

In contrast, conditions for the 1971 yuletide derby were described by the Reporter at the time as little more than a mud bath with the ball like a slippery bar of soap and opportunities to produce free-flowing football few and far between.

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This was reflected in the final score (Wigan winning 8-3) and the match decided on the superior kicking skills on the day of Wigan full back Colin Tyrer. He landed three goals and team-mates Frank Parr one

Saints' Welsh winger Frank Wilson grabbed the visitors' only try while loose forward and fellow countryman Kel Coslett - who went on to score an all-time record of 1639 goals - seemed to have left his shooting boots at home that day and missed three kicks which could have turned the result on its head.

Teams - Wigan: Colin Tyrer, Stuart Wright, Dave Hill, Kevin O'Loughlin, Chris Fuller, Warren Ayres, Frank Parr, Dennis Ashcroft, Colin Clarke, Geoff Fletcher, Bill Ashurst, Brian Hogan, Dave Robinson.

St Helens: Geoff Pimblett, John Wills, Billy Benyon, John Walsh, Frank Wilson, Ken Kelly, Jeff Heaton, John Stephens, Tony Karalius, Eric Chisnall, Eric Prescott, John Mantle, Kel Coslett.