SAINTS take on Leeds Rhinos on Thursday - the game coming not long since the 50th anniversary of when the sides met at Wembley and in the Championship Final the week later.

The Old Foes were re-united recently when a group from Saints’ Players Association were invited to the Leeds Rhinos Hall of Fame and Special Anniversary dinner at Headingley Stadium.

The 1971-72 season was a bitter-sweet one for the Saints, with a 16-13 victory at Wembley followed by a 5-9 reversal at Swinton. Those who made the trip to Headingley included loose forward and skipper Kel Coslett, centre Billy Benyon, stand-off Ken Kelly and front-rower John Stephens, who had travelled down from the North East to attend the event.

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Also in attendance were back-rower Eric Prescott, who suffered injury heartbreak, missing out on both games and winger Frank Taylor, who featured in first team action earlier in the 1971-72 campaign.

Interviewed by Rhinos’ CEO Gary Hetherington, Billy Benyon recalled those halcyon days of half a century ago: “We were two great teams, who could attack and defend with the best of them. We scored early on at Wembley, which was a big advantage for us, but things didn’t quite work out in the Championship final, unfortunately.”

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For Kel Coslett, it was a chance to renew acquaintances with Leeds stand-off Alan Hardisty and they looked at a photograph of the coin toss at Wembley, which brought the memories flooding back.

Saints had suffered several key injuries beforehand, including hooker Tony Karalius and Prescott, with John Mantle playing with 12 stitches in a head wound sustained in a car crash!

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“I won the toss and we kicked off,” remembered Kel and within 35 seconds, Saints’ Graham Rees was charging down a kick from Keith Hepworth to score the first crucial try.

In the Championship final, Leeds were without scrum-half Keith Hepworth, but his replacement, David Barham, had the proverbial blinder, although one major difference was that Leeds’ second-rower and goal-kicker Terry Clawson recovered from his Wembley nightmare to put over two penalties and a conversion to win the game for the Loiners, as they were then known.

Stan Satterthwaite [1930s], Bob Haigh and Jamie Peacock were inducted into the Hall of Fame, although there was sadness, too, with the recent passing of former Leeds international centre Les Dyl, who featured in both games. His career was celebrated with a moving video tribute.

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John Stephens and Billy Benyon with Gary Hetherington.

Both matches will doubtless be recalled once more when the Saints and Rhinos clash at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Thursday, when a contingent of Leeds’ players from 1972 will make a reciprocal visit from over the Pennines.