Recently I watched a re-run of the 1978 Challenge Cup Final between Leeds and St Helens on BBC 4.
It was very enjoyable but different.
The pace was slower, the players were obviously not as fit and you could see how different size players performed different roles e.g. big props like Chisnell and Pitchford played as did fast wingers like Smith and Mathias.
The physical confrontation was not as intense but the players stood much deeper and showed more imagination with their ball handling. There was no gamesmanship and the referee was not concerned about modern obsessions e.g. quick play the balls. They were also less concerned about retaining possession than present day players probably because the hooker could win back possession in a contested scrum.
The contested scrums made a big difference to the game but I personally thought they were a farce.
Leeds won if anybody didn’t know and this was in the days of three point tries.
The game has obviously developed and moved on as it must. Australian methods and tactics have played a big part in this but it is a shame the English (and French) game has lost it’s distinctive flavour. It was a joy to watch the varying tactics like the St Helens team putting a move on, the classy centres releasing the wingers, the second row fowards running wide etc
In Europe, until about 1978 we used to regularly beat the Anitipodeans mainly by out-thinking them.
We should attempt to repeat this
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