21st October: England beat Wales to reach World Cup Final
Richard de la Riviere looks back at what happened in Rugby League over the years on this day: 21st October
England were too strong for possibly the best Wales side of all time when they won the World Cup semi-final between the two sides at Old Trafford on this day in 1995.
The English had got the tournament off to a perfect start by beating Australia in the opening match a fortnight earlier before going on to beat Fiji and South Africa, winning both matches 46-0.
The Dragons, meanwhile, had captured the hearts of their nation by beating France and Western Samoa; the latter, in particular, proving to be one of the great nights in Welsh Rugby League history.
With ex-union stars like Jonathan Davies, Scott Gibbs, Scott Quinnell, Allan Bateman, John Devereux and Paul Moriarty, as well as teenage superstar Iestyn Harris, the Welsh public finally embraced the 13-a-side code, and around 10,000 Welsh supporters travelled to Manchester to watch the semi-final.
According to Ken Jones in the Independent, a “groundswell of enthusiasm” had got the better of the “deep prejudice” that existed against Rugby League in Wales.
Eight months earlier Wales had beaten England to win the European Championships, but with Bobbie Goulding in excellent World Cup form, with Shaun Edwards ruled out of the competition after the opening game, England built up too strong a lead for the result to be in doubt in the latter stages of the contest.
Penalties from Davies and Andy Farrell were followed by a Paul Newlove try in the corner and England led 6-2.
Davies kicked another goal, but Goulding’s drop-goal and Denis Betts’s try took the score out to 11-4 at half-time.
The key moments came early in the second half, when Moriarty was sin-binned and Martin Offiah capitalised immediately by touching down Goulding’s kick to score.
Fifteen minutes later he repeated the trick, although there were serious doubts as to whether he had grounded the ball.
At 19-4 the game was realistically up, although Rowland Phillips, the big Workington forward, scored Wales’s only try with one of his first touches.
Phil Clarke’s try and Goulding’s conversion concluded the scoring, confirming England’s place in the final, where they would play Australia who beat New Zealand in a thrilling semi-final at Huddersfield 24 hours later.
As for the Welsh, their magnificent 1995 saw them crowned the BBC Wales Team of the Year, while the loss brought down the curtain on Davies’s magnificent League career.
GB beat Aussies in first Test
Great Britain opened up the 1967 Ashes series with a stunning 16-11 success at Headingley.
Australia had won the series by two matches to one in on home soil in 1966 and travelled to Europe with an impressive squad which included three of the eight future Immortals in Graeme Langlands, Johnny Raper and the captain Reg Gasnier, all of whom played for champion side St George.
But in front of 22,293 spectators in Leeds, two of the trio – Raper and Gasnier – picked up injuries.
British scrum-half Tommy Bishop opened the scoring with a drop-goal in the 21st minute after the Kangaroos had had the better of a scoreless first quarter.
A couple of minutes later, Hull Kingston Rovers winger Chris Young scored a 45-yard try on his Great Britain debut which, goaled by Roger Millward, saw the hosts build up a 7-0 lead.
But the prolific Langlands levelled the scores with a penalty, try and conversion before Millward hit back with a magical try, beating Gasnier and Langlands to the line for a try, which he converted himself.
Langlands and Millward kicked further penalties, before Kangaroo prop Dennis Manteit was sent off for an illegal challenge on Millward.
Hull KR prop Bill Holliday, the British captain, kicked the resultant penalty before Langlands kicked another goal in the closing stages to leave the final score at 16-11.
Kangaroos hammer Kiwis in World Cup opener
Three years later the Kangaroos hammered New Zealand 47-11 in the opening game of the 1970 World Cup.
This time there was no Raper, Gasnier or Langlands but Bob Fulton, another future Immortal, lined up in the centres in a side captained by loose forward Ron Coote.
And, in front of 9,805 spectators, Australia scored nine tries, with centre John Cootes, a Roman Catholic priest, scoring twice.
Ray Branighan, Fulton, Billy Smith, Bob McCarthy, Coote, Ron Turner and Eric Simms also scored, with fullback Simms adding nine goals and a drop-goal.
Gary Smith scored the only try for the outclassed Kiwis, with Don Ladner kicking one place-goal and three drop-goals.
The Kangaroos went on to lose to Great Britain and France, but qualified for the final on points difference, where they upset the odds to beat the hosts 12-7 at Headingley in one of the dirtiest games in the code’s history.
Cootes finished the competition as the leading tryscorer with five touchdowns, including one in the final.