FIFTY years ago today, on 15 May 1971, Leigh went to Wembley for their first and only time.

And although they went down to London as massive underdogs, Alex Murphy’s marvels emerged victorious with a 24-7 win over Leeds.

Leigh, guided around the field by the mercurial Murphy and with a pack fired up by loose forward Peter Smethurst, were always in control.

And although Leeds skipper Syd Hynes found infamy for being the first man to be sent off in a Wembley final for butting Murphy 15 minutes from time, the red and white ribbons were already on the magnificent old trophy.

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Tony Barrow, who played stand-off that day, remembers the whole build and the match itself with a crystal clarity.

Barrow, who had been on the Wembley bench five years earlier with St Helens, vividly recalls the unbelievable experience and the comradeship of a team of underdogs.

He said: “We hadn’t got a chance, and nobody gave us a hope.

“But we had a comradeship – a fantastic team spirit and on that Friday night when we had the team meeting we knew we were going to win.

“We were so focused on winning it was unbelievable – every single player was buzzing to get out there.

“It was great being the underdogs – we had it in or heads we could win and we did.

“It was a brilliant experience.”

Leigh had beaten Bradford Northern, Widnes, Hull and Huddersfield en route to the Twin Towers.

And they had adopted a very simple, but effective gameplan to win the tight matches.

“We had gone through the rounds, knocking them off one at a time, without scoring a great deal of points.

“Murph would kick them sick.

“When we played the semi against Huddersfield I played centre and Murph played stand off.

“He said to me and Mick Collins in the centres, ‘You’ll be lucky to get a pass today. We are going to take these on down the middle.’ “I got two passes all day, but we dropped the goals and won the game.

“Murph always said ‘We’ll play the rugby in the final’ and that is what we did.”

Leigh had gone into the final without the suspended prop Dave Chisnall, and with scrum half Tommy Canning injured they had a bit of a re-shuffle with Murphy and Barrow the halves.

Barrow recalls the talisman’s tactical nous coming to the fore.

After an early Jimmy Fiddler drop goal, then worth two points, and a Stuart Ferguson penalty Murphy then set up the opening try for Stan Dorrington, before the skipper dropped a goal.

A 60-yard touchline goal from Ferguson must have sickened the Loiners on the half time hooter, with Leigh 13 points up at the break.

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Barrow explained: “Murph controlled the game completely with his kicking.

“He was a brilliant tactician. People say he wasn’t the greatest coach in the world. Wasn’t he just? Just look at his record.

“It was a different way of coaching – you wouldn’t get away with the way you coached in those days.

“He would give you the biggest roasting in the world at half time if you came in losing – but he was a great motivator.

“To go to Wembley with no chance and end up beating them 24-7 says it all.

“When you look at the whole team, there were no stars. Only Murphy was a star – a few of us had been around, myself, Peter Smethurst, Geoff Clarkson and Kevin Ashcroft.

“But if you go through the team a lot of us were other people’s cast offs if you like.”

But they played like men possessed with a real will to win in that showpiece in front of 85,514 spectators.

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Barrow rattled off the team that got the job done.

“We had young Dave Eckersley at full back, on the wing Joe Walsh was not only a great player and hard as nails, he was the funniest man in this world.

“Ferguson on the other wing could kick goals from the half way line.

“In the centres there was Mick Collins who had been there forever and Stan Dorrington, was tough as old boots.

“I played stand off, Murph was at scrum half.

“Dave Chisnall got suspended and didn’t play in the final so they brought in Jimmy Fiddler, a ball-playing goalkicking prop.

“Ashcroft would get the ball out at hooker and then prop Derek Watts was a straightforward runner who would take the ball up for you non-stop.

“Paul Grimes and Geoff Clarkson in the second – the pair were big and both hard as nails.

“If there was any trouble you knew they were at the back of you all the time.

“And then loose forward Peter Smethurst, who I cant give enough credit to.

“He was a tremendous player and tremendous bloke, and he was like another captain.

“He was the real old head in the team – but we had a great team,” he said.

Leigh stayed in control in the second half limiting Leeds to a John Holmes penalty until the final minute when they gave away a penalty try.

In between, drop goals for Murphy and Eckersley and another Ferguson penalty put the game beyond Leeds’ reach even before Hynes’ sending off.

Barrow had his own take on that incident.

“You know what, he was a pain Syd,” he said.

“He couldn’t help himself…and it wasn’t going their way and Murph was the best wind-up merchant in the game. He put the head on him – Billy Thompson on the spot. Murph was laid out on the floor – the ref hadn’t got a choice.

“Syd always swears blind he never hit, him – but he walked. We already had it well won before he went off. “ Eckersley’s late try was the icing on the cake - the trophy was heading back to Hilton Park for the first time since 1921.

And boy did the town celebrate, with thousands lining the streets on the homecoming parade.

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Barrow remembers the occasion and his time at Leigh fondly.

“It was a smashing club – a real down to earth club.

“And the whole town came together and got behind the team.

“When we won the cup there were tens of thousands at the town hall.

“I had never seen as many people – the whole of Leigh was full, side streets and everything.

“It was something special – Leigh folk are very proud people and they are good supporters,” he said.