11th November: The day England won the World Cup

Richard de la Riviere looks back at what happened in Rugby League over the years on this day: 11th November.

Great Britain reigned supreme over the Rugby League world when they were crowned world champions on this day in 1972 after a thrilling final in Lyon against Australia, with Clive Sullivan’s length-of-the-field try providing the code with one of its most enduring and iconic images.

As with the previous five World Cups, there were just four competing nations and Britain topped the final table having won their round-robin matches against Australia in Perpignan (27-12), France in Grenoble (13-4) and the winless New Zealand in Pau (53-19).

This was regarded as something of a surprise, considering how poor Great Britain had been in 1971 when they had lost to France and twice to the touring Kiwis, who won a Test series on British soil for the first time since Albert Baskerville’s pioneering 1907/08 All Golds.

On account of their 31-9 win over France in Toulouse in the final Pool game, the Kangaroos took their place in the final to defend the crown they had won two years earlier against Britain at the infamous Battle of Headingley.

Britain had just one surviving player from 1970 – Leeds winger John Atkinson – while Australia only fielded Bob Fulton and props Bob O’Reilly and John O’Neill again. Fulton had been in great form in the 1972 competition, scoring five tries, including a hat-trick in the defeat to England.

O’Neill scored the game’s first try, running 30 yards to score in the corner. Sullivan then produced his moment of magic just before half-time after George Nicholls dislodged the ball from the grasp of Mark Harris with a great hit as he headed for the British line.

The Aussies again opened up a five-point gap when Arthur Beetson scored, but Mike Stephenson’s try, goaled by Terry Clawson, tied the scores at 10-all.

French Referee Georges Jameau then disallowed a spectacular effort by the Australian captain Graeme Langlands, who was ruled offside after catching Dennis Ward’s kick on the full and touching down, so extra-time beckoned.

Neither side troubled the scorers again, meaning that Great Britain lifted the trophy courtesy of the fact they had the best record in the group matches.

It may have been an unsatisfying way to crown the World Champions, but when Sullivan lifted the beautiful trophy, no-one in Great Britain colours cared.

England win the Ashes

England wrapped up the Ashes by beating the Australians 7-5 at Headingley in the second Test on this day in 1933.

Having won the first Test at Belle Vue in Manchester a month earlier by 4-0, thanks to two penalties kicked by fullback Jim Sullivan, England were supported by 29,618 fans in Leeds as they sought to defend the Ashes that they had won down under the previous year.

Sullivan kicked his third penalty of the series in the second minute after an Australian offside, but the Kangaroos responded with a magnificent try – one that was reported to be one of the best in Anglo-Australian history.

Loose forward Wally Prigg began the move on his own line and passed to Alan Ridley, who beat a couple of defenders. Vic Thicknesse and Joe Doyle also handled, before the prolific Dave Brown scored the series’ first try under the posts, which he converted himself.

But, incredibly, he missed eight penalty shots during the game.
Sullivan kicked another penalty on 46 minutes to reduce the deficit to just a point and, with two minutes left, Swinton scrum-half Bryn Evans found Billy Dingsdale, who sent Barrow winger Jack ‘Tank’ Woods to the corner for the try that won the Ashes.

Great Britain win opening Test

A third Armistice Day success over Australia came in 2001 when David Waite’s Great Britain side opened up the 2001 Ashes campaign with a thrilling 20-12 over the Kangaroos, with Paul Sculthorpe in outstanding form.

The terrorist attacks on America on 11 September saw the tour shortened to just the Test matches, so the Kangaroos went into the match without a warm-up and it was no surprise when Great Britain started the better.

Jamie Peacock charged down Darren Lockyer’s clearing kick and Gary Connolly put the Bradford second-rower over for a try after just 86 seconds. Andy Farrell converted for a 6-0 lead.

Sculthorpe then added a classy individual try that Farrell converted before Sculthorpe’s drop-goal took the score to 13-0 after 49 minutes.

But Andrew Johns and Adam MacDougall scored tries for Australia, both of which were converted by Johns, reducing their deficit to just one point.

With four minutes left, man of the match Sculthorpe scored his second try before his second drop-goal took the final score to 20-12.