1970 Rugby League World Cup

The fifth Rugby League World Cup was held in Great Britain in 1970. Britain, fresh from defeating Australia in the Ashes during their Australasian tour earlier in the year (the last time as of 2017 that they would win The Ashes), were hot favourites, and won all three of their group stage games, including defeating Australia 11–4. All the other nations lost two games each, and Australia qualified for the final largely on the back of an impressive tally of points against New Zealand.

1970 (1970) World Cup  ()
Number of teams4
Host country England
Winner Australia (3rd title)

Matches played7
Attendance68,710 (9,816 per match)
Points scored205 (29.29 per match)
Top scorerAustralia Eric Simms (37)
Top try scorerAustralia John Cootes (5)
 < 1968

The final was held at Headingley, Leeds. Although Great Britain dominated the possession, the Kangaroos were able to exploit their chances, and ran out unexpected winners in a scrappy game that became known as the "Battle of Leeds".

Australian centre Bob Fulton was named the official player of the tournament.

After winning the tournament, the Australian team put the World Cup trophy on display in the Midland Hotel in Bradford. From there it was stolen and remained unseen for the next 20 years.[1]



Headingley in Leeds hosted a group game between Great Britain and Australia and also hosted the World Cup Final.

Leeds Wigan Bradford
Headingley Central Park Odsal Stadium
Capacity: 30,000 Capacity: 40,000 Capacity: 40,000
Swinton Hull Castleford
Station Road The Boulevard Wheldon Road
Capacity: 35,000 Capacity: 16,000 Capacity: 15,000


21 October
Australia   47 – 11   New Zealand
Central Park, Wigan
Attendance: 9,805

Australia beat the Kiwis easily at Wigan in the opening fixture with Eric Simms repeating his form of the 1968 tourney by landing a record ten goals.

24 October
Great Britain   11 – 4   Australia
Headingley, Leeds
Attendance: 15,084

Britain came from 0–4 behind to defeat Australia 11–4 at Headingley with Syd Hynes scoring the game's only try.

25 October
France   15 – 16   New Zealand
The Boulevard, Hull
Attendance: 3,824

The try of the tournament was scored by the sensational French winger Serge Marsolan against New Zealand in a mud-bath at Hull. Marsolan ran from behind his own line for a try fit to win any match but the lackadaisical French lost 15–16.

28 October
Great Britain   6 – 0   France
Wheldon Road, Castleford
Attendance: 8,958

The French put up a great fight against Britain in vile conditions, only to lose 0–6 at Castleford to three penalties from Ray Dutton.

31 October
Great Britain   27 – 17   New Zealand
Station Road, Swinton
Attendance: 5,609

Britain eliminated New Zealand from the tournament, cruising to victory with five tries to three.[2]

1 November
Australia   15 – 17   France
Odsal Stadium, Bradford
Attendance: 6,654

This incredibly exciting game has been described as the tournament's piece de resistance. Aussie centre Bobby Fulton scored a try within seconds of the kick-off – probably the quickest ever in international matches. However, with ten minutes to go and the scores level at 15–15, the French stole the game when stand-off half Jean Capdouze dropped a monster goal. The Kangaroos' loss to France meant it was Australia's superior points differential (on the back of their pointsfest in the opening game against New Zealand) alone that got them into the final with the undefeated Great Britain team.


Team Played Won Drew Lost  For  Against Difference Points
  Great Britain 3 3 0 0 44 21 +23 6
  Australia 3 1 0 2 66 39 +27 2
  France 3 1 0 2 32 37 −5 2
  New Zealand 3 1 0 2 44 89 −45 2


7 November 1970
Great Britain   7 – 12   Australia
John Atkinson

Ray Dutton (1)
Field Goal:
Syd Hynes
[3] Tries:
John Cootes
Lionel Williamson
Eric Simms (2)
Field Goal:
Eric Simms
Headingley, Leeds
Attendance: 18,776
Referee: Fred Lindop  
Great Britain
FB 1   Ray Dutton
RW 2   Alan Smith
RC 3   Syd Hynes
LC 4   Frank Myler (c)
LW 5   John Atkinson
SO 6   Mick Shoebottom
SH 7   Keith Hepworth
PR 8   Dennis Hartley
HK 9   Tony Fisher
PR 10   Cliff Watson
SR 11   Jimmy Thompson
SR 12   Doug Laughton
LF 13   Mal Reilly
IC 14   Chris Hesketh
IC 15   Bob Haigh
  Johnny Whiteley
FB 1   Eric Simms
RW 2   Lionel Williamson
RC 3   John Cootes
LC 4   Paul Sait
LW 5   Mark Harris
FE 6   Bob Fulton
HB 7   Billy Smith
PR 8   John O'Neill
HK 9   Ron Turner
PR 10   Bob O'Reilly
SR 11   Bob McCarthy
SR 12   Ron Costello
LK 13   Ron Coote (c)
IC 14   Ray Branighan
IC 15   Elwyn Walters
  Harry Bath

Having retained the Ashes, Great Britain were favourites to win the final,[4] which would become known as the 'Battle of Headingly'[5] due to its brutality. However it went completely against expectations as Britain failed to play any decent football despite overwhelming possession. The Kangaroos led 5–4 at half-time with a try to Australian three-quarter, Father John Cootes. They went on to utilise their meagre chances to the full, running out 12–7 victors. The game itself was an extended punch-up. The only surprise was that it took 79 minutes before anyone was sent off. Two sacrificial lambs, Billy Smith of Australia and Sid Hynes of Britain, were sent off the field in the last minute for what had been going unpunished throughout the game.


  1. ^ "Trophy back home – after 20 years". The Sun-Herald. Fairfax Digital. 2 June 1990. p. 90. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  2. ^ AAP; Reuter (2 November 1970). "Britain has easy Cup win". The Age. p. 18. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  3. ^ Report
  4. ^ Kdouh, Fatima (28 November 2013). "We take a look back at the greatest Rugby League World Cup finals of all time". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  5. ^ Barnes, Steve (13 August 2006). "Questions & Answers". The Sunday Times. UK: Times Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 1 January 2011.

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