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The 1970 Rugby League World Cup Final was the conclusive game of the 1970 Rugby League World Cup tournament and was played between Great Britain and Australia on 8 November 1970 at the Headingley ground in Leeds, England.

1970 (1970) Rugby League World Cup Final  ()
South Stand, Headingley Stadium during the second day of the England-Sri Lanka test (21st April 2014) 001.JPG
12 Total
GBR Great Britain colours.svg 43 7
AUS Australian colours.svg 57 12
Date7 November 1970
LocationLeeds, England
RefereesFred Lindop United Kingdom
Broadcast partners
← 1968
1972 →


The 1970 Rugby League World Cup was the fifth staging of the Rugby League World Cup since its inauguration in 1954, and the first since the 1968 tournament. The tournament was held in the England from 21 October, culminating in the final between Great Britain and Australia on 8 November.

Great BritainEdit

Scores and results list Australia's points tally first.
Opposing Team For Against Date Venue Attendance Stage
  Australia 11 4 24 October Headingley, Leeds 15,084 Group Stage
  France 6 0 28 October Wheldon Road, Castleford 8,958 Group Stage
  New Zealand 53 19 31 October Station Road, Swinton 5,609 Group Stage

Great Britain were undefeated going into the final.


Scores and results list Great Britain's points tally first.
Opposing Team For Against Date Venue Attendance Stage
  New Zealand 47 11 21 October Central Park, Wigan 9,805 Group Stage
  Great Britain 4 11 24 October Headingley, Leeds 15,084 Group Stage
  France 15 17 1 November Odsal Stadium, Bradford 6,654 Group Stage

Australia, France and New Zealand all finished with one win each. Australia advanced to the Final by virtue of a better for and against record.

Match detailsEdit

7 November 1970
Great Britain   7 – 12   Australia
John Atkinson

Ray Dutton (1)
Field Goal:
Syd Hynes
[1] 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 against Australia during their 1970 Australasian tour, Great Britain were favourites to win the final,[2] which would become known as the 'Battle of Headingly'[3] 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.[4]

Great Britain, having been undefeated in the World Cup, felt that there should not have been a need to play a final, especially as they had already defeated Australia 11-4 at Headingley in the second game of the tournament.

We beat them at Leeds in the group stages as well as beating France and New Zealand so we were confident but in the final we got our tactics wrong. We tried to physically knock them down but we should have played more football. John Atkinson had that altercation with Father John Cootes after the final whistle. Tactically we didn’t play to our best. Maybe there was some complacency due to the Ashes win and the group stage games.

— British loose forward Malcolm Reilly.

(Note: Although Reilly recalls a post-match incident between Atkinson and Cootes, what actually happened was Australian fullback Eric Simms attempted to shake hands with Atkinson after the game, but was instead greeted with a headbutt by the frustrated Lions winger. This led to a wild post-match brawl between the teams that had to be broken up by referee Fred Lindop, his two touch judges, and the Leeds City Police.)[5]


  1. ^ Report
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Barnes, Steve (13 August 2006). "Questions & Answers". The Sunday Times. UK: Times Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 1 January 2011.
  4. ^ 1970 World Cup Final highlights
  5. ^ 1970 Great Britain v Australia, The World Cup Final