Just watched the replay of the 1989 semi-final vs Saints, I often wonder what made the late 70’s/early 80’s team so effective at getting to Wembley compared to the late 80’s team who failed to get there?
My personal hypothesis is that the 70s/80s team was made for cup rugby, relentless in defence and always seemed to do just enough to win. On the other hand, the late 80’s team were far better from an attacking perspective and far more entertaining but they weren’t as good defensively and they failed to adapt their game for the semi finals.
Interesting Q! The 70’s/early 80’s team(s) got there 7 times and won 4, so a good but not outstanding record at the final. Late 80’s team – the difference was Wigan by then. 6 leagues and 8 cups on the trot? It’ll never be topped.
Think until 91, We had Wigan’s number and we could certainly say we were the best team in the comp at that point, I think Wigan from 91-95 became a different animal with Botica and a much improved pack.
I think in 89, a Wembley final between us, would have went our way, big pitch certainly favoured us but unfortunately, losing 2 semi’s to a good but not spectacular saints team was a blip on that teams resume.
Personal opinion, the late 80’s team could blow any team away and over a season that usually means you finish near the top but we were vulnerable in one off games, probably because we never adapted our style to “cup footy”.
In comparison, the cup kings were far less spectacular in the league but in one off games, Lancashire cup finals, John Player finals, CC semi’s, they increased their level and it always appeared that they were a “robotic machine” who just knew how to win games when it mattered, similar to the Leeds team of 04-15.
I agree with Rafe, the difference was probably Wigan. The b’s were relentless. Bit unlucky that our best ever team emerged at around the same time as probably the best dynasty ever.
I always think similar of Saints. We routinely beat them for years, then we ran out of cash, a great Saints team emerged and the Super League kicked off. Talk about bad timing. We’ve never shaken it off and they’ve been to countless GFs.