Leigh v Leeds preview.
Murphy recalls huge upset ahead of repeat clash
Rugby league legend Alex Murphy is warning Super League champions Leeds to beware the spirit of '71 when they take on part-timers Leigh for a place in the last four of the Carnegie Challenge Cup.
The first quarter-final at Leigh Sports Village has rekindled memories of one of the great Challenge Cup upsets, the day Murphy inspired unfancied Leigh to a stunning 24-7 victory over hot favourites Leeds at Wembley.
The Centurions are the 200-1 outsiders to repeat their giantkilling act from 41 years ago but Murphy can see some similarities between the two occasions.
"It's brought back some nice memories," Murphy said
"On paper, it's not a match but games aren't played on paper. Who knows what's going to happen on the day? It's a tricky game for Leeds. I think they will win but it's not a walkover by any means."
Murphy believes Leigh's best chance of pulling off another shock would be if the Rhinos under-estimate their opponents, just as they did in 1971.
"We went for the walkabout on the Friday all kitted out in blazers, white shirts and ties," he recalled.
"We were dressed very smartly and, as we were coming away, Leeds arrived in jeans, looking like they had come on a day trip.
"And they went up to the Royal Box and started practising lifting the Cup. That's how confident they were. I called it arrogance.
"I pointed it out to the lads and never said another word but we couldn't have had a bigger boost.
"It shows you can never take anything for granted in the Challenge Cup. You've got to earn it and that's what Leigh did that day."
The 1971 final is best remembered for the dismissal of Leeds captain Syd Hynes for head-butting Murphy, the Leigh player-coach who was carried off on a stretcher.
Murphy later returned from the dressing room to lift the trophy but he has always denied play-acting.
"Me and Syd Hynes have always been the best of friends - we were before the game and still are now - and he keeps coming over and saying he didn't do it," Murphy said.
"But I have my say and so does the club doctor and I'm sticking with my version. I woke in the bath and one of lads said to the doctor 'get him out of the bath, we want him to pick the trophy up'."
Murphy, who went on to guide Warrington to Wembley glory three years later, rates those achievements as the finest of his coaching career but would take just as much delight watching Leigh turn over last year's beaten finalists tomorrow, just six months after the club was on its knees.
"It's been good for the town," he said. "They were really struggling and it's nice to see them getting back on their feet.
"They're improving and it's nice to see them put the pride back. They needed this match very badly. It's a shame it's not on television but that might help them get a bigger crowd."
Leigh are on a seven-match winning run, including a golden-point victory over Halifax in the last round of the Cup, but coach Paul Rowley admits victory over the world club champions would represent an even bigger shock than 1971.
"None of these guys were born then," he said. "We are most definitely bigger underdogs this time.
"But there is tremendous belief and spirit in the camp and we will go into the game with a smile on our faces.
"We are determined to enjoy the experience and you never know what can happen on the day. Everybody dreams and sometimes dreams become reality."
Leigh are without captain John Duffy and former Wigan prop Ricky Bibey through injury while Leeds are able to welcome back Rob Burrow, Weller Hauraki and Kallum Watkins to offset the absence of Brett Delaney, Jamie Peacock and Darrell Griffin.