Bygones: Tykes full of quality as record victory remind fans of the good times enjoyed

IT was a scoreline so emphatic it more resembled a cricket game than rugby.

Iain Balshaw leads the charge for Leeds against Valladolid back in 2004.

Yet when carefree Leeds Tykes thrashed Spanish amateurs Valladolid 121-0 in the European Shield in 2004, securing a club record victory, demanding coach Phil Davies was still unsatisfied.

Friday will mark the 10th anniversary of that fixture in which four players – British Lion Tim Stimpson, Springbok Pierre Uys, Mark McMillan and teenager Jordan Crane – all scored hat-tricks.

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But Davies claimed his side, who the season previously had been in Europe’s elite Heineken Cup, had not been clinical enough and he was also irked they had to play in such a pitiful tournament.

However, looking back a decade on, it is a painful reminder of where Leeds, now titled Yorkshire Carnegie, once were.

Indeed, clearly the current coaching hierarchy could only wish to have such ‘problems’ given their present position near the foot of the Championship.

Looking at the squad, though, it was blessed with some considerable talent – 11 internationals –illustrated by the fact it went on to enjoy the club’s finest hour that season, lifting the Powergen Cup after a rousing success over Bath.

Full-back Stimpson, the Premiership top points scorer who tasted such glory with Leicester Tigers, was not the only Lion in Leeds’s ranks against Valladolid.

He was joined by winger Iain Balshaw, who had famously won the World Cup with England barely 12 months previously like Tykes colleague, the irrepressible hooker Mark Regan, who toured with Stimpson on the historic ’97 Lions success in South Africa.

Phil Christophers, a German-born centre, had been part of England’s 2003 Grand Slam 
victory while, at No 10, affable Scotland star Gordon Ross was hardly touched as Leeds usurped a previous best 100-0 scoreline versus Morley in 2000.

Up front, they had plenty of gnarled operators, not least captain Mike Shelley, a legendary prop who made more than 200 appearances for his hometown club before emigrating to Canada.

With Regan and Tom Palmer, the athletic lock who went on to earn more than 40 caps for England and won the Heineken Cup with Wasps, plus the reliable Scotland tighthead prop Gavin Kerr, there was real presence.

Wales flanker Richard Parks, unusually, is now more renowned for high-octane, extreme global expeditions, including climbing the highest mountain on each of the world’s seven continents and standing on all three poles –North, South and summit of Everest – within seven months.

On the return trip to Spain the following week, Leeds won 53-11 in a game that, more significantly, marked the first-team debut of Academy product Danny Care.

Then just 17, he started at fly-half and quickly showed his dynamism, scoring one try and kicking three goals before cruelly suffering a broken leg.

It did not derail the prodigiously-talented scrum-half’s progress; just last month, Care earned his 50th Test cap against South Africa having also won the Premiership title with Harlequins in 2012.