William Benyon by Dave Dooley: Billy Benyon signed professional forms for the club at the age of 16. He made his first team debut three days after his seventeenth birthday. Billy was equally gifted at soccer but spurned the opportunity to play for West Bromwich Albion and Bolton Wanderers in order to sign for his hometown club. Billy had superb hands and a timely pass, his tackling was first-class, he had bags of pace and could utilise the grubber kick with deadly accuracy when the situation deemed it necessary. He appeared in twenty Finals for the club and ended up on the winning side in 16 of these (both club records).
His first try for the club came in a Western Divisional Championship game against Liverpool City. As a seventeen year old he played in the 1962 Lancashire Cup Final when Saints defeated Swinton by 7 points to 4. In the 1964/5 season he emerged a s the regular left centre to flying springbok Len Killeen. He played in this position in the 1964 Lancashire Cup Final and picked up a second winner`s medal, again the vanquished were a then paranoid Swinton outfit. In the same season the club won the Lancashire League Championship as Saints finished top of the league. Billy was an integral member of the side that won four cups in the 1965/6 campaign. In the 1966 Challenge Cup Final demolition of Wigan, Albert Halsall made a fantastic bustling run into the enemy danger zone. Billy received a neat pass from the resulting `play the ball` and deftly grubbered the ball behind the Riversiders` defence for a flying Killeen to pick up and dive across the line in one movement to score a sensational try. This 21 points to 2 victory was followed one week later with a resounding performance in the Championship Final against Halifax. Billy`s guile and speed helped destroy the Yorkshiremen by 35 points to 12. His service to Killeen was exquisite and provided the South African with ample scoring opportunities which more often than not were gleefully taken.
Billy`s first ever hat trick for the club came against Liverpool City in the 1966/7 season. As Saints winning streak extended through the decade Billy was a key man in teams that won two Lancashire League titles and a couple of Lancashire Cup Final victories against Warrington and Oldham. Billy was a consistent player throughout his career but arguably his finest form was in the late sixties and early 1970s. His game awareness had reached maturity, Billy`s ball skills were their sharpest and he even seemed to have gained an extra yard or two in pace. In the 1969/70 season he crossed the tryline 22 times in 43 matches. The season culminated in the 1970 Championship Final 24 points to 12 victory over Leeds.
The following campaign was to thrust Billy into the limelight. His tryscoring prowess was at its peak and Billy had developed a party piece with several brilliant interception tries which served to highlight Benyon`s impeccable timing and reading of the game. One of these gems was against newly crowned world champions Australia when Saints blitzed the men from down under by 37 points to 10 in November 1970. Benyon`s rich vein of from continued with hat tricks in successive weeks against Bradford Northern (Away) and Batley (Home). The ultimate climax occurred for Billy and the Saints at the end of this campaign when Saints were matched against Wigan in the dramatic 1971 Championship Final. With seven minutes of the match remaining Saints looked dead and buried as they trailed by 12 points to 6 and with John Mantle having been sent off for foul play. Saints managed to exert some pressure on the Wigan defence and the ball was switched smartly to the left wing where Cumbrian Bob Blackwood squeezed over for a try in the corner. Kel `the boot` Coslett converted brilliantly from the touchline to leave the Saints trailing by just one point. The match ebbed and flowed as excitement in the crowd reached a crescendo. In the last minute of the game John Walsh attempted a `do or die` drop goal from way out on the left hand side of the Swinton pitch. Billy Benyon had played a key role in keeping the Saints in the game with some heroic defence but had been suffering with a painful shoulder injury for much of the game. Walsh`s drop goal dropped short and to the right of the posts bouncing obliquely away from the Wigan tryline. Benyon`s determined and well-judged follow up placed him in the right spot to catch the ball. Time seemed to stand still as Billy collected the ball and plunged over the whitewash, seemingly impervious to Stuart Wright`s attempted tackle. Referee Lawrenson awarded the try and `Benyon the Brave` left the field in agony, just as the Saints` following were entering a state of Nirvana. Kel Coslett coolly slotted over the conversion, the final whistle was blown and Saints were back to back Champions. Naturally, all of Wigan town still maintain that Billy was offside when Walsh dropped for goal. However, they do not take into account Billy`s turn of foot, his magnificent anticipation and the record books! In a landmark season for club and player, Billy ended the season with 22 tries and had gained two Great Britain caps.
The epic 1971/2 season was a glory trail that demanded amazing levels of endurance form the Saints team. Billy made 43 appearances that season scoring 12 tries in the process. He was part of the side that carried off the 1971 BBC TV Trophy in the 8 points to 2 Final victory over Rochdale Hornets and a key member of the 1972 Challenge Cup winning side that defeated Leeds by 16 points to 13. He also made a further three starts and one substitute appearance for Great Britain. Billy was also granted a Benefit Match against Wigan on Boxing Day 1972 after ten glorious years at the club.
Eric Ashton`s squad for the 1974/5 Championship winning campaign was one of the most experienced and gifted ever to have been assembled at Knowsley Road. The team only lost three matches in their entire league campaign and finished the season some 9 points clear of their nearest challengers Wigan in the league table. Billy was an integral part of that side and his experienced service provided tries galore for a rampant Saints` back line.
The 1975/6 season saw Billy`s mantlepiece full to overflowing. In the 1975 BBC TV Trophy Final Billy chipped in with some neat touches as Dewsbury were taken to the cleaners by 22 points to 2. If these personal milestones were not enough, Billy demonstrated what a class act he was in the 1976 Challenge Cup Final and the Premiership Final of the same year. In the "Dad?s Army" triumph over Widnes at Wembley Stadium, he coaxed and cajoled his forwards into producing a storming display to pound the Widnes opposition into submission in a tense first half. Cruelly Billy had to leave the match at half time with an injury. Billy, along with John Mantle, had completed three successful Challenge Cup Finals and had the medals to prove it! Two weeks later Billy was back at stand off as the Saints repeated the dose against a table topping Salford side in the Premiership Final defeating the `Red Devils` by 15 points to 2.
Following the transfer of Kel Coslett to Rochdale Hornets in the summer of 1976, Billy was made club captain. In his last season Billy led the team a second successive Premiership Final against his next club Warrington. That proved to be the last silverware that the club would win for seven years. Billy Benyon was a great talisman for the club during his career. In all his winning medal total included 3 Challenge Cups, 5 League Championships, 2 Premierships, 4 Lancashire Cups, 4 Lancashire Leagues and 2 BBC TV Trophy competitions. Whilst at the Saints Billy also earned 13 caps for Lancashire scoring four tries for the `Red Rose` county. Following his transfer to Warrington at the start of the 1977/8 season Billy managed to pick up a John Player Cup winner`s medal with the Wires.
Billy took over the reins as coach of the Saints in the summer of 1982. He brought on a talented bunch of youngsters to form the nucleus of the next trophy winning squad. Under his guidance and the inspiration of a certain Mal Meninga, Saints picked up the 1984 Lancashire Cup and defeated Hull KR in the 1985 Premiership Final.
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