Eric Chisnall by Dave Dooley: Eric Chisnall literally burst onto the scene towards the end of the 1966/7 season. This fast elusive locally born second row forward was destined to become a member of the exclusive member of the Saints '500' Club - the elite band of four players who have made more than 500 appearances for St Helens RFC. His first try for the club came in the 1967 Lancashire Cup Final Replay against Warrington in December of that year. With the teams locked at eight points apiece Eric plunged over the 'Wire' tryline from a play the ball situation. This score allowed the great Tom Van Vollenhoven lift the trophy for the Saints as they finished the game 13 points to 10 winners. This crucial try showed Eric's presence of mind but the nature of the score was rather untypical of the 'Chizzy' specials that usually involved the classy second rower racing into gaps and leaving the opposition for dead!
In the following season Eric was virtually an ever-present member of the side. The 1968 Lancashire Cup Final saw a repeat performance for Eric and the Saints, as the boys from Knowsley Road completed a record margin win over Oldham by 30 points to 2. Eric roared in for a try that sealed the win over the 'Roughyeds'. Eric's game featured the ability to offload in the tackle - this ability was absolutely essential as the Saints only had four tackles in a phase of play. Chisnall ably demonstrated this part of his game in a wonderfully worked try at the start of the 1970 Championship Final when Saints went on to win by 24 points to 12. Eric was also a very solid tackler and this aspect of his game was required in the 1971 Championship Final when the Saints had to restrict a tremendous Wigan onslaught in the second half. Again Eric and the boys prevailed as Billy 'the bandit' Benyon nicked a last minute win over the men from the banks of the Douglas.
If you are going to complete a career of over 500 matches then a player needs to be of top quality and extremely durable in the toughest of all sports. Eric played an incredible 53 matches in the 1971/2 season as the Saints pressed for honours in all competitions. Remarkably Eric made 24 appearances at prop responding to a situation whereby players had to be flexible with so many fixtures having to be fulfilled. His rock solid performances and numerous breaks brought him 10 tries in that campaign as Saints triumphed in the BBC TV Trophy and the 1972 Challenge Cup at Wembley. In the latter match as Saints pressurised the Leeds defence in the first quarter of the match a crossfield move found 'Chizzy' characteristically out wide in the centres. A beautifully timed pass from EC presented Les Jones with a golden opportunity to score in the corner and the Parr flyer duly obliged. This stretched Saints' lead to and despite constant Leeds pressure through the remainder of the game, the boys from Knowsley Road were never to surrender their advantage.
Chisnall's reputation as a fine all round player had already earned him four Lancashire caps by the time he was selected for the 1974 Australasian Tour. The four tests Eric played down under provided him with his only Great Britain caps.
The 1974/5 Championship winning season provided a platform for Eric to return a best ever season total of 12 tries from 41 matches. His consistent play, safe hands and excellent defence contributed to one of Saints' best ever league campaigns as they finished top of the league some nine points ahead of nearest challengers Wigan. The 'Glory Trail' for Eric and the Saints continued the following season as the BBC TV Trophy, the Challenge Cup and the Premiership were all won at a canter. Eric Chisnall, at 29 years of age, was one of the younger forwards on view in the 1976 Challenge Cup victory over Widnes. In the 1976 Premiership win over Salford, Eric stormed onto a ball to weave his way past three defenders and plant the ovoid beneath the posts and seal the match for the Saints. One year later Saints faced Warrington in the same competition final and 'Chizzy' was on hand to help subdue the highly regarded Warrington pack. In this match he was aided and abetted by his brother Dave who had joined the Saints that very season.
After such a glittering career to the end of the 1976/7 season, Eric had managed to avoid major injuries and he had never missed a Saints Final victory. After scoring a try against Dewsbury in the tenth match of the 1977/8 season Eric received a serious injury and was forced to sit out the rest of that campaign. He had to grin and bear it as the Saints lost to Leeds in the 1978 Challenge Cup in one the closest fought Finals ever.
As the Saints glory team of the 1970s dispersed, Eric remained loyal to the cause and played through to the 1981/2 season as Saints rebuilt their team around a nucleus of young local talent. Eric adopted the role of the 'Elder Statesman' of the pack alongside George Nicholls as they nurtured the young lads in the team.
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