Leslie Jones by Dave Dooley: Frequent discussions about former Saints` players always conjure up the name of Les Jones, especially if the other conversationalists are from Wigan. Les used to haunt the men from Central Park with timely interceptions and a knack to seal the game for the Saints when matters were in the balance. Emanating from Parr, Les was a model professional who prided himself on fitness and maintaining a sharp edge to his speed. He was sound in defence and totally dedicated to the Saints` cause. Les ended his career by becoming the club`s second highest try scorer of all time with 282 tries from a staggering 485 appearances.
Signed from Parr Juniors Les was soon to make a name for himself. In his first match at Wigan on March 24th. 1967 Les scored a try to seal the match for the Saints who won by 21 points to 7 in front of 21 603 fans. With Vollenhoven and Killeen still on the club`s books, opportunities in his first season were somewhat limited. However, under the captaincy and tutelage of the great Van Voll, Les settled down to a regular spot on the left wing in the 1967/8 season. Les scored two hat tricks that season against Oldham and Widnes. In the 1967 Lancashire Cup Replay against Warrington, Les opened the scoring after 28 minutes when Smith and Benyon put him in the clear, the copper-headed youngster touched down in the corner crashing through full back Conroy`s attempted tackle. Saints prevailed by 13 points to 10 to secure Les his first honour with the club.
Les did not make a return appearance in the 1968 Lancashire Cup Final but his 22 tries in 37 appearances was a notable tally which helped Saints become the 1968/9 Lancashire League Champions. Les was developing as a lethal winger as the decade came to a close. The 1969/70 campaign brought Les 33 tries including four against Whitehaven and hat tricks against Maryport in the Challenge Cup and Wigan in the last match of the swinging sixties. In the Wigan match with the scores level at five points each after 15 minutes, Rowe threw out a wide pass intended for Cliff Hill inside his own half of the field. Suddenly, the flaming red hair of Les Jones appeared from nowhere and superbly intercepted to race 55 yards for a fabulous score. John Walsh gifted Les a second try just before half time with another timely interception try completing his hat trick in the second half. The masterful 53 points to 11 victory became one of the highlights of Les Jones` glittering career. Les also ended the season on a high as Saints outplayed a Leeds outfit to win the 1970 Championship Final by 24 points to 12.
In the 1970/1 season Les topped the Saints` try scoring charts with 39 tries from 45 matches. This haul included four tries against Huyton. The ginger talisman was also present when the Saints defeated Wigan in the Billy `the bandit` Benyon epic to win back-to-back Championships.
The 1971/2 double winning season was a keystone campaign for Les and his compatriots. After securing the BBC TV Trophy with a 22 points to 2 victory over Dewsbury, the team maoved smoothly through the rounds to reach the 1972 Challenge Cup Final. With Saints already in the lead by 5 points to 2 after 16 minutes a quick-fire move whipped the ball towards the right flank. A beautiful break and long pass by Eric Chisnall was accepted gleefully by Les Jones. Despite a desperate attempt by his opposite number John Atkinson to drag him into touch at the corner flag, Les skilfully grounded the ball well inside the field of play. Saints were in a lead they were never to relinquish and Les completed a full set of winner`s medals. The same campaign also presented Les with his solitary Great Britain cap. He later represented England on one occasion in the 1976/7 season to add to the eight caps he would gain for Lancashire.
The following season was marred by injuries providing Les with just seven first team appearances. Les was back in the groove over the next two seasons with identical hauls of 25 tries. The latter season of 1974/5 was the Championship winning campaign with Saints losing just three of their league matches.
In the treble winning season of 1975/6 Les finished as the club`s top try scorer with 31 tries from 48 matches. His right wing partnerships with a succession of top class centres like Billy Benyon and Eddie Cunningham had provided first class service to the Parr lad. Although he did not score in the 1976 Challenge Cup Final one of the highlights of the game was in the 74th minute when Les darted 80 yards down the right flank being half tackled, recovering and being halted just short of the Widnes tryline. From the resultant play the ball, Geoff Pimblett sent in peter Glynn to effectively kill the game. A first Premiership medal winged its way to the Jones household just two weeks later as Saints overcame a stubborn Salford side by 15 points to 2. That season also brought hat tricks for Les against Blackpool Borough, Bradford Northern and Swinton.
One year later and Les and the Saints were winning the Premiership again as Saints outgunned a Warrington outfit by 32 points to 20.
The fact that Les Jones was top of the appearances chart in the 1980/1 season as he approached the age of 33 demonstrated his ability, resilience and loyalty to the Saints` cause. Five other Saints have only topped his 485 appearances for the club and he is in second place in the all-time try-scoring chart behind Tom Van Vollenhoven.
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