Written by Tom Sealy
The phenomenal Phil Cantillon smashed many try scoring world records at club and international level during his career, making him the most prolific try scoring forward in the history of the game with over 250 first grade tries, whilst playing over 400 first grade games.
Cantillon played for Wigan, Keighley Cougars, Leeds, Widnes Vikings and Halifax during a 16-year career in the nineties and noughties, although it’s his incredible feats at Widnes Vikings and for Ireland Rugby League that he will long be remembered for.
Cantillon signed for his hometown club Wigan in 1992 and represented Great Britain Academy captaining them on the Australian tour in 1994. With the launch of Super League in 1995 and the move from winter to summer sport, Great Britain coach Phil Larder signed Cantillon for the then star-studded Keighley Cougars – becoming an immediate star with his no-nonsense style and try scoring ability. He scored a hat trick on his début against Wakefield, and quickly gained international honours by the end of the year. Cantillon went on to play for England in the 1996 Super League World Nines in Fiji under Phil Larder. He then moved to the Leeds Rhinos in 1997, before joining Widnes Vikings in 1999.
The hooker and utility star became a firm favourite of the Vikings fans with cult figure status gained with spectator chants of “Oh ah Cantillon”. His electrifying burst of speed, leadership and superb balance served him well during a long and illustrious career.
During his five seasons at Widnes, Cantillon broke many try scoring records including a world record for most tries by a hooker in a season in 2000 with 30. He would go on to smash this in 2001 surpassing the legendary and iconic Great Britain captain Ellery Hanley’s record of 42, with a staggering 48 tries in a season, setting a new world record for tries in a season by a forward.
Cantillon equalled the club record held by many greats of the former world champions with five tries in a match, doing so in three consecutive seasons in 1999, 2000 and 2001, before he smashed the record with seven tries in a match in 2001. An incredible achievement, which set another try scoring world record for a hooker and forward.
At one stage he racked up 100 tries in 113 appearance, before signing off from the Vikings with a staggering 117 tries from 159 appearances, placing him ninth in the top try scores for the club ever and the highest ever for a forward.
Cantillon went on the play for England in the World Sevens in 2003, before captaining Ireland Rugby League in 2003, via his family heritage. He went on to set a try scoring record for Ireland with most tries in a match with four against Scotland in 2004, captaining them to the World Cup and European Nations Final. He is placed as the all-time top try scorer for the nation.
Nearly twenty year those incredible feats and records remain, and are staggering from a hooker, considering the high work rate, tackling and support play needed from the position.