My own goal; Alan Tait

Rugby League: THE Leeds full-back, who faces the old enemy, Wigan, in today's Premiership Final at Old Trafford, recalls last year's Rugby League Cup final at Wembley when a difficult catch went wrong at a crucial moment - the stuff of nightmares
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The Independent Online
THE WORST moment for me would have to be against Wigan at Wembley last year. It was the first time Leeds had got to the Challenge Cup final for about 12 years, and the first time I had ever played there in a Cup final. After 26 minutes, Wigan were leading 4-0 and the game had been nip and tuck all the way; we couldn't afford to concede any more points and if they'd let us score it would have put us right back in the game. It was then that Shaun Edwards put up a high kick; there was no real pressure on us, but it was the "bomb" that every full-back dreads.

When you are preparing to catch one of these high kicks, you never look at the opposition. You always keep your eyes on the ball, and jump up to collect the ball. As soon as that ball left Edwards's boot, I called that I was going to take it. I thought I did everything right.

I took off and ran for for the ball and I did everything in text-book fashion: I kept my eye on the ball. Bombs can be hard to take with the pressure that the other team put on you - especially against Wigan, with the likes of Andy Farrell and Phil Clarke running at you. I managed to clear those two, but as I went up for the ball, it just seemed to come away - and landed in Farrell's hands, and then he just went under the sticks and scored to put his side 10-0 ahead.

It really looked as if I'd dropped the bomb, which is a full-back's nightmare. I admit it looked bad. But I said to the referee then, and I say to this day, that I never touched that ball - I don't know how it got away. A few months later, I saw a picture in a magazine that showed that Clarke had punched it out of my hands - he seemed to bring his fist up, disguised between his body and mine, and it must have hit his fist and gone straight in the air, and Farrell caught it. I couldn't understand how it had ended up in Farrell's hands, because he had been sideways on to me - at the pace at which I had been coming forward, if the ball had come off me it would have bounced forward a good 10 yards. But it went into Farrell's hands five yards to the left of me. I couldn't understand it. But that try got them away clear from us. If they hadn't scored then we'd have given them a closer game. As it was, we lost 26-16.

It was a sickener. For months afterwards I had to put up with people coming up to me and saying that it was that mistake that had turned the game. But I always knew that I didn't get a fair crack at it.

At half-time, all the lads told me to forget about it: the rest of the team took the blame for not protecting me from oncoming players. They were trying to cheer me up but I can't help looking back on that moment and thinking that it might well have changed the game.

If you defuse a bomb it helps your side a great deal. When a full-back takes a good catch and makes a good few yards forward it lifts his team- mates: they all start running harder and stronger and it's a big boost. The crowd react positively as well. I practise every Saturday morning and before today's game I'll get Graham Holroyd to put 20 or so balls up in the air so I can practise catching them. At full-back you can have three good games and then an absolute nightmare and cost your team the game. You're in the game so much. Bombs have been the downfall of many a young full-back. But I'm always ready for them. It's just that with Wigan you have to watch out for the chasers too.

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