Rugby League: A game plan to beat the best

Jonathan Davies shows his gratitude for the daring deeds of spirited underdogs
Click to follow
The Independent Online
I HOPE Wigan don't get too upset that the rest of us are so delighted they were beaten, but Sheffield's win was one of the biggest shocks in sport for years and it was great to watch.

You had to be a Sheffield fan or a nutter to expect such a result and the surprise element made it all the more thrilling. And it was no fluke. Sheffield genuinely believed they could win and they did so with a simple game-plan that they were determined to stick to whatever happened. If only the Sheffield public had believed in them as much, then there would not have been the gaps in the crowd at their end. Still, if this doesn't convince them then nothing will.

I think that if Sheffield had tried to consolidate their position and sit on their lead in the second half, Wigan would have taken command and snatched victory. I must admit that with 10 minutes to go and with Wigan piling on the pressure I thought Sheffield might crack.

But they defended like heroes and at the end it was Sheffield who were back on the attack. Coach John Kear must take full credit for persuading his men not only that they could win but that their method was the right way to go about it. There was nothing complicated about his tactics - the forwards would make the yardage and Mark Aston would kick for position. That, and a very solid defence, was their basic approach. They also did everything they could to break up Wigan's rhythm and slow down their play- the-ball even at the risk of conceding penalties.

But as effectively as their tactics worked, they didn't really create any openings. The first try came from a great Aston kick, the second was caused by a defensive mistake and the third was a piece of strongman work by Darren Turner. For all their failings, Wigan created far more in terms of clear openings but couldn't take advantage of them. This was partly to their own mistakes, but mostly because Sheffield refused to buckle.

It was a sad day for Andy Farrell, particularly as we have been praising him to the skies this season. He just didn't play well, but none of his colleagues were able to step in and replace him as the team's inspiration. Part of the trouble might have been that Wigan aren't used to playing catch-up. They know what it is like now.

I wouldn't argue with the choice of Aston as winner of the Lance Todd Trophy but I have to put a word in for Dave Watson, whose defence was majestic with two try-saving tackles.

The big plus as far as league is concerned is that we've found some new heroes and Sheffield can now make an impact in the Super League. I suspect Wigan will go on to win the title but suddenly we and they know that there's no such thing as a foregone conclusion any more.

Sheffield gave us a great final but, more importantly, they've opened up a very interesting season ahead and for that everyone should be grateful.

Comments