SPORT / Forget the rest, who were the best in '93?: Rugby League: Strong man's power play - John Devereux

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The Independent Online
DISPLAYING a rare sense of history, the man who was responsible for the worst moment of 1992 produced the best moment of 1993, writes Dave Hadfield.

John Devereux's missed tackle against Australia at Wembley had cost Great Britain the World Cup the previous year, but in the series against New Zealand this season he put the accumulated demons and disappointments of an accident-prone international career firmly behind him.

In the first Test at Wembley, he did nothing wrong and a good deal right in a 17-0 victory. His tackling was consistently punishing, he ran with fierce commitment and came up with the third try.

The second Test at Wigan, however, finally established him as a man to win matches at this level, rather than one for whom it was necessary to keep fingers crossed.

His two first-half tries paved the way for a 29-12 win that was full of potent attacking rugby. Both were memorable, but it was the first that defined both his own qualities and Britain's surprisingly clear-cut superiority over close recent rivals.

It came just 11 minutes into the match, Shaun Edwards and Garry Schofield opening up play with confident long passes - a confidence born of knowing they had the right sort of players outside them - and Gary Connolly seized the chance to run at the defence.

His reverse pass to Devereux was a good one, but there was still an abundance of black and white between the Welshman and the try-line 25 yards away. The brute strength that took him through six tackles made Central Park gasp; admittedly, none of the tackling was exactly textbook - too much of it was concentrated, fatally, around Devereux's broad shoulders - but anyone else would have been brought down by sheer weight of numbers.

It was a moment that showed why Great Britain were on their way to a rare series whitewash over the Kiwis. It contained slick, adventurous handling, collective pace and precision and individual determination. Wembley a year before suddenly seemed a very long time ago and the return of the Australians on a full tour next autumn cannot come quickly enough.

(Photograph omitted)