Readers’ Awards 2019: Match of the Year

James Gordon

There were plenty of contenders for this one, but here are your chosen three.

3. Wigan 4-28 Salford

Probably the evening that defined Salford’s remarkable season, as they stunned champions Wigan in their own backyard to book a place in their first ever Super League Grand Final.
Salford didn’t just beat Wigan in this game, they hammered them. It came a week after another impressive performance at home to Castleford, which was also nominated for Match of the Year.

Krisnan Inu, a mid-season signing from Widnes, contributed 16 points in the win for Salford, who had lost at the same ground two weeks previous in the play-offs.

And Man of Steel Jackson Hastings starred against his future employers.

2. Bradford 24-22 Leeds

It’s been a horrendous decade to be a Bradford fan, with the trials and tribulations off the pitch.

But they did at least get the chance to enjoy a rare momentous watching their team on the terraces when they beat the old enemy Leeds, of Super League no less, 24-22 in a televised Challenge Cup clash.

They led 22-14 at half time against a Leeds side that had recently parted company with David Furner.

Coach John Kear said: “I think it’s a statement for the club and our rebuild as well. It’s fantastic to have over 10-thousand fans back here too – what a great day, I love the Challenge Cup.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t prove to be a catalyst for further success. They lost in the quarter-finals to divisional rivals Halifax, failed to make the Championship play-offs, waved goodbye (perhaps only temporarily) to Odsal in September and were embroiled in yet another ownership saga post-season.

That afternoon in May this year will have at least brought a positive recent memory for Bulls fans, who have my deepest sympathies for what they’ve been put through.

1. Tonga 16-12 Australia

One of the greatest upsets in international rugby league history saw Tonga complete a historic treble by beating Australia 16-12 at Eden Park.

It was the first time Australia had lost to anyone other than Great Britain/England or New Zealand since 1978.

Led by NRL superstars Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo, who had ditched their tier one nations to breathe life in to their Tongan heritage, Tonga completed the set by beating the Kangaroos – having beaten Great Britain weeks earlier, and of course seeing off the Kiwis in the 2017 World Cup, where they were semi-finalists.

Will Hopoate gave the Tongan Invitational XIII, so-called due to a fall out between the players and the Tongan federation which has since been re-formed, the lead only for Australia to lead at half time.

Michael Jennings cut the deficit and Tevita Pangai Junior was the player to secure the historic win.

Love Rugby League Readers’ Awards 2019 Match of the Year – Tonga v Australia