Readers’ Awards 2020: Match of the Year

James Gordon

There were fewer games of rugby league in 2020 than ever before, but you still managed to select three belters.

3. NRL Grand Final: Penrith 20-26 Melbourne

We often look at the NRL with envy for the overall quality of play throughout the competition, but this year’s Grand Final was notable for the presence of 37,303 spectators as Australia signified its success in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The game looked done at half-time, as Melbourne Storm – led by the imperious Cameron Smith – led 22-0 against a shell-shocked Penrith, who had topped the regular season table and had stretched their winning run to 17.

A penalty try got Melbourne on the board after four minutes, before two Smith penalties, and then a Suliasi Vunivalu interception took Storm the length of the field. Smith then scored a try right on the half-time hooter, awarded by the video referee.

The one-way traffic continued at the start of the second half as Ryan Papenhuyzen ran 70 metres to score from a scrum. Penrith finally got on the board in the 53rd minute, and with seven minutes left, had reduced the score to 26-16. Although they scored a fourth try in the final minute, it was too late, even with Nathan Clearly refusing the conversion to give them more time to find a try.

2. St Helens 6-18 Wigan

Two teams were largely head and shoulders above the rest in 2020, and they also played out the best game in the regular season, according to your votes.

This one at the end of October ended in a come from behind win for Adrian Lam’s Wigan, which ultimately secured them the league leaders’ shield.

Lachlan Coote’s converted try had Saints 6-0 in front, though that lead was reduced to 6-4 at half time through Jake Bibby.

But Wigan earned a gutsy away win with tries from Thomas Leuluai, Bevan French and Jackson Hastings.

1. Super League Grand Final – Wigan 4-8 St Helens

It was a match befitting of the occasion and one of the great Super League Grand Finals, as St Helens won a second successive title in the most dramatic of circumstances against arch-rivals Wigan.

Sadly played in front of an empty KCOM Stadium on a freezing November night in Hull, the first time the big event hasn’t been played at Old Trafford, the game thrilled the television audience and provided a finale to match any in the sport’s 125 year history.

A fascinating arm wrestle had seen just one try, through Wigan’s Jake Bibby, and looked poised for extra time at 4-4 before the most extraordinary ending.

Tommy Makinson’s long-range drop goal at the death hit the post and then bounced back in-goal, evading Warriors full-back Bevan French, and the youngest player on the pitch, Jack Welsby came from nowhere to pounce just before the dead ball line.

Love Rugby League Readers’ Awards 2020 Match of the Year – Wigan v St Helens (Grand Final)

The Love Rugby League Readers’ Awards are voted for by you – via our Facebook and Twitter channels, and also via the comments section of the website. Voting is held in mid-December each year. View the 2019 winners here.