Sheffield became the first ever winners of the 1895 Cup with a 36-18 victory against Widnes at Wembley.
Olly Ashall-Bott and Joe Lyons were the two players to miss out of Widnes’ 19-man squad for the game.
Sheffield coach Mark Aston made the bold decision to leave Jacob Ogden and James Meadows out of his side.
The match was stopped just minutes in as Widnes hooker Jordan Johnstone suffered a suspected fractured eye socket and immediately went to hospital.
Harrison Hansen and Chris Dean scored to put the Vikings ahead early doors.
But Sheffield replied with two quickfire tries midway through the first half to level the score thanks to Aaron Brown and Anthony Thackeray.
Tom Gilmore put Widnes in an 18-12 lead at the break with a fine solo effort.
The Eagles shot out of the blocks in the second half and scored through Joel Farrell. It was all Sheffield in the second half as Corey Makelim and Brown (2) crossed for further tries. Pat Walker added a penalty goal late on to seal a 36-18 victory for his side.
Three talking points
Sheffield halves impress
The half-back partnership between Pat Walker and Thackeray was brilliant to watch. The pair work really well together and it’s not difficult to realise why the Eagles have been flying in the Championship this year.
Walker controls the game and is a quality goal-kicker, while Thackeray has a bit of flair about him.
The pair guide Sheffield around the park very well and they link well with Josh Guzdek and Corey Makelim in the spine of the team.
Ray French Award winner
Thackeray won the inaugural Ray French Award for his stellar performance at Wembley. He has been a standout player in the Championship for a number of years now, so he deserved his name in lights on the big stage.
He is a class act and was a general on the field against his former club. Ironically, Thackeray scored 47 tries in 69 matches for Widnes between 2008-11!
There could have been a few more names mentioned for the accolade as well like Bradley Knowles-Tagg, Makelim and hat-trick hero Brown.
Game should have been curtain-raiser
The 1895 Cup is a great competition because it gives the lower league clubs a chance to play at Wembley.
However, there wasn’t more than 10,000 in the ground when the game kicked off because it was played after the Challenge Cup final.
Hopefully the 1895 Cup stays next year but that the final is played as a curtain-raiser to the Challenge Cup final so the atmosphere can build and so there would be more spectators in the ground.
Line-ups and ratings
Sheffield: Guzdek (8); Millar (7), Hellewell (7), Brown (9), Blackmore (7); Walker (8), Thackeray (8); Pick (7), G Burns (7), Knowles-Tagg (8), Davies (7), Farrell (7), Makelim (8). Subs: Davey (7), Broadbent (7), P Burns (7), Mason (7).
Tries: Brown 3, Thackeray, Farrell, Makelim Goals: Walker 6/8
Widnes: Owens (7); Hatton (6), Gelling (6), Brand (7), Ah Van (6); Craven (6), Gilmore (5); T Chapelhow (6), Johnstone (N/A), Cahill (6), Hansen (7), Dean (6), Walker (6). Subs: J Chapelhow (6), Leuluai (7), Norman (6), Wilde (7).
Tries: Hansen, Dean, Gilmore Goals: Owens 3/3
It might not have been the most entertaining game to watch but Sheffield have got to be applauded for their performance. They went 12-0 down early doors but showed fight and spirit to turn it around.
Thackeray is a gem of a player for the Eagles. Aston has got a good bunch there, with Oliver Davies, Joel Farrell and James Davey being workhorses in the pack.
As for Widnes, they just didn’t show up in the second half. They failed to get out of the blocks and didn’t threaten the line like they did in their semi-final win over Leigh. It’s been a long and sad season for the Vikings.