Sheffield Eagles pulled off one of the greatest Rugby League shocks of all time when they won the Silk Cut Challenge Cup final at Wembley in 1998.
John Kear’s braves overcame hot favourites and Superleague leaders Wigan Warriors 17-8 when nobody outside the club had given them a chance.
Eagles were 14-1 outsiders and, according to supporters of unbeaten Wigan - who included greats like Andy Farrell, Henry Paul and Jasin Robinson - were just there to make up the numbers. But how wrong they were.
Eagles went ahead with a try by Nick Pinkney and although Mark Aston’s conversion attempt missed, they never lost the lead.
And who better to give a man of the match performance than Aston, the man today regarded as Mr Sheffield Eagles.
The Star and Green Un’s reporter at Wembley Simon Meeks said: “Aston was a giant for Eagles, kicking astutely, directing the game and defending brilliantly as he collected the Lance Todd Trophy.”
But Aston was swift to pay tribute to his team mates, the coaching staff and the travelling support: “The Sheffield supportersv really get behind us.
“I would like to thank Gary Hetherington for rescuing my career. He gave me a second chance at Sheffield and I grabbed it with both hands and it’s just got better and better.”
But Hetherington, the Eagles founder who had since moved on to Leeds, couldn’t hide his pride and joy at the end, saying it was a sensational performance.
“It’sa marvellous day for the club and the game. This win wasn’t a surprise to me - Wigan played well, you can’t take anything away from Sheffield. The players defended really well.It shows how ridiculous many pre-match forecasts were. To suggest Wigan were so far ahead is an insult to Sheffield. I enjoyed every minute.”
Coach Kear, the man who inspired the triumph, said: “Then only people who thought we would win were in the north dressing room, and they were the ones who mattered.
“We worked very hard. We knew that Wigan were going to, and we defended in a very special way.
“We developed a unity of belief that 1998 was going tro be Sheffield Eagles’ year.
“Defeat never entered our minds.
“I’m really pleased for Mark Aston. He’s had 10 years at this club.I thought his contribution was first class. He directed us about the field, his kicking was first class and defensivbely he made a massive effort.
“Paul Broadbent leads and Mark Aston directs.
“We had a team meeting before and after that I knew we’d win. We walked out of the hotel 10ft tall and we arrived at Wembley knowing exactly what we had to do.
“I think that was one of the most complete performances of any team at Wembley.”
- Sheffield Eagles: Sovatabua, Pinkney, Taewa, Senior, Crowther, Watson, Aston, Broadbent (capt), Lawless, Laughton, Carr, Shaw, Doyle. Subs: Wood, Stott, Turner, Jackson.
Tries: Pinkney, Crowther, Turner; goals: Aston 2, drop goal: Aston
- Wigan Warriors: Radlinski, Bell, Connolly, Moore, Robinson, Paul, Smith, Mestrov, McCormack, Holgate, Betts, Haughton, Farrell (capt). Subs: Cowie, Gilmour, O’Connor, Cassidy.
Try: Bell; goals: Farrell 2
Referee: Stuart Cummings.
- Eagles’ path to final - round 4: Leigh Centurios 11 Eagles 66; round 5: Eagles 84 Egremont Rangers 6; Quarter-final: Castleford Tigers 22 Eagles 32; Semi-final: Eagles 22 Salford Reds 18.