Sheffield Eagles celebrate more Wembley glory as Mark Aston's men win 1895 Cup... 21 years after greatest day in club's history
Sheffield Eagles are celebrating more Wembley glory, 21 years after the greatest day in the club’s history..
A hat-trick of tries by Aaron Brown and a dominant second half performance paved the way to a 36-18 victory over Widnes Vikings in the first 1895 Cup final.
Eagles’ triumph was masterminded by their coaching team of Mark Aston and Keith Senior, who both played in the shock 1998 Challenge Cup final win over Wigan Warriors.
John Kear, coach that afternoon, presented the players with their Wembley shirts, alongside another member of the 1998 team Paul Broadbent - whose son Blake was among Saturday’s substitutes.
With the final of the competition, for lower division teams, being played after the Challenge Cup showpiece, most of the 62,000 crowd were heading home when Eagles took to the stage.
Those who stayed behind witnessed an outstanding Sheffield effort which combined spirit, flair and defensive toughness.
Remarkably, despite his three tries, Brown didn’t make the shortlist for the Ray French man of the match award.
That was won by half-back Anthony Thackeray who cancelled a holiday in Spain to play in the final.
In baking conditions, more suited to lounging on a beach than playing rugby, Thackeray scored a crucial try and was involved in most of Eagles’ best moments.
Also nominated was second-rower Joel Farrell whose touchdown 90 seconds into the second half began to turn the tide Sheffield’s way after they had trailed 18-12 at the break.
Eagles were emphatic victors, but didn’t have things all their own way.
Widnes made the more confident start and when they went 12-0 ahead inside the opening quarter it looked like the occasion would prove too much for Eagles.
Brown’s quick thinking began their revival. He dummied through the defence for a well-taken try on 21 minutes, then four later Thackeray stole the ball from Widnes’ Jack Owens and raced 70 metres to score unopposed.
Patch Walker converted both and Sheffield were back on level terms, having wiped out Widnes’ touchdowns scored by Harrison Hansen and Chris Dean, both of which Owens improved.
Eagles would have gone ahead if Oliver Davies’ pass to Josh Guzdek had been better-timed, but it was forward and Widnes took advantage of the let-off to grab a third try through Tom Gilmore.
Owen’s successful kick opened a six-point gap at the interval and Sheffield had it all to do, chasing the game in hot conditions.
But once Eagles got on the front foot at the start of the second period, Widnes - reduced to 16 available players after Jordan Johnstone was hurt after just four minutes - never seriously threatened to regain the momentum.
The try by Farrell - whose father Anthony is a former Sheffield player and was a Wembley Challenge Cup final winner with Leeds Rhinos in 1999 - got Eagles off to a flier after the break.
He pounced when Widnes winger Jayden Hatton was deceived by a kick from Walker. The conversion attempt missed, but Sheffield were quickly in front through a wonderful move which began in their own half.
Ben Blackmore did well to keep the ball in play, his offload was picked up by Guzdek and he sent Brown over.
Walker’s third goal opened a four-point gap and though he missed with a penalty on 53 minutes that proved a blessing in disguise as the ball went dead and from the restart Thackeray and Guzdek carved out a try for Corey Makelim.
Walker added the two to make it 28-18 and though he missed another penalty attempt at the start of the final quarter, Widnes couldn’t find a way through Sheffield’s rock solid defence.
The matter was put beyond all doubt with five minutes left when Brown completed his hat-trick, Walker adding the extras and rounding things off with a successful penalty as the hooter sounded.
Sheffield Eagles: Guzdek, Millar, Hellewell, Brown, Blackmore, Walker, Thackeray, Pick, G Burns, Tagg, Davies, Farrell, Makelim. Subs Davey, Broadbent, P Burns, Mason.
Widnes Vikings: Owens, Hatton, Gelling,Shepherd, Ah Van, Craven, Gilmore, E Chapelhow, Johnstone, Cahill, Hansen, Dean, B Walker. Subs J Chapelhow, Leuluai, Norman, Wilde.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).