This weekend marked the return of rugby league action and to celebrate, I have ranked my top 10 moments from the last decade.
10. New South Wales end Queensland’s dominance (2014)
From 2006 to 2013 Queensland owned State of Origin. Spearheaded by the awesome foursome of Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, the Maroons won eight Origins in a row heaping pressure on the desperate Blues to end their reign. And in 2014, New South Wales, led by a prime Jarryd Hayne, finally did just that as they won their first Origin series in nine years thanks to a 6-4 win at ANZ Stadium.
9. Burrow’s brilliance helps Leeds make history (2011)
Leeds legend Rob Burrow enjoyed his finest hour in 2011 with a moment nobody will ever forget in the Grand Final at Old Trafford. His trademark acceleration, combined with a mixture of ducking and weaving, got him clear of several St Helens defenders on the halfway line before racing clear to score under the posts. The try helped the Rhinos become the first team to win the Super League title from outside the competition’s top three.
8. Salford reach the Super League Grand Final (2019)
At the start of last season, Salford were made second favourites for relegation from Super League. However, Ian Watson and his players had other ideas as they stunned everyone by making it to the Grand Final. Led by eventual Man of Steel winner Jackson Hastings, the Red Devils defeated Castleford and Wigan in the play-offs but fell short at the Theatre of Dreams against a St Helens team who had dominated the league season.
7. Catalans win the Challenge Cup (2018)
In 2018, Catalans became the first non-English side to win the Challenge Cup. In the semi-final, the Dragons faced the much-fancied St Helens who were tipped for the treble at the time, but the French side blew them away to set up a Wembley showdown against Warrington. The Wolves were favoured by most for the trophy, however Catalans, led by Lance Todd winner Tony Gigot, won an energy-sapping contest to claim their first major piece of silverware.
6. Australian edge England in RLWC Final epic (2017)
At the end of a brilliant World Cup, Australia and England met in the decider. The Kangaroos were tipped to produce a typically dominant display in the final but they were matched every step of the way by a determined England side. Boyd Cordner’s try had given the hosts the lead, but with 15 minutes to go Kallum Watkins found a gap and look destined to either score or set up a game-levelling try. But much to the disappointment of the England faithful, a desperate ankle tap from Josh Dugan brought down the centre and the Kangaroos held on for a 6-0 victory.
5. Tonga Beat Australia (2019)
Eden Park was steeped in red as the rise of Tongan Rugby League continued with this historic victory over Australia. After matching the world champions in the first half, the Mate Ma’a took control in the second period and landed the deciding blow in the 54th minute as Tevita Pangai Junior powered over to put them 16-12 ahead. From there they held on with magnificent defence which included a last minute scramble to stop James Tedesco. The stadium erupted at full-time as Tonga cemented their place among the international rugby league elite.
4. #Tackle52 (2016)
In the 2016 Challenge Cup Final, Hull FC were looking to claim their first ever Wembley win. They were up against a strong Warrington side who stormed into a healthy 10-0 lead and looked well on course for victory. However, tries from Mahe Fonua and Jamie Shaul put the Black & Whites 12-10 up going into the final minutes. Then came one of the most famous moments in Challenge Cup Final history, as the Wolves attacked with seconds to go, back-rower Ben Currie looked certain to score and win the game, but out of nowhere he was denied by a heroic Danny Houghton tackle. The FC hooker put his body on the line and with his 52nd tackle of the game, he managed to dislodge the ball and Hull held on to claim their first ever Wembley win.
3. JT wins it for the Cowboys (2015)
Going into the final minutes of the first all-Queensland Grand Final, Brisbane led 16-12 and as North Queensland came at their line, it was going to take something special to score. That something special happened though as Michael Morgan produced a moment of brilliance to put Kyle Feldt over in the corner. With the game locked at 16-all, Johnathan Thurston had the chance to win it but his touchline conversion hit the post and the game went into extra time. JT wouldn’t be denied in golden point though as his drop goal sealed it for the Cowboys in the greatest NRL Grand Final to date.
2. £1 million drop goal (2016)
With mere minutes remaining in the 2016 Million Pound Game, Salford looked destined for the Championship as they trailed 18-10 away to Hull KR. In an astonishing twist though, the Red Devils scored two tries in two minutes through Niall Evalds and Greg Johnson, with Gareth O’Brien missing a conversion to win it. The game went into extra time and like Thurston the year before, O’Brien redeemed himself with a monster drop goal from the halfway line to keep Salford up and relegate the Robins in astonishing fashion.
1. Ryan Hall! Ryan Hall! Ryan Hall! (2015)
Super League’s version of the famous Agueroooooooo moment reared its head on the final regular round of the 2015 season. Leeds knew only victory would win them the League Leaders’ Shield at Huddersfield and going into the final few seconds at the John Smith’s Stadium, the score was locked at 16-all. As second-placed Wigan comfortably beat Castleford at home, the helicopter carrying the shield set off for the DW Stadium to present them with the silverware. However, with the hooter about to sound at Huddersfield, Danny McGuire’s chip on halfway evaded Scott Grix and allowed Ryan Hall to race clear and score a remarkable try. As a result, the helicopter turned around and delivered the League Leaders’ Shield to the Rhinos.