Written by Callum Walker
The 2020 Super League season has been far from straightforward. Rife with fixture issues, COVID complaints and an ever-deepening rift between Super League and the RFL, 2020 has sure thrown a few curveballs Rugby League’s way.
But, those problems paled into insignificance once the Grand Final between Wigan and St Helens got underway on Saturday night. It had promised to be a tough affair between the two best sides in the competition, but what greeted the eagle-eyed viewer was much, much more than that: it was an incredible spectacle.
Despite the 2-0 margin at half-time and the 8-4 full-time score – both in Saints’ favour – it was, by far, the best game of 2020 and it was saved until last.
The mood had been set prior to the game with Hull FC’s KCOM Stadium producing a superb light show that more than matched the entertainment usually on offer at Old Trafford. In fact, the KCOM was done up brilliantly well for the occasion.
If that hadn’t convinced critics of the great adaptation made by Super League then the 80 minutes that followed would have done so. Full of stunning big hits, heart-on-your-sleeve-type play and tremendous skill, this Grand Final had everything that Rugby League fans want to see.
With two legends of the game bowing out – Sean O’Loughlin for Wigan and James Graham for Saints – it was always going to be cruel on one of those whatever the result. Yet, neither of them – nor perhaps anyone that was watching it – would have been able to predict the scenes that unfolded before our very eyes on Friday night.
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) December 1, 2020
From 2-0 to 4-2 to 4-4 as the 79th minute ticked over, Saints were in good field position, but still the story had a major turn. Tommy Makinson set up for a drop goal around Wigan’s 40-metre mark, only for the ball to ricochet off the post and fall just under the Warriors’ posts.
Wigan’s Bevan French has had a superb season, but even he couldn’t predict the bounce of the ball as Makinson’s attempt bobbled. With Jack Welsby and James Bentley sprinting as though their lives depended on it, French was caught unawares and the youngest player on the field – Welsby – was able to ground the ball in bizarre fashion.
Of course, referee Chris Kendall had to check upstairs with barely a margin separating the try-scorer being onside and offside, but the green light was given. That sent the Saints players into raptures and the Wigan stars to the ground.
An 80th-minute try in the biggest game of the season to win the Grand Final is synonymous with 2020 as a whole. Unpredictable, surprising and downright unusual, viewers were gobsmacked as the realization of what just happened hit through the television screens.
It’s never happened before and, very probably, it will never happen again. That’s why such a moment will go down in history.