My favourite match - Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell recalls epic GB win against Australia
In 1990 Great Britain came agonisingly close to ending Australia’s dominance of the Ashes and Daryl Powell has chosen the first Test in that epic series as his favourite game.
Powell, the Castleford Tigers coach, played in all three games and was one of the stars of the Lions’ stunning 19-12 victory in the opener at Wembley.
The Lions, who have not won the Ashes since 1970, were within seconds of drawing the second Test at Old Trafford before Mal Meninga scored a dramatic winner and the tourists were too strong in the decider, easing to a 14-0 victory at Elland Road.
Powell, then a Sheffield Eagles player, was at centre for Great Britain in the first Test, which he remembers as a “pretty special game for me”.
He said: “Wembley is a pretty special place and we beat the Aussies which was massive for us, for the country and for rugby league - and we had a real go at winning the series that year.
“I had a hand in Paul Eastwood’s try in the corner so that was a massive game. I was so nervous; I have only ever taken sleeping tablets once before a game and that was the game.
“I couldn’t sleep. It was a huge game - looking at their centres, Meninga and [Mark] McGaw, they were huge individuals and there was me and Carl Gibson on the other side, probably the smallest international centre pairing going around, so it was an interesting battle.”
A crowd of 54,569 made the trek to Wembley and got behind the home side even before the kick-off, the two teams walking out to a rousing rendition of Land of Hope and Glory.
The Kangaroos seemed rattled by the passionate atmosphere, as well as the quality of the hosts’ defence.
Paul Eastwood booted the Lions ahead with a penalty, but a Meninga kick made it 2-2 at half-time.
A try from Eastwood was cancelled out by Meninga, but then Martin Offiah crossed, Eastwood converted and a Garry Schofield drop goal made it 13-6.
McGaw pulled a try back, which Meninga improved, but with 10 minutes left Powell collected Schofield’s kick and provided the money ball to send Eastwood over. There was no conversion, but Eastwood completed the scoring with a late penalty.
“The Aussies were a very experienced team,” Powell recalled. “But you walk out there - and it was that long walk then, over the end of the track - and it was just booming.
“The noise was special, the crowd were all up so it was a huge, intimidating atmosphere, for every player I would have thought.
“I remember Andy Goodway giving information and saying ‘just keep your head down, focus on the game - don’t look up at the crowd’.
“I stuck by that and it really helped me; it kept me a little bit calmer.
“International games against Australia were intense and you ended up playing on instinct a lot because it was so quick.
“That was my first game at Wembley and it was pretty special.”
Powell - who later had a spell as player and then coach at Leeds Rhinos - played in three winning teams against Australia, but the 14-10 defeat in the second Test 30 years ago still hurts.
It seemed the Ashes were coming home when Paul Loughlin’s interception try levelled the scores late on, but the conversion was missed and in the final seconds Ricky Stuart broke past Lee Jackson from a scrum near the Aussies’ line and Meninga was in support to score the winner.
“We felt like we had them,” he said. “I still remind Lee Jackson about taking that dummy!
“There wasn’t long left. Paul Loughlin had got the interception and bizarrely didn’t take the goal kick; Eastwood missed it and it was to the left-hand side so a natural kick for Paul who was an outstanding kicker.
“They got us in the end. There was a bit of controversy with what Meninga did to Carl Gibson - running him off the ball, sitting him on his backside - but the French ref decided not to do anything about it.
“It was tough to take and they were just too good for us in the third Test. I have played three deciders against the Aussies and they’ve always been just that little bit too good - but Wembley was a special, special game.”
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. These are challenging times but the team at the Yorkshire Evening Post need your support more than ever in the weeks ahead.
While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you. In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you - wherever possible and providing it is safe for you to do so - to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.
Inevitably falling advertising revenues will start to have an impact on local newspapers and the way we continue to work during this period of uncertainty. So the support of our readers has never been more important as we try to make sure that we keep you connected with the city you live in during this time. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. We need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.
Our team of trusted reporters are working incredibly hard behind the scenes- from kitchen tables and spare bedrooms - to look at how we can do this and your continued support to the YEP will help to protect its viability in the days and weeks ahead.
For more details on our subscription offers please visit www.localsubsplus.co.uk/YEP, email [email protected] or call us on 0330 4033004
READ MORE: https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/opinion/were-therewithyou-now-your-yep-needs-your-support-too-laura-collins-yep-editor-2521777