Six of the Best: Great Rugby League upsets
In this week’s edition of Six of the Best, we’ve taken inspiration from a quite sensational weekend of Rugby League action that has recently passed us by.
Super League was full of shocks, with the biggest perhaps Bradford’s stunning 16-8 win against last year’s champions, Wigan Warriors. That was James Lowes’ first win in charge of the club, and another James – Wakefield coach Webster – continued his impressive record in charge of the Wildcats as they beat Warrington away from home – a result which keeps them in the mix for the top eight.
So that got us thinking; what are the biggest Rugby League upsets of all-time? There are definitely a few that stick out more than others, but we were hoping for some obscure selections – and we definitely got them! We asked you over the last 48 hours for your suggestions on social media, and here are the six most popular choices!
Salford 26-16 Wigan; Challenge Cup 1996
For years, Wigan Warriors were simply invincible in the Challenge Cup. Eight years in row the Warriors were cup winners, and they went an astonishing 43 games without losing. Few expected the run to stop at 43 – but one afternoon at The Willows brought a historic run to an abrupt end. Scott Naylor starred with two tries, and afterwards, Salford coach Andy Gregory declared: “I’m not saying we’ll win the cup… but we’ve a better chance than Wigan.”
Thornhill Trojans 16-14 Sheffield; Challenge Cup 1990
Perhaps the biggest Rugby League upset in the history of the game? Eight years later the Eagles would actually win the cup, but before that great upset of their own, they were very much the victim of a real shock. The amateur side were given no chance whatsoever of progressing against their much higher-ranked opponents, but a narrow win at the Don Valley Stadium created a little touch of history for Thornhill.
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Widnes Vikings 30-18 Canberra Raiders; World Club Challenge 1989
A Canberra side with Laurie Daley, Ricky Stuart and Mal Meninga is certainly a terrifying prospect, and that’s exactly what Widnes were faced against back in 1989. Canberra arrived in Manchester as the overwhelming favourites to grab the right to be called the world’s best – but Widnes had other ideas. Trailing 12-10 at half-time, they scored 20 points in a blistering second-half performance to simply blow the Raiders and be crowned World Club Challenge winners.
Leeds 4-21 Harlequins; Super League 2009
We had quite a few suggesting this particular win for the then-Harlequins RL – and it certainly was a big upset. There aren’t many teams that go to Headingley and keep the Rhinos to just four points, but that’s exactly what Harlequins did when Rob Purdham’s side did the unthinkable.
Batley 25-24 Widnes Vikings; Northern Rail Cup 2010
Back in 2010 – before they got back into Super League – Widnes were the kings of the Northern Rail Cup. They had won it twice in the previous three seasons, and were looking to defend their title by beating Batley in the final of 2010. Other 8,000 people packed into Bloomfield Road to see the game, which had the most dramatic of endings. Widnes looked to have the game sewn up, but two late tries from Alex Brown – the second of which came in the very last minute – gave Karl Harrison’s men a memorable win.
Sheffield Eagles 17-8 Wigan Warriors; Challenge Cup 1998
By far the most popular upset we received on social media – and there was no way we could leave it out. Mark Aston’s (right) inspirational performance for John Kear’s side laid the platform to what is generally considered to be the greatest Challenge Cup upset of all-time. Everyone remembers the game (if they were around to see it!), and it will forever live long in the memory. The greatest upset in the history of Rugby League?