When St Helens hooker James Roby was named as the man of the match in the 2014 First Utility Super League Grand Final, not only was it a fitting reward for his efforts over 80 minutes at Old Trafford, but it also recognised his leadership qualities.
The loss of team-mate Lance Hohaia in the third minute robbed St Helens of their main playmaker. Along with Roby he was their principal organiser going into the final, so Flower’s action also robbed them of a leader who, through the nature of his position, was set to play a key role in his team’s game plan.
The plan was torn up through no fault of St Helens within seconds of the start of the game and caused major disruption.
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Roby was left as their only genuine playmaker and stood tall in leading Saints around the field and to victory.
In the pre-match betting Roby was seen as the most likely winner of the Harry Sunderland Trophy from the Saints camp. He was rated a 15/2 chance, while team-mates Jordan Turner and Paul Wellens, both priced at 20/1, were deemed to be his main challengers from the Langtree Park camp.
As the game unfolded Roby’s influence became more apparent. Injured at one point, he continued in his usual brave manner to play the full 80 minutes with his commitment and the quality of his performance up to his usual high standards.
“The first 20 minutes we shot ourselves in the foot,” he said afterwards.
“We could never complete our sets. We conceded too many penalties and we gave the ball away. We were our own worst enemies. In the second half we went back to basics and it seemed to work and now we’re the champions.”
Roby made 36 tackles with only one miss. From dummy-half he made 21 carries, making 138 metres and only made one error.
The hooker’s pass paved the way for Sia Soliola’s try to take Saints into the lead and Roby became more influential with every play from dummy-half before St Helens eventually sealed the win with Tommy Makinson’s try.
“It was very tough. You have to give full credit to Wigan for the way they played with twelve men. They were throwing the ball about, and they were still testing us right to the last minute. We had to dig in there and luckily enough we had it in the tank. It’s amazing, but we deserve this,” said Roby.
Robbed of star players pre-match and forced into a reshuffle on the field, Roby’s leadership, commitment, and skill made him a worthy winner of the Harry Sunderland Trophy.
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“The adversity makes it even sweeter. We have had our share of ups and downs but we’re the champs,” he said about his team’s Grand Final success.
In the voting for the Harry Sunderland Trophy, Roby received eleven votes from members of the media, two ahead of his team-mate Tommy Makinson, who received nine votes.
Sia Soliola and Jordan Turner both attracted three votes, while Paul Wellens and Wigan’s Anthony Gelling and Liam Farrell got one each.