Whew!

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Well, that’s the group stages over for this world cup and from here on in, it’s going to be knockout Rugby League all the way to the Final. Who would have expected that on the final Sunday, Italy would be playing Tonga and the outcome would decide if either they or Scotland would face the Kiwis in the first quarter final at Headingly Carnegie? Certainly not me.

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However, Ahead of that game, The Kiwis had brushed aside PNG, with Sonny Bill managing to keep his footing for a change, Australia had run riot in Limerick with a 50-0 demolition of Ireland and England had overcome a stiff Fijian test to see the ¼ finals look like this:

Friday, Headingly, New Zealand v Scotland

Saturday, Wrexham, Australia v USA

The winners of these will meet in Semi Final 1 a week later at Wembley.

Saturday, Wigan, England v France

Sunday, Warrington, Samoa v Fiji

The winners of these will meet in Semi Final 2.

I wonder if England can put together an 80 minute performance at any point in this tournament. If they can’t, then it’s not looking great for winning it.

We also lost a real hero of the sport over the weekend. Waking on Saturday to hear the news that Steve Prescott had lost his battle with cancer cast a spell over the matches. As Steve McNamara said after a minutes silence broke out into a minutes applause in Hull ahead of the England game, before a chant of “There’s only one Steve Prescott” rang around the KC Stadium. Steve transcended sporting rivalry. No matter whose colours you wear, Steve was battling something bigger than most of us will ever have to, and he held it off for nearly 8 years and raised £500,000 for charity during that time. There have been calls in recent months for the annual Man of Steel award to be renamed in his honour. As fitting a tribute as this would be, I can’t see the RFL doing this anytime soon.

Before the Tonga v Italy match, there was another game played at The Shay in Halifax. This time it was the Army Rugby League RATS (Race against Time and Senility) and the GB All Stars, who were led by a certain Mr A. Gregory.

Now, I’ve written in the past about the lads from the Army and how passionate they are about their sport, but they were over the moon to be asked (By Tonga) to play in Halifax. There is a link between The Army RL teams and Tonga that goes back to 2000, when the Army helped them warm up for the World Cup. A special mention has to go to Staff Sergeant Jamie Doig, who aside from being Army Rugby League 1st Team Assistant Manager and Army Vets Manager, was also tasked with working alongside Charles Tonga and his backroom squad throughout the tournament. They really appreciated everything he did, not only for the squad, but in making certain that Tongan Rugby League made its presence known wherever they went, be that a captains run at Leigh sports village or a training game against an Army select 13. The Army RATS also carried the Tongan team crest on their one off shirts as a mark of respect.

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Jamie Doig, Hero of Army & Tongan Rugby League.

An explosion in a sponsors factory (Thank you all for doing it!)

An explosion in a sponsors factory (Thank you all for doing it!)

The All Stars team was a veritable Who’s Who of former RL talent.

1. Paul Topping

2. Mark Forster

3. Jason Roach

4. Paul Newlove

5. Ikram Butt

6. Chris Smith

7. Francis Maloney

8. Nick Fozzard

9. Jimmy Western

10. Hugh Waddell

11. Chico Anthony Jackson

12. Paul Atcheson

13. Jason Critchley

INTERCHANGE

14. Matt Richards

15. Carl Cheetham

16. Damian Munro

17. Jamie Stephenson

18. Paul Loughlin

19. Manager Andy Gregory

20. Team Medic Jon Hilton

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Two teams, united in the love of the game.

And your RATS side, drawn from all corps and regiments across the Army:

Full Back Andrew Kershaw

Wing Baz Imms

Centre Trevor Harland

Centre Stephen Fox

Wing Nobby Pocock

1/2 back Billy Bragg

Scrum Half John Kenway

Prop Carl Tibbetts

Hooker Matty Pritchard

Prop Spencer Sutton

2nd Row Steve Limbrick

2nd Row Ross Stanley

Loose Anthony Cowburn (c)

Inter Changes

14. Stevie Emm

15. Martin Dedman

16. Kev Wright

17. Jamie Doig

18. Dave Groce

Physio John Hulatt

Liaison Colin Marangon

Despite not being allowed by the RLWC organisers to have a small tent with no merchandise at the stadium for State Of Mind Rugby, as you can see, being the Army, they have their ways & means of getting a point across…

Subtle camouflage.

Subtle camouflage.

Now, the deal was that the game would be 30 minutes, no breaks and touch rugby rules…This last rule went out of the window with the first play of the game! It was tussle after tussle for the first third of the game, with Paul Newlove going over for the first try of the game after 9 minutes, to be followed 6 minutes later by a second from Mark Forster.

The RATS team found themselves camped on the GB line for nearly 3 full sets, before going over themselves in the form of Captain Billy Bragg.

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Captain Billy Bragg (No relation)

That made it 2-1 to the All Stars with just over 10 minutes to go. This was a brutal final third. No quarter was given and none was asked. For a game of touch rugby, this was looking brutal, but the GB skill level began to tell, and it was only the fitness levels of the Army that stopped the All Stars going over again.

After the game, it was announced that this will now be an annual season closer for both sides, and will be renamed the Steve Prescott Memorial Game. I’m certain that there is a magazine, or sponsor out there in Rugby League land who would love to pay for a trophy for these two teams to fight over each year. Because no matter what, the chances of the RFL actually naming the Man of Steel after him are slim to none.

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One thought on “Whew!

  1. Jon Hilton

    Anyone interested in supporting next years Steve Prescott Memorial game should contact GB All Stars Manager/Medic Jon Hilton on 07791 359248

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