Published in Thirteen in 2005
The Divisional Premiership Final
28 September 1997
Hull Sharks 0
Huddersfield storm to silverware
Having been beaten twice by Hull in the Division One campaign and having finished runners-up to them in the race for promotion by five points, Huddersfield were clear underdogs going into the 1997 Divisional Premiership Final at Old Trafford. On top of that, they were without Garry Schofield, scorer of 18 tries during the year and, naturally, creator of many more.
Hull had been the runaway team all season. With Salford promoted a year earlier, the relegated Workington Town in complete freefall and Keighley not quite the threat they had been a few years earlier it had been no surprise to see them win promotion to the Super League. And with Tevita Vaikona in the centres, they had the division’s outstanding player; a scorer of 40 tries, well over a try a game.
So, at the time, Huddersfield’s 18-0 win was regarded as something of a surprise. Perhaps the injury to Schofield had been a blessing given the lack of winners medals that the former Great Britain centre and stand off possessed! On a more serious note, Huddersfield had a point to prove; determined to show their worth on the big stage and they certainly had some good players. Danny Russell was the classy ex-Manly hooker at the centre of things and his props Neil Harmon and Nick Fozzard had played in the big time with Leeds only the year before. Paul Cook had played for England in the 1995 World Cup and Ali Davys had been the star of the Emerging Nations competition in the same year with the Cook Islands. As well as that, Steve Booth, Andy Cheetham and the prolific Dean Hanger had all had outstanding seasons, registering over 70 tries between them and Matt Sturm had been an inspiration in the forwards.
With defences on top, and both kickers having missed shots at goal, it seemed we were in for a scoreless first half until Weston’s grubber hit an upright and bounced perfectly for Davys to score. 6-0. Hull were unlucky to be behind. They had defended an early Huddersfield onslaught and had then had two tries disallowed as they found their feet.
Shortly into the second half, they found themselves four behind as James Bunyan scored in the corner. No luck involved here. Just a skilful move involving the impressive Harmon, Russell, Weston and Phil Veivers. Cook missed with the goal but later in the half had his team 14-0 up with two penalties.
The Giants’ efforts now went into defending their lead. Their task was made easier by Hull mistakes but Russell still produced one try saving effort worthy of the surroundings as he prevented Hull’s sub Maea David from scoring. Hull were finished and, at the other end, Davys came close to his second before Andy Cheetham wrapped up a convincing 18-0 win with his 21st try of the season.
Craig Weston was awarded the Tom Bergin trophy for a man of the match performance, adding his name to an impressive list of winners including Des Foy, Mark Aston, Mike Ford, Daryl Powell, Paul Newlove and Martyn Wood.
However, the Giants‘ fortunes were to improve further still. The RFL were soon to announce that Paris St Germain were to be withdrawn from the competition (but still to return we were told!) and they were to be replaced in the 1998 Super League competition by Huddersfield Giants.
Huddersfield: Phil Veivers, Paul Cook, James Bunyan, Dean Hanger, Andy Cheetham, Craig Weston, Ali Davys, Neil Harmon, Danny Russell, Nick Fozzard, Tony Bowes, Dave King, Matt Sturm. Subs: Steve Booth, Joe Berry, Paul Dixon, Basil Richards.
Hull: Steve Holmes, Graeme Hallas, Kevin Gray, Tevita Vaikona, Mark Johnson, Rob Nolan, Mark Hewitt, Richard Wilson, Mike Dixon, Andy Ireland, David Boyd, Matt Schultz, Brad Hepi. Subs: Rob Danby, Logan Campbell, Chico Jackson, Maea David.