There’s always one more second
On the 9th April 2021, Hull Kingston Rovers played Castleford Tigers for a place in rugby league’s Challenge Cup quarter-finals. At half-time, Hull Kingston Rovers were leading the match 22 v 6. That kind of lead normally wins you a game of rugby league. But that assumption ignores the kind of character that doesn’t give in, that plays on until the last possible moment. Don’t give up until time’s up.
With the very last play of the second half, 2020’s Man of Steel, Paul McShane made a break and then gave a one-handed pass to Jordan Turner who scored in the corner. The conversion was kicked and the scores were tied 32 v 32. The comeback was complete. And yet it wasn’t.
In a cup competition, a draw isn’t the end of the match. One team has to go through to the next round. The result had to be decided by what’s called ‘Golden Point’. The two teams have to play on until one of them scores another point. A try, a penalty kick or a drop-goal all count. It doesn’t matter what gets you that point, you just need to be the team that scores it. As extra-time began, both teams started even once again. Both had already played a full match.
The easiest way to score a point is through a drop-goal, as you don’t have to get the ball over the line, or wait for a kickable penalty. You only need to get close enough for a player to drop-kick the ball over the posts. In Golden Point periods, most teams aim to score a drop-goal. Both teams were to follow this approach. Normally when it gets to Golden Point, there’s a winner within a few minutes. Sometimes it only take a minute. It’s designed to be a short, high-pressure, winner-takes all ending to a game. Usually it is.
Having already played for 80 minutes, the teams had to force themselves through tackle after tackle to get into range to kick a drop-goal. After another 20 exhausting minutes there had been 11 attempts at a drop-goal. And every single one of them had missed. The pressure was immense. The fatigue was just as great. 100 minute games are unheard of. Then at last, Gareth O’Brien managed to score the elusive drop-goal needed to score a Golden Point. Castleford Tigers had completed the comeback, by 33 points to 32.
After the match, the Castleford coach Daryl Powell said in an understated manner “I’m pleased we had the character to find a way back into the game.” There was character in abundance. This comeback is a lesson in resilience. However far behind you are, keep trying. Whatever the scoreboard says, don’t give up until time’s up. However many times you fail, try again. There’s always one last play, one last chance to win your competition.