Any faint hopes that Britain’s top clubs would redeem themselves in the quarter finals of Super League’s Visa World Club Challenge were dashed when all four English clubs were knocked out by their Australian and New Zealand rivals.
In the first match, Auckland Warriors defeated Bradford Bulls 62-14 in Auckland with Matthew Ridge and Sean Hoppe scoring two tries each for Auckland, while Ridge also kicked nine goals.
Bradford had flown to New Zealand as Super League Europe’s newly crowned champions, and boasted players of the calibre of Paul Loughlin, James Lowes, Brian McDermott, Steve McNamara, Sonny Nickle; Kiwi, Robbie Paul and Australians Danny Peacock, Glen Tomlinson and Jeff Wittenberg.
Auckland lead only 20-14 at halftime, but then ran away with things in front of a crowd of 12,063.
In the second quarter final, the Newcastle based Hunter Mariners had a narrow 22-18 win over Wigan at Central Park, Wigan with Nick Zisti scoring two tries for the Mariners, while Danny Ellison grabbed a brace for the home side in a fast and furious match played in front of an appreciative crowd of 9,553.
Cronulla defeated London Broncos 40-16 in London, with Sean Ryan scoring three tries and David Peachey and centre, Russell Richardson two each. The final score did not do London justice, given they trailed only 16-10 at halftime and then 24-16 after 60 minutes. Centre, Tony Martin scored two tries for London.
In the other match, the Brisbane Broncos humiliated the proud St Helens’ club, 66-12 at Brisbane’s ANZ Stadium in front of a paltry crowd of 6,438. Centre, Steve Renouf scored five tries, while Anthony Mundine, Gorden Tallis and Shane Webcke scored two each. The crowd was the lowest ever for Broncos’ home match.
I was absent for these contests. After covering the Super League Grand final at ANZ Stadium, and then the ARL grand final in Sydney, I wrapped up the season proper, and took a month’s leave, travelling around Europe with my youngest brother, Stewart, organising a planned rugby league supporters’ tour.
I returned to work in time to report on peace negotiations between the warring ARL establishment and the rebel Super League. My colleague, Paul Malone covered the World Club Challenge, and then the Super League Australian team’s English tour.