David Clegg Relives The Climax To The Million Pound Game In The Company Of The Key Players Involved
Virtually every pair of eyes in the stadium must surely have been on Gareth O’Brien as, on the fifty-third second of extra time, he shaped up to hit that colossal drop-goal, though there will have been very few of them who realised that he was actually going for the one-pointer, and that included the other players.
Second-rower, Josh Jones was one who was caught completely by surprise.
“I hadn’t realised Gaz was going for that drop-goal until a second glance showed me it was rocketing towards the posts,” he divulges.
“When he immediately turned round and started sprinting back, I realised just what had happened, and a feeling like none I had ever felt before came over me. It was a mix of feelings both good and bad, because I knew that without all the boys doing their jobs so well, we wouldn’t have rescued the game. I’m so glad we did, though, because we have such a good set of lads here.”
For his namesake, Josh Griffin, the emotions were, if anything, even more mixed, because for him it was his last game in a Salford shirt.
“It was a really emotional time, not just during the game, but in the build-up, as well,” he recalls. “It was my last game, and I really wanted to go out on a high with a job well done, which, in the end, it turned out to be.
“Most of all, I was happy for the club, because I have made a lot of friends here, and also for the fans who have been so supportive of me and the rest of the lads, in my time here.”
Two try, Niall Evalds’s emotions were quite clear to identify.
“We definitely had not wanted to be in that game, but found ourselves in that position,” he acknowledges, “so, first and foremost, relief was the biggest emotion.
“Then looking back at the game, with five minutes to go, we had virtually lost it, and were dead and buried, so to have won it in any fashion, let alone in such a spectacular manner, my immediate reaction was one of disbelief.”
Lynchpin, Ben Murdoch-Masila, is most philosophical in his post-match assessment.
“Had that game been played earlier in the season I don’t think we would have won,” he maintains, “but because of all the circumstances surrounding the match, everyone just picked up to another level.
“The thought of everyone probably having to leave made us all grow an extra leg to make sure we got through it, in those last few minutes.
“For me, personally, playing at Salford has been something special, because before coming I had needed to jump-start my playing career, and Salford, it was, who gave me that chance. I have now fallen in love with the game, again, and it feels really good to be here. To have got through that match, and in the way we did, was one of the best feelings I have had in my whole career.”
These remarks were echoed, by Weller Hauraki.
“I had played the whole of the game, and was feeling pretty tired, but there were lots of things constantly going through my mind. Chief of these was the constant wondering, and trying to decide, what else I could do to help out. I have been here a couple of years, and have really enjoyed it.
“Added to this were all the anxieties of paying the bills, were we to have gone down. I never want to be in that sort of game again.”
For Greg Johnson his must rank as one of the most important tries he ever has, or ever will score.
“It was an amazing feeling, and it still feels like a dream,” he enthuses. “When it actually happened the enormity of it didn’t sink in, but later, when I was on the bus with all the boys and they were all saying how incredible it had been winning like that, it began to sink in. It’s a moment I shall never forget
“In the heat of the moment you don’t look into it, too much. It’s a case of remaining professional, and doing your job, and we had to do that for our families, ourselves, and each other, and that showed in how we finished the game.”
The great facilitator, Mark Flanagan, provider of the ‘miracle ball’, is keen to attribute credit to the whole squad.
“It was down to a massive effort from everybody,” he maintains. “It was the determination, and will to win in the face of adversity, in the form of injuries and shortage of subs, that we kept on going to the bitter end.
“We just kept hanging on until the skill and class of the team came to the fore, at the end. Without the work ethic, and will to win throughout the game, we wouldn’t have been in a position to have won.”
This is a theme which match-winner, hero of the hour, Gareth O’Brien, continues.
“It wasn’t all down to me,” Gareth insists, most modestly. “There were sixteen others, all of whom had done their job to get us into the position for me to be able to win it. In no way was it down to just one kick. We have all worked hard for each other all season, and that continued right through this match.
“There were also players such as Josh Griffin who massively dug us out of a big hole, with his lead up to the two tries in the final minutes. Everyone on that field rolled their sleeves up, gave everything, and fortunately we got the win.”
Of how it has affected him, personally, he divulges, “I’m still over the moon about it. It has been a quite surreal experience, and I shall probably never experience anything like it again.”
For captain, Michael Dobson, his thoughts are, first and foremost, for his fellow players.
“We’ve worked hard all year, and we kept that going to the very end, and so got our just rewards for doing so,” he reflects. “Overall, though, it was a massive relief when we managed to turn it all around. The pressure that I, and the rest of the players, have been under for much of the second half of the season just seemed to culminate in that last hundred and six seconds.
“Once we had got over that and had time to reflect, it became apparent that it had been a big achievement. It certainly meant a lot to myself and the other players, and there were a few tears in the dressing room, afterwards, but then, having got over that, it was replaced by the overwhelming feeling of happiness.
We are a very tightly knit group, and that is probably what got us through, but now we are all staying together for another season, and going forward into the new season, you can already see the increased confidence within the squad.”
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