MANCHESTER, Thursday: Canberra Raiders went just too "native" for
their own good in the World Club Challenge against Widnes at Old Trafford.
A 12-0 lead turned into a 30-18 defeat when Canberra tried to show that
they could throw the ball around every bit as freely as the English champions
"We adopted too much of their style," said five-eighth Chris O'Sullivan.
"It was just too easy to score tries early on and we started trying to
force the pass, thinking that there was one on every time."
Mal Meninga and O'Sullivan got tries in the first 11 minutes as Canberra
came out of the traps like hungry greyhounds.
It had Widnes coach Doug Laughton worried.
"I knew they were one good football side," he said.
"But the way they started off threw me into a bit of a panic.
"I thought they were going to put 40 past us."
Canberra's sense of adventure has often been their strength; at Old
Trafford it proved their undoing.
Even Laughton admitted he was surprised by their determination to keep the
ball alive at all costs.
"Any other Australian side would have put up the shutters," he said.
That would not have been Canberra's style.
They needed, however, to settle on their lead and their failure to do so
proved coach Tim Sheens's prophecy correct.
"He warned us that they could come back from 20 points down to beat
us,"said Laurie Daley, who started the game looking as though Widnes could not
hope to hold him and finished up shouldering a good measure of the
responsibility for defeat.
He slightly over-ran Bradley Clyde, making it forward, to have a try
disallowed in the 20th minute and he slipped when O'Sullivan put him through
There were other missed chances as well, but those two scores would have
been enough to signal the end of Widnes.
Instead, they fought back with huge reserves of character and skill.
Tries from Paul Hulme and Martin Offiah brought the gap down to just two
points at half time.
Australian hooker Phil McKenzie, looking on the game as his chance to show
his worth to the folks back home, played a part in both.
But the real turning point was all about Daley again.
His high tackle on Jonathan Davies shortly after half-time was a double
failure. It earned him 10 minutes in the sin bin and it failed to prevent the
While he was off, Widnes scored twice - a tearaway effort from Offiah and
then a piece of impromptu centre play from the world's fastest wingman to put
lock Richard Eyres in for a try.
With Meninga off with a knee injury and the rest of the side visibly
tiring, there was no way back for the Raiders.
Daley - who else? - almost gave them a glimpse of hope in the 70th minute
but admitted afterwards that the French referee, Francis Destlats, had been
right to rule that he'd dropped the ball over the line.
From a swiftly-taken pass, Barry Dowd - on for the injured Tony Myler
-charged through to set up Darren Wright for the final Widnes try.
Steven Walters, always lively as hooker, got a late consolation for the
Raiders, but Sheens was willing to concede that they had been beaten fair and
Several players said they had found it hard to lift themselves after a
grand final win and 10 days of celebration, but Sheens was not finding that the
reason for the result.
"We have no excuses," he said.
"They were better than us on the night.
"We knew they were capable of scoring tries from anywhere on the field and
that is what they did."
It made a thrilling spectacle for 31,000 spectators and television
audiences in Britain and Australia.
But Canberra were kicking themselves for letting it get quite so
WIDNES 30 (M Offiah 2, P Hulme, Davies, Eyres, Wright tries; Davies 3
goals) b CANBERRA 18 (Meninga, O'Sullivan, Walters tries; Wood 2, O'Sullivan