Classic Match: October 1986 - Wigan 18 Australia 26
Posted by Bilko on July 27 2006 - 15:23
Here's a Classic Match - A series rarer than a comedy on ITV.

Wigan gave Australia their toughest test in the 1986 Tour to Britain as they had the star studded Green and Golds hanging on to a 26-18 victory in the last ten minutes.

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Wigan v Australia - Tour Match.
Sunday 12th October 1986. Kick Off 3:00pm at Central Park, Wigan.

The touring Australian side of 1986 finished the tour with a 100% record. They swept aside Great Britain in a three match test series but it was Wigan who provided the Aussies with their toughest test.

The opening match of their 13 match British tour saw the Aussies visit Central Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon in October 1986.

Gary Belcher, Martin Bella, Noel Cleal, Des Hasler, Brett Kenny, Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga, Gene Miles, Steve Roach, Dale Shearer, Paul Sironen, Peter Sterling - it was one hell of a touring party. They didn't all play in this match but it was a near test team that then Aussie coach Don Furner sent out that day.

At the time of this match in 1986 Wigan's period of domination was just beginning. Under the leadership of Kiwi coach Graeme Lowe, they would finish the 1986-87 season as champions, their first title in 27 years, by finishing 15 points clear of St Helens in 2nd place. With the likes of Dean Bell, Joe Lydon, Henderson Gill, Shaun Edwards and Ellery Hanley in our ranks we went on to lose just two league matches that season.

30,622, an attendance higher than the test match against Great Britain held at Wigan, packed into Central Park to produce the largest crowd to ever witness a club game against a touring side. The massive crowd was not left disappointed.

Australia came out of the traps quickest and took the lead in the 3rd minute with a try from winger Michael O'Connor. He finished off a break from full back Gary Jack but couldn't convert his own try.

In the Wigan second row that day was 21 year old Australian Ian Roberts. His career was in it's infancy at the time of this match in 1986 and two years later he went on to become Australia's highest paid rugby league players. In 1995 Roberts would shock the world, by coming out of the closet and openly declaring himself homosexual despite playing in what is perceived to be a very heterosexual sport. He is now a massive gay icon in Australia and if you watch closely you might spot him in the Superman Returns Hollywood movie which was released in the UK two weeks a go.

Anyway on the pitch in 1986 Roberts would take a punch off Aussie second row Paul Sironen which helped Henderson Gill kick us onto the scoreboard with a two point penalty in the 21st minute.

Wigan were coping well but two tries in a five minute break before half time put Australia in control of the match.

First Scrum Half Peter Sterling, now known for his commentary work with Channel 9 in Australia, finished off a break from ex Wigan player Brett Kenny. Kenny had played for Wigan a year earlier in the famous 1985 Challenge Cup victory over Hull at Wembley. Then Noel Cleal scored to give the Green and Golds a 16-2 half time lead.

A hammering for Wigan looked on the cards when "The King" Wally Lewis increased their lead to 20-2 in the 47th minutes but Wigan would launch a fight back.

It was half back Mike Ford, replacing the injured Ellery Hanley, who inspired the comeback. His kick into the corner was seized upon by Shaun Edwards who sent Dean Bell over for the score in the corner.

That try was unconverted but Wigan would soon score again, this time through Edwards. Graeme West hit the gap and sent Edwards away. He managed to avoid the chasing Kenny and with Henderson Gill's conversion Wigan were just 8 points behind.

In the 62nd minute the Aussies hit back with a try from Les Kiss but Wigan would just not die.

After David Stephenson was held short of the line, Bell sent Joe Lydon over for the score to make it 18-26 and for the last ten minutes the visitors were on the rack. Wigan just couldn't hit back further and the Aussies hung on for the win.

Australia went on to beat Great Britain in three test matches as well as beating Cumbria and eight other club sides. However, no one, including Great Britain, would come as close to beating them as Wigan had done in the first match of the tour.

Team Sheets

- Wigan Position Australia -
1 Steve Hampson Full Back Garry Jack 1
2 Dean Bell Winger Les Kiss 2
3 David Stephenson Centre Gene Miles 3
4 Joe Lydon Centre Brett Kenny 4
5 Henderson Gill Winger Michael O'Connor 5
6 Shaun Edwards Stand Off Wally Lewis 6
7 Mike Ford Scrum Half Peter Sterling 7
8 Graeme West Prop Steve Roach 8
9 Martin Dermott Hooker Royce Simmons 9
10 Brian Case Prop Bryan Niebling 10
11 Ian Roberts 2nd Row Paul Sironen 11
12 Ian Potter 2nd Row Noel Cleal 12
13 Andy Goodway L.Forward Bob Lindner 13
- - - - -
14 Rob Louw Substitute Les Davidson 14
15 Nick Du Toit Substitute Terry Lamb 15

Score Sheet

Wigan 18-24 Australia
Dean Bell
Shaun Edwards
Joe Lydon
- Tries:
Michael O'Connor
Peter Sterling
Noel Cleal
Wally Lewis
Les Kiss
Henderson Gill 3/4


Michael O'Connor 3

Scoring and Incident Pattern

3rd Minute Wigan 00 Australia 04 Try: Michael O'Connor
21st Minute Wigan 02 Australia 04 Penalty Goal: Henderson Gill
30th Minute Wigan 02 Australia 08 Try: Peter Sterling
" Wigan 02 Australia 10 Conversion: Michael O'Connor
35th Minute Wigan 02 Australia 14 Try: Noel Cleal
" Wigan 02 Australia 16 Conversion: Michael O'Connor
Half Time Wigan 02 Australia 16
47th Minute Wigan 02 Australia 20 Try: Wally Lewis
53rd Minute Wigan 06 Australia 20 Try: Dean Bell
57th Minute Wigan 10 Australia 20 Try: Shaun Edwards
" Wigan 12 Australia 20 Conversion: Henderson Gill
62nd Minute Wigan 12 Australia 24 Try: Les Kiss
" Wigan 12 Australia 26 Conversion: Michael O'Connor
70th Minute Wigan 16 Australia 26 Try: Joe Lydon
" Wigan 18 Australia 26 Conversion: Henderson Gill
Full Time Wigan 18 Australia 24

Other Information

Referee: John Holdsworth (Kippax)
Attendance: 30,622
Weather: Sunny.

1986 Tour Squad

Greg Alexander, Gary Belcher, Martin Bella, Noel Cleal, Phil Daley, Les Davidson, Greg Dowling, Paul Dunn, Ben Elias, Steve Folkes, Des Hasler, Garry Jack, Brett Kenny, Les Kiss, Terry Lamb, Paul Langmack, Wally Lewis, Bob Lindner, Mal Meninga, Gene Miles, Chris Mortimer, Bryan Niebling, Michael O'Connor, Steve Roach, Dale Shearer, Royce Simmons, Paul Sironen, Peter Sterling.

1986 Tour Record

v Wigan W 26-18 30,622 Wigan
v Hull Kingston Rovers W 46-10 6,868 Hull
v Leeds W 40-0 10,974 Leeds
v Cumbria W 48-12 4,233 Barrow
v GREAT BRITAIN W 38-16 50,583 Old Trafford, Manchester
v Halifax W 36-2 8,000 Halifax
v St Helens W 32-8 21,700 St Helens
v Oldham W 22-16 7,150 Oldham
v GREAT BRITAIN W 34-4 30,808 Elland Road, Leeds
v Widnes W 20-4 7,500 Widnes
v Hull W 48-0 8,213 Hull
v Bradford Northern W 38-0 8,000 Bradford
v GREAT BRITAIN W 24-15 20,169 Central Park, Wigan