Top 10 intercepts in rugby league history
Thursday night's bizarre ending in golden point prompted rugby league fans to go back in time as they remembered some of the greatest intercept tries in history. From Ryan Girdler to Brad Fittler there have been some masterful pilferers over the years. Here's a look back at some of the biggest plays in modern times.
10. Brad Fittler – 2014
This probably wasn't one for the purists, but seeing Brad Fittler intercept a David Stagg pass and run 75 metres at the 2014 Auckland Nines is still worth a mention. The Roosters legend was 42-years-young at the time and his hamstrings have probably never forgiven him, but it was a great way to bow out of the game – again – with a trademark intercept.
9. Darius Boyd - 2011
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. On the hallowed SCG turf, Darius Boyd stepped up 60 minutes into the crunch game against the Bulldogs to produce one of the most memorable tries in recent memory. The Dragons led 15-6 but the blue and whites had all the momentum until their fullback showed why he had been named the Clive Churchill Medallist the previous year. Bulldogs five-eighth Kris Keating broke clear courtesy of a gorgeous offload from Corey Payne and just had to link up with Andrew Ryan to finish off a great team try. But 'Bobcat' never got the ball as Boyd read the play, intercepting the Steeden on his own 20-metre line before turning Payne inside-out as he raced away to hand the Red V the win.
8. Euan Aitken – 2016
It took an 85th minute interception to spark this game into life. A blackout in the Kogarah region plunged UOW Jubilee Oval into semi-darkness for the entirety of the Round 10 clash. Neither side found their groove in the first game back from Rep Round and quite fittingly the game was forced into extra time. The Raiders went agonisingly close with an Aidan Sezer field goal attempt hitting the upright, but it would be the Dragons who would have the final say in the first period of added time. A play the ball with barely a second left on the clock gave Benji Marshall a shot to win it, and although his attempt landed short, the play was still well and truly alive. Raiders coach Ricky Stuart would have been pulling his hair out when Jordan Rapana produced a behind-the-back flick pass to Jack Wighton, but that had nothing on what happened next. The Raiders fullback launched a needless long pass to centre field, only for Euan Aitken to muster some non-existent strength to race through and steal the ball mid-air to make it lights out for the Green Machine.
7. Mal Meninga – 1994
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more fitting way to farewell what had already been a glittering rugby league career. The Raiders had done enough to win the 1994 grand final, but there was still time for club legend Mal Meninga to do something special in what shaped as his final game for the Green Machine. With time ticking away, Canterbury's Jason Smith flung a long pass searching for support, but instead Meninga stormed onto the ball, intercepted it 40 metres out and fended away from a long-locked Jarrod McCracken to bow out of the game a hero.
6. Paul Loughlin – 1990
This moment didn't win the match; instead it inspired Australia to fight back and steal what turned out to be one of the most famous Ashes victories in rugby league history. Kangaroos halfback Ricky Stuart went from villain to hero in a matter of minutes as he threw an intercept before redeeming himself with a gut-busting effort to level the series 1-1. With 10 minutes to go, Stuart threw a pass in traffic looking for support on his outside, but was stopped in his tracks as centre Paul Loughlin stuck out his left hand and juggled the pass before racing 50 metres to level the scores. Most players would have dropped their heads at that moment. Not Ricky. With time expiring, the No.7 got the ball near his own line, threw an audacious dummy that was fallen for and went on his way downfield. Chased by three would-be defenders, Stuart got to within 15 metres of the line before finding Mal Meninga with a perfectly-timed pass to redeem himself in the most spectacular way possible.
5. Darius Boyd - 2015
Some players will tell you that preliminary finals trump the big event in terms of atmosphere and intensity. That was the case in 2015 when an ill-advised pass just 53 seconds into the Broncos-Roosters grand final qualifier had the Suncorp faithful in raptures. The smoke had barely settled from the pre-game pyrotechnics when Shaun Kenny-Dowall fielded a Ben Hunt kick 27 metres out from his own line, before the experienced winger fired the longest pass of his career to try to get the set started in midfield. Unfortunately for the Tricolours, the move backfired spectacularly as Darius Boyd raced through to pilfer the pill to score first points inside a minute, sparking what would be an easy 31-12 win in the end.
4. Brad Fittler - 2000
Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns might be the best of mates nowadays, but 'Freddy' and 'Joey' were bitter rivals back in their playing days. The pair played many finals matches against each other but it's the 2000 preliminary final that takes the cake. The Knights looked to have booked their spot in the grand final when they went to the break leading 16-2, but they didn't count on a spirited Roosters comeback. Luke Phillips narrowed the margin 10 minutes into the second stanza before Fittler and Johns combined three minutes later to swing the momentum in the Tricolours' favour. The game's eighth Immortal possessed the best left-to-right passing game in history, but his slick hands would come back to haunt him on this fabled night as a pass intended for Matt Gidley was claimed by Fittler with the Roosters skipper racing 40 metres to send the Allianz crowd into hysterics. Another try two plays later to Ryan Cross and a fourth to Shannon Hegarty sent the Roosters into the 2000 decider leaving Joey to hurl his mouthguard into the turf in one of the most unforgettable scenes in NRL history.
3. Shaun Kenny-Dowall - 2010
It took a special play to end what had been one of the most dramatic finals matches in NRL Telstra Premiership history. The Tigers and Roosters put on one of the greatest shows on earth at Allianz Stadium in a game that provided moments that are still talked about today. The Tigers raced out to a 15-2 lead and looked home and hosed when they took a 15-14 lead into the final minute. A Simon Dwyer bellringer on Jared Waerea-Hargreaves looked to have sealed the deal before the Tricolours won the scrum against the feed. From there, the Roosters played hot potato footy before the ball ended up in Braith Anasta's hands; his 32-metre angled field goal one of the best of all time. The match went to golden point and it took 99 minutes for a team to strike gold. Instead of positioning for a drop goal, the Tigers looked to spread the ball wide late in the count. The result; a Liam Fulton pass being picked off by Shaun Kenny-Dowall. The Kiwis international still had plenty to do, outsprinting several defenders on his 65-metre journey to the try-line. The Roosters had 99 problems that night, but taking an interception wasn't one.
2. Darren Lockyer - 2006
Was this an intercept? Technically it probably was, but given the magnitude of the moment we can't ignore it. Some people were saying State of Origin was dead leading into the 2006 series. The Blues had enjoyed a stranglehold of the interstate rivalry with three straight series wins before the very foundations of Origin were rocked on that fateful night in Melbourne. Leading by four, the Blues had to hold on for seven agonising minutes against a Maroons side desperate to get back in the winner's circle. What happened next still gives NSW fans cold chills at night. Camped on their own line, Blues fullback Brett Hodgson went into acting half looking to hit Matt King for a settler. Instead, the pass went way in front of the NSW centre, bouncing straight into the arms of Queensland skipper Darren Lockyer. The veteran still had plenty of work to do, fending away from an exhausted Luke Bailey to score the try that turned State of Origin on its head for the next decade.
1. Matt Bowen – 2005
It was impossible to go past this moment as the number one play on our countdown. The 2005 State of Origin series had just about everything a Hollywood scriptwriter looks for in a story, but it's the finish to Game One that will live long in the annals of history. The Maroons had exploded out of the blocks and led 19-0 early in the second half before tries to Luke Rooney, Mark Gasnier, Craig Fitzgibbon and then Danny Buderus saw the Blues steal a 20-19 lead. But Queensland had one last drive in them, and in the 78th minute Johnathan Thurston – in his first Origin game – stepped up to slot a deflected field goal to send the game into golden point. The rest, as they say, is history. Blues halfback Brett Kimmorley will say he saw a two-man overlap. Matt Bowen will say he saw an opportunity. The shift to the left was on, but Kimmorley's pass never found Matt Cooper; instead Bowen read it to perfection, saluting the sold-out Suncorp as he touched down exactly 200 seconds into golden point. As nightmarish as that was, NSW fans will quickly remind you that Andrew Johns returned three weeks later to turn the series on its head and guide the Blues to a famous 2-1 win.