Houghs’ Heroes

Date published: Monday, September 26, 2011

TROPY-WINNING coach John Hough deflected the attention off himself and, as the celebrations began, put the post-match spotlight firmly on his players and his assistant coach Paul Ashton following our magnificent 29-24 win against Widnes Vikings in the Grand Final of the Reserves’ Under-23s Championship.

Describing the commitment of his players as “awesome”, he said that, from 1 to 17, they had produced an outstanding performance to beat league leaders Widnes for the third time in a row.

“We’ve finished the season as champions,” he added, “and that will do for me. I’m chuffed to bits. We’e had targets all through the season and we’ve kept ticking them off, first one, then another. Now we’ve ticked the last one. Job done. Great.

“It wasn’t a pretty performance, but this is one occasion when I’m not bothered. We’ve won the trophy, and that’s what today was all about.

[singlepic id=1009 w=320 h=240 float=left]”Widnes are a good side, and we knew they would throw everything at us. They were bound to be wounded after our top-two play-off win at their place. In the event it was a nail-biter that went down to the very last play of the game.

“We went through some dark periods, but the boys responded superbly to every challenge and to every bit of adversity. In that respect they were awesome.”

Turning to his backroom staff, and to his right-hand man Ashton in particular, he said: “They are the unsung heroes nobody hears about. But they have all done a fantastic job for me this year.

“Ashy has played a massive part. He came to us last year, a fiery character who knows the game inside out. That experience has helped the players, and me, more than anyone would know.”

Widnes-born Ashton, son of former Oldham, Leeds and Great Britain scrum-half Ray Ashton, said: “I’ve been working with a lot of good players, but it doesn’t matter how good they are, if they don’t listen they don’t learn. These lads have listened and learned.

“There isn’t another team in the league that will have trained and worked harder than us, and you only get out what you put in.”

Jamie Knight, the captain, said: “To lift the trophy was an amazing feeling. We’ve given everything we’ve got since last pre-season, and it has paid off.

[singlepic id=997 w=320 h=240 float=left]”Widnes put us under a lot of pressure and we had to ride out the storm. We have had it drilled into us that the only team we need to worry about is ourselves. We tend to over-play things at times, but whenever things start to go against us we are under orders to get back to basics.

“We reacted positively whenever we made a mistake or gave away a penalty. In a game like that, it counted for a lot.”