Craig Murdock remembers Bath-Wigan clash... 25 years on
Stevo didn’t get everything right during his long commentary career.
But when Craig Murdock finished off a sensational try at Twickenham 25 years ago and he declared on Sky Sports that the Wigan halfback “will remember that for a long time”... well, he was spot on.
“Is it 25 years already?” said Murdock. “You look back on your career as all ex-players do, and that was the stand out day of my career.
“It’s quite ironic that in 10 years playing rugby league, my highlight was my one game of union!”
Wigan had already beaten Bath under league rules at Manchester’s Maine Road by 82-6 on May 8, 1996, with six-try Martin Offiah leading the rout. But their involvement – and triumph – at the Middlesex Sevens whet the appetite for the second part of the Clash of the Codes, under union rules.
When they walked out to a crowd of more than 40,000 at Twickenham, Murdock had his hands in his pockets!
“I don’t remember doing that,” says the 47-year-old, who now works as an NHS manager in Hull.
“They gave us these union shorts which had pockets in... but it definitely wasn’t me trying to look relaxed or anything like that.”
Coaching team Graeme West and Joe Lydon, who had both played union, came out of retirement, but Wigan’s attempts to match Bath at their own game failed.
They were 25-0 down at half-time and by the 55th minute, they trailed by 39-0.
And then came Murdock’s moment of magic.
Martin Offiah recycled the ball and flung it to Kris Radlinski deep in a huge ingoal. But instead of kicking it, the full-back angled out to the right, picking up Henry Paul – who looked to have all the time in the world as he danced through a scattered defence.
He found jet-heeled Offiah racing on his inside to advance the ball.
Though the winger was sandwiched by two cover defenders, he popped up a pass for the supporting Murdock to sweep over for a try many have described as one of the best scored on the hallowed Twickenham turf.
That try also sparked a late flourish from Wigan.
After former All Black Va’aiga Tuigamala had thundered over, Murdock grabbed his second with another long-range effort sparked by Jason Robinson’s scintillating break down the right touchline. Bath won the game 44-19.
“Both tries were from our own ingoal really, but I had the easy part, just finishing off,” said Cumbrian Murdock, who got the nod to play when Shaun Edwards withdrew injured.
“Looking back on it now, we had done loads of work with Orrell in the build-up and practiced line-outs and mauls.
“In hindsight, we should have played league from the start.
“We were playing like a union side in the first-half, kicking for touch in our own 20 and things like that, when we really should have kept hold of possession and thrown it about.
“We changed tactics at half-time and we drew the second-half.
“Look at the backline we had – Henry at 10, Gary and Inga in the centres, Offiah and Jason on the wings, Rads at full-back – you couldn’t get much better, could you?
“I don’t have much memorabilia and to be honest it was so long ago, I don’t remember everything from back then.
“The game was on Sky last year, I watched it with my kids and I didn’t remember being interviewed on TV afterwards. But I’ll always remember those tries - it was nice to have scored them.”
Where are the players now?
Kris Radlinski: Former full-back is now executive director of hometown club, Wigan Warriors.
Jason Robinson: Media personality, businessman, ambassador... and operations director of Jamaica RL team.
Henry Paul: Coach of the Canada Sevens team which will compete at this summer’s Olympics.
Gary Connolly: Still lives in Wigan with his family, works as a mentor for disadvantaged children.
Martin Offiah: Has numerous business interests including electric car charging points, as well as media and DJ appearances.
Joe Lydon: Lives near Parbold, head of Ireland RU’s international talent and development.
Craig Murdock: Lives in Hull where he works as an NHS manager. Part-time radio summariser and agent.
Terry O’Connor: Lives in Widnes, a long-standing member of Sky Sports’ commentary team.
Martin Hall: Businessman, and director of rugby at League One Rochdale Hornets.
Neil Cowie: Works in the building industry, and has developed numerous properties.
Andy Farrell: Head coach of the Ireland team which finished third in Six Nations.
Graeme West: Then-Wigan coach is retired and lives in Karaka, New Zealand.
Shem Tatupu: Returned to union with Northampton after leaving Wigan. Whereabouts unknown.
Va’aiga Tuigamala: Runs a funeral director company in New Zealand, ‘clients’ included late King of Tonga, Taufa’ahau Tupou IV.
Scott Quinnell: Involved in a candle company, after-dinner and motivational speaker, media pundit.
Andy Craig: Ex-Scotland RU international runs a plumbing and heating business in St Helens.
Mick Cassidy: Set up plumbing business after leaving role as Wigan’s head of youth last year.
Gael Tallec: Lives in Nimes in his native France, working as an executive manager in the field of commerce and hypermarkets.
Andy Johnson: Co-owns ADM Design in Wigan. Co-created the Joining Jack charity.
Simon Haughton: Lives in Australia where he works as a firefighter.