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Nothing was more gallant than the Rhinos side of 2008. Once again the main rivals St Helens were as brilliant as ever in their never ending quest to produce top of the draw rugby league that has made them likeable over the years. The Saints gleeful approach consolidated the games reputation during the summer era and it was always a joy to see them live even as a Rhinos fan. But the icing on the cake was always beating St Helens and I canít see that happening this Friday.
Our colossal heroes of 2008 have somehow petered out into a bunch of softies that refuse to get competitive with the best of 2011. Last weekend against Warrington was a disgrace of mammoth proportions compared to the days when Leeds beat Warrington 32 - 12, and lose to them by just 22 - 12. 2008 was such a fantastic season, especially the games against St Helens and this is part two of my three Ďgloryí years feature between these two rivals. Thank goodness we have something to look back on because we currently have little to look forward to.
Ashley Klown was the referee for the grand final rematch between Leeds and St Helens on Friday 28th March 2008 at Knowsley Road. The weather was a typical grim up north affair thanks to the Rugby Gods smiling down on Leeds that day. Leeds Rhinos only go on to beat St Helens when the sun doesnít shine and it seemed to be the case here as it was at Old Trafford in 2007. Only this time it was a much tighter contest because the saints were gunning for revenge.
Fortunately for us Rhino fans the Saints attack was shambles and they only hope of beating us was via penalties. He only managed to kick 3/6 conversions that night whilst Paul Wellens for the Saints only try. The Rhinos on the other hand got on the score sheet thanks to tries by Ali Lauiti'iti and Luke Burgess. Sinfield also kicked three conversions that night to make it a 14 - 10 victory for the Rhinos. It was the Rhinos defence that was the most impressive thing that night. How times have changed.
Come June 2008, the sun was shining and the Rhinos form was melting quicker than ice in a heat wave. Itís a well-known fact that if Grand Finals were played in the heat of summer, the saints would have been super league champions ten-fold by now. Thank goodness that the RFL conspired to make sure that the most important game of all is played in the colder months because Leeds just simply didnít have an answer to Saints in the sun.
20th June 2008 wasnít a great afternoon for Rhinoís fans at all. The previous week the Headingley heroes lost 28 - 24 to the Harlequins at the stoop. Saints as per usual were treating super league like points fodder and Leeds were looking like one season wonderers once again. The mighty ĎSí went on to beat us 26 - 12 that day thanks to a little bit of help from the sunshine. Steve Ganson should have never red carded Nick Scruton in the second half damn it!
Soon the challenge cup semi-finals were here and Leeds drew St Helens at the Galfarm Stadium. Five years ago Leeds Rhinos beat St Helens at the same venue and in the same round of the challenge cup. It what was I regard as the best game Iíve ever been to in my life. It was end to end scintillating stuff that went into extra time for the first time ever. Leeds won that match and I was hoping for a repeat.
Unfortunately Saints in summer heat of July 2008 were too good to the Rhinos. St Helens went on to beat Leeds 26 - 16 thanks to tries from Flannery, Pryce, Wilkin and Hargreaves. Sean Long also kicked a perfect five from five that day. Compare that to the three tries that Leeds scored and the bad day at the office Kevin Sinfield had with the boot. It really was an all-round bad day for the Rhinos as the Saints marched onto Wembley. They also went onto beat Hull FC 28 - 16 in the final.
Saints beat us 38 - 10 the next time the two sides met. It really was looking that St Helens were set for years of dominance in the super league after that performance Play offs semi-finals. Leeds then went on to slug it against Wigan and won 18 - 14. So it was the same Grand final for the second year in a row. The Rhinos were once again massive underdogs and lucky to get to the Grand final. But we won that game as well at 24 - 16 and like the last one - Iíll just leave you with the pictures for you to savour. The highlight for me was Daniel Andersonís outrage at half time!
Man of the Match gets the opener.
Ryan shows genius for Leeds second.
Keith looks for a way through.
Danny Celebrates his first...
..and goes over for his second.
Leeds go mad at the hooter.
Three times delighted winners.
Thats why we're Champions!
Finally Iíd like to thank Paul for the match reports and RLphotos for the splendid pictures. But most of all Iíd like to thank anyone who reads these columns.