CC Round 6 - Hull FC (a) - 38-22
It was mission accomplished, although somewhat uncomfortably at times. Great performances from Buderus, Ablett, Burrow, Sinfield and Lauiti'iti but once again we picked up a few knocks, noticeably to Hauraki and McGuire. We were into the hat for the semi-finals, now drawn against Castleford Tigers. This was much better for Leeds than last weeks performance, and against a much improved Hull FC side.
(Happy for a change eh?)
Round 23 - Salford City Reds (a) - 30-22
This was a game where everything seemed to stick, the interceptions worked, and we kept the silly penalties to a minimum. We seem to have more team spirit, a bit of fire and pride in defence and, believe it or not... a semblance of a game plan. Could we be peaking just at the right end of the season? I think that there is still a very long way to go before we can compete with Wigan, Warrington and Saints, but with three wins on the trot everything is feeling a lot more positive.
(Signs of hope there again)
CC Semi Final - Castleford Tigers (n) - 10-8
All credit to Castleford, they gave an enormous effort in defence and had the measure of us for the full eighty of normal time. Possibly the best of the two sides. In the end it was a McGoldrick high tackle which gifted us the game, a game from which the Tigers could have easily emerged the victors. Sinfield got the Carnegie Man-of-the-Match and deserved it for two sensational goal kicks. Wembley will be a tough ask against by far the best team in this competition and Super League, but stranger things have happened.
(EuroMillions numbers for Friday then?)
Round 24 - Castleford Tigers (h) - 56-0
This was as good a performance as we've seen this season but against a shocking poor and weakened Tigers team missing five key players. We could have got another twenty points if we'd not bombed some simple chances but the most gratifying was the defence which with just the one exception never really looked like it would be breached. Jones-Buchanan had an awesome game and Rob Burrow dropped a big hint that he doesn't like starting on the bench. There were plenty of other massive performances from the boys in blue and amber and barely any complaints about a great team performance. Even Mr Halibut had a decent game with the whistle, the first time I've thought that this season. On the down side we seemed to lose Bailey at half-time with some kind of knock, and hopefully Sinfield only left the field for a rest when the game was won. Apart from that we seemed to come through unscathed. Away at the Harlequins next week to keep the confidence building, and then the big one! Well done Leeds, tonight it was a delight to be there to witness the performance of the season.
(Jesus, how many times have you wanted the coaches head?)
Round 25 - Harlequins RL (a) - 22-32
After five matches unbeaten, Rhinos run came to an inglorious end at an initially rain-sodden Stoop in the capital dress rehearsal for next weekend’s Challenge Cup Final. Defeat also effectively scuppered finishing fourth after defeats for Huddersfield and Catalan that put the Rhinos’ fate in their own hands. Tentative and profligate with the ball - particularly in a dispiriting first half that saw them trail 20-0 - few emerged with enhanced reputations for the big clash with Wigan. Brett Delaney tried manfully throughout and, with worrying injuries to centre pairing Kallum Watkins and Carl Ablett could be set for a move back to the three quarters next week, while Kevin Sinfield sparked a late second half points spree which yielded three tries in six minutes to give a flattering margin, after the skipper had been sin binned in the first period.
(Bad day at the office then?)
CC Final - Wigan Warriors (n) - 18-28
The lads showed a lot of pride today, played beyond our expectations and did us proud. But you can't beat a champion Wigan side and the referee. All we have left now is the hope of a strong finish to the season and another crack at Wigan at Old Trafford. But that is probably being just a little optimistic. I'd expect that there may be the patter of tiny feet in the Bentham household in nine months time, with one parent being a mystery man from Wigan. After all he let them have everything else today!
(Hope springs eternal)
Round 26 - Wakefield Trinity Wildcats (h) - 64-20
Leeds sent out an important message tonight. That was that the Rhinos season is not yet over and that they are motivated to give the Grand Final a go this season, even if it means doing it from outside the four. There was still some clumsiness, some silliness and some lapses in concentration but on the whole this was a great performance after last weeks demoralising Wembley loss. Had it not been for two very poor refereeing decisions we could have been closer to eighty points on the board. Everything is now crossed for losses for the Giants and Dragons and the Rhinos still having a shot at fourth on the last day of the season. Tonight was a good night to be a Rhinos fan and the fifteen thousand plus at Headingley showed that they have belief that this side can still get something for their efforts this season.
(Believe who though? The Sleeve? BriMac?, The players?)
Round 27 - Huddersfield Giants (a) - 31-24
Did no-one tell the Giants that throwing this game would not change the fact that they have to play the league leaders next Friday? You always felt that Leeds had another gear that they could have moved into if it had been needed, and the Giants side that we saw this afternoon is a shadow of the one which put us to the sword earlier in the season. There were plenty of solid, if not exceptional, performances from Sinfield, Ablett, Leuluai, Peacock and Jones-Buchanan. The only injury worry was Kirke who picked up a knock towards the end of the first half and played no further part in the game. Next Sunday, at home to Hull FC, gets our end-of-season tilt at Old Trafford off the ground. And if we get through that, and the Giants lose at Warrington (as they undoubtedly will), then we are all back at the Galpharm in a fortnight to do it all over again! Come on Leeds.
(You almost believe here)
Play off week 1 - Hull FC (h) - 42-10
The Rhinos seem to be building their game on great defence and today was no exception. The forward built the platform on which the backs could prosper. We are definitely looking a more rounded team at the moment. Strong in defence, full of flair in attack. We've cut out the mistakes and most of the stupid penalties, could we be peaking at the right end of the season? Next Friday we're back at the Galpharm, scene of our win last weekend. But this time it will be a very different Giants, this time they really do have something to play for.
(How many times did you want to sack the coach, remind me)
Play off week 2 - Huddersfield Giants (a) - 34-28
But hold on we did, and we're through to the semi-finals next weekend. It's all down to the clubcall pick on Sunday night but if the Warriors do the expected and beat the Catalans then I think we'll be off to the Halliwell-Jones. If the Catalans do the rest of the league a favour and beat the Wigan cheats then we'll undoubtedly be going to Widnes to play the Saints. Either way, the going gets a lot tougher from here on in!
(You really are Mystic Meg in disguise and playing that Journey song a bit too much)
Play off Week 3 - Warrington Wolves (a) - 26-24
Leeds were nothing short of sensational. We had seventeen heroes who all played for one another, and we overcame the best team in the competition leaving them with nothing to show for their season except a hub-cap. It's impossible to pick a man-of-the-match but special credit must go to the skipper who 'kept his head when all about were losing theirs.'. And special mention to Tony Smith, a true gentleman, who shook the hand of every Leeds player as they left the pitch. That is what sportsmanship is all about. This was simply one of those 'I was there' nights which those of us who shared the experience on the terraces will remember until their dying day! So....Old Trafford on Saturday against the Warriors or the Saints. I simply can't wait. Bring it on!
(When did you want the coach sacking again? Remind me)
Grand Final - St Helens (n) - 32-16
What a sensational night and a sensational win which has re-written the record books and shown what a great invention the end of season play-off series can be. We've had a roller coaster of a season with some terrible downs and now the greatest of ups! I was one of the doubters that Sir Kevin mentioned at the end of his speech, I had criticised and written off this team in mid-season. But I saw something special at Wembley, which despite the loss made me think that this side still had heart and hunger, but I daren't hope that the hunger would carry them all the way to the ultimate prize. But it did...in spades. I think that Rob Burrow fully deserved to win the Harry Sunderland Trophy for Man of the Match as the game turned on his introduction. All the lads put in some tremendous work in defence, and but for a ten minute blip in the second half we totally dominated this game. Champions again, I can barely believe it. What a fantastic night to be a Rhinos fan, our fifth Grand Final win, and possibly our finest hour.
(If it was down to you the coach wouldn't have been there or half of the players either)
So, that was the season that was.
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