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That's Why We're Champions!
Posted by southstander on October 15 2007 - 08:44:12

World Class

Rugby League fans live for nights like this, and so few of us actually get to experience them once, let alone twice.

The stage was Old Trafford, the opposition the defending Champions, and the odds were against us. But what we would witness over the next eighty minutes was a Rhinos side that had the confidence, self-belief, and quality to destroy the most successful side of the Superleague era.

This was a night that would crown Tony Smiths time in charge at Headingley, and one which will pass into folklore as one of the greatest nights in the clubs history.

We bring you all of the action here......

33

Rhinos

v

Saints

06

SLXII - Grand Final

Old Trafford - Manchester

13th October 2007

That's Why We're Champions!

The atmosphere was electric as the side took centre stage. Tony Smith had stuck with the same seventeen that demolished Wigan last weekend but Daniel Anderson had gambled on Sean Long and Maure Fa'savalu, both of whom had been thrown back into the squad after long lay-offs through injury. It was a risk, and one that would backfire badly on the previously all-conquering coach.

Saints had never lost an Old Trafford Grand Final, and indeed, you had to go back a long way to find a Saints loss in an final. On paper and at the bookies the Rhinos were the clear underdogs, but no-one seemed to have told Tony Smiths gladiators. All week we'd been building up to the six o'clock kick-off, and finally it was here and as the kick-off approached the noise rose to deafening levels.

From the offset the Rhinos were on the back foot as the final hardened Saints pushed us back deep into our own half. A couple of tough penalties penalised us further and on three minutes Klein awarded Saints an easily kickable penalty as Diskin interfered with a chaser after a Long kick through. I'd already written the opening Long score in my notebook when the Saints lynchpin uncharacteristically slid the ball wide of his goal. The Rhinos fans cheered like we'd scored a try and the Saints confidence must have been dented. Their returning saviour and most influential player appeared to not have brought his kicking boots.

We were still under the kosh though but awesome defence kept Saints from crossing the whitewash and after ten minutes of being battered we started to make some headway ourselves.

On the quarter hour we were pushing towards the Saints line when Klein penalised the defending champions for offside. Kevin Sinfield gladly accepted the invitation and kicked the two points, setting a record as the first Leeds player to play and score in every game in a season (league, cup and play-off). A true great.

We were two points up, and part of me was praying for the final hooter. If I'd known what I was about to witness I'd have banished those thoughts immediately, but as it was I just wanted to see the lads lift the trophy.


Opener

On twenty the Rhinos got the opening try as we moved the ball across field from right to left, Senior passed the Brent Webb who motored into the left corner after shrugging off two tackles. Brent was mobbed by his team-mates, and at that point you could see how much the lads were up for it. Their belief in themselves was bolstered by Sinfields superb touchline conversion for an 8-0 lead. The vast Rhinos following went crazy.

But the jubilation was short lived. On twenty-six Sean Long showed a glimpse of his brilliance as he went through a gap as the Leeds defence failed to slide and after a couple of passed the Man-of-Steel went over next to the sticks. This time Long did make the goal and the Rhinos lead was narrowed to just two. Was this the Saints comeback? Would they now take over the game? We needn't have worried as it would be the last time that they would trouble the scorers.

Leeds got straight back into Saints and it looked like a moment of McGuire magic would see us re-establish the eight point lead as a chip-and-collect was followed by a kick to the corner for Scott Donald to chase but the ball just ran into touch at the corner flag before Scott could touch it down. It deserved a try, but it was the last clear chance before the half-time hooter sounded.

It was 'so far, so good' for Leeds. After a shaky opening quarter hour we had taken the lead and held onto it until half time. The score was currently an exact reversal of that at Knowsley Road a fortnight ago. Saints held on then, and now the majority of the stadium hoped that we'd hold on.

We expected a revitalised Saints to hit us hard at the start of the second half, and we weren't disappointed. They came at us hard, but the Rhinos defence was even harder and try as they might there was no way through a tight and well drilled defensive line. On forty-nine we were back in control, and back on the scoreboard.

A Sinfield grubber had hit an outstretched Saints foot and the skipper re-gathered and moved the ball left to big Ali who stepped inside and then went for the corner. Sinfield failed to convert a difficult chance and we were a converted try clear at 12-6.

Two minutes later and we were over again. The double-whammy. Ali Lauiti'iti offloaded superbly on the half way line to Scott Doanld who set off down the wing. Despite having support inside, Scott backed himself to go outside and left Wellens grasping thin air as he improved the angle for Sinfields conversion. As Kev slotted the extras it was 18-6 and I felt that we were one score away from safety.


Clincher
On fifty-five Rob Burrow settled the nerves further as he executed a perfect drop goal from thirty metres. We were now three scores clear with twenty-five minutes remaining, and the party was starting amongst the Leeds fans.

Saints tried everything that they knew in the next ten minutes, but every question they asked was answered clearly and concisely by the Rhinos defence. The Champions were looking broken, now it was time to rub salt into the wound.

On sixty-eight McGuire gave the ball some air with a perfect cross-field kick. Lee Smith chased it for all he was worth and beat Meli in the jump to land with the ball in hand and dive the remaining two metres to score next to the sticks. Sinfield goal made it 25-6 and with an eighteen point lead and just eleven minutes on the clock I was starting to believe that it would be our day. Even Saints couldn't come back from this!

A Sinfield goal on seventy-seven after a high tackle on JJB signalled the exit of any Saints fans who were still in the stadium. Forget the Wigan walk, Saints are the new early departure champions.

The icing on the cake came with just a few second left on the clock when the Rhinos were keeping the ball alive in the Saints twenty, and tormenting the Saints defence. Diskin put JJB through a gap and despite a valiant attempt from Wellens the 'bearded one' got the ball down next to the sticks. The hooter sounded before Sinfield added the extras and witha final score of 33-6 the celebrations began as the Rhinos were crowned Superleague 2007 Champions.

This was as close to perfect as you'll get. The lads took the field with a real belief in themselves and they never doubted that their name was alreadyt on the trophy. The all-conquering Saints were made to look ordinary as Tony Smith timed the run perfectly to peak at just the right moment. It has been an amazing season, with humiliating losses at Hull KR and Catalan Dragons, but when it really mattered the lads were at the very top of their game. The rest of the season was long forgotten as the trophy was held aloft and the Rhinos fans went barmy.

Congratulations to Rob Burrow on collecting the Harry Sunderland Trophy as Man-of-the-match, but he must have been puched close by the likes of Donald, Peacock, Ellis and Sinfield. It is a shame that one person has to win it, because we had seventeen heroes on the pitch.

This is what it is all about. This is what we live for as supporters. This is why we're Champions!

Thanks Tony. Champions twice in four years, we couldn't have asked for more.


Please vote for your Man-of-the-Match in the front page poll.


Match Facts

Rhinos
Saints
No.
Player
T
G
DG
No.
Player
T
G
DG
1
Webb
1
1
Wellens
2
Donald
1
2
Gardner
3
Toopi
3
Gidley
4
Senior
4
Talau
5
Smith
1
5
Meli
6
McGuire
6
Pryce
7
Burrow
1
7
Long
1
8
Leuleui
8
Fozzard
9
Diskin
9
Cunningham
10
Peacock
10
Cayless
11
Jones-Buchanan
1
11
Gilmour
12
Ellis
30
Flannery
13
Sinfield
6
12
Wilkin
14
Lauiti'iti
1
17
Graham
16
Bailey
23
Fa'savalu
18
Kirke
15
Bennett
22
Ablett
14
Roby
1

Kick Off:
18:00
Half-Time:
08-06
Referee:
Ashley Klein
Crowd:
71,352


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