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Back to Best Leeds Into Final
Posted by southstander on September 30 2005 - 23:43:58

Lucky Wigan?
After having to remember to breathe on several occasions in the last ten minutes of the match, I'm still on a high two hours after the final hooter.

In all honesty, it was a result that I was certainly not expecting, and I travelled to Knowsley Road in hope more than expectation. The Lads were sensational tonight, and for sixty-eight minutes it was as though the trial and tribulations of the last six weeks had never happened!

19

Rhinos

v

Saints

16

Superleague X

Play-Off

30th September 2005

Back to Best Leeds Into Final

It was a shocking night as the vociferous throng from east of the Pennines settled in their places for the nights entertainment. The ultimate prize awaited one of these two sides, and the smart money was on the home side and the Minor Premiers St. Helens. Their supporters had been full of it all week, many having already booked their Grand Final tickets, and with confidence at a low ebb, many of the Rhinos faithful must have been expecting to have to take their second chance at the final next weekend.

As the sides took the field is was clear that the incessant rain had caused some damage with extensive waterlogging, it was going to be a night where ball control was essential!

Leeds started the first half with their backs to the 'barmy army' and much of the early play was right in front of the travelling supporters. Saints bossed the opening fifteen minutes, but all credit to the Rhinos defence who soaked up the pressure. Anderson was held up over the line on the last after eleven minutes, and you had a horrible feeling that this might be the start of an eighty minutes of onslaught.

Somewhat against the run of play, and thanks to a couple of harsh decisions on Saints, it was the Rhinos that took their first real chance. Around the thirteen minute mark, Leeds had a third set on the Saints line. Leeds lost the ball, and Jamie Lyon broke downfield before being tacked hard by Chris McKenna. Willie dislodged the ball, straight into the hands of Danny McGuire who stepped past Lyon and went ten metres to score. Sinfield goaled to send the away supporters into raptures, and his side into a six-nil lead.

Leeds then started to boss the game, repelling Saints with some fearsome tackling, but finding it reciprocated in attack. On thirty-two another Saints error, through a knock-on, gave Leeds possession inside the Saints twenty. Fast work from Diskin at acting-half saw him dart towards the line before switching the ball back inside to Danny Ward who crashed over from five metres. Sinfield goaled for 12-0, it was too good to be true.


Sensational Try

Sensational Leeds defence, ball handling errors from Saints, and an inability of the Saints players to catch Lyons deft flicks all managed to keep the home side pointless to half time, but you just had a feeling that this wasn't over yet.

The second half started as the first had finished with some monster hits and a few dropped balls. On fifty, Saints were attacking and put a grubber through on the last. Ali Lauiti'iti stuck out a foot and pushed the ball forwards, chasing, collecting and setting off for the Saints line in one effortless move. As he passed the fifty, thousands of Rhinos supporters were willing him on, but feared he'd get caught by the faster Saints defence. With a superhuman effort the big fella made it to the line and dived over to score...exhausted!

Sinfield goaled the conversion for eighteen-nil, now we started to believe. Our old Rhinos were back and memories of the last months heartbreak were long forgotten.

On sixty-six a Sinfield grubber forced a Saints drop out and from the resulting plays we gained good field position and on the last Sinfield kicked a drop-goal from right in-front. We were 19-0 ahead with just fourteen minutes left, it looked all over. But...never underestimate the power of a Saints fight-back.


Super Sinny
The sixty-eighth minute saw the start of a nightmare passage of play that was to last five minutes, during which time the Rhinos would not touch the ball.

On sixty-eight, following a Leeds drop-out, Saints moved downfield and Lyon ran the angles to score in the corner. He converted his own for 19-6.

On seventy-one and the kick-off return, Lyon stepped past the Leeds defence that had been so resolute all night, and put Hardman over in the corner. This time he failed to convert but it was 19-10. Two minutes later and Lyon got his second of the night as Chev Walker messed up a kick through. Once again the Aussie converted his own try for 19-16 and it had become unbearable to watch.

How the Rhinos played the last seven minutes without conceeding another try I'll never know. Missed tackles and a shocking knock-on by Walker on the first Leeds tackle all served to raise the blood-pressure but when Mathers diffused a bomb with one second left on the big clock and booted the ball into the stands it was all over and the Rhinos were in the Grand Final.

Saints missed a play-maker, or two, but the Rhinos were back to their best of the early season. Defensively we were excellent (except the five minute lapse) and some of the moves we've failed with over the last few weeks came up trumps. Old Trafford here we come, and I have a sneaking suspicion that we might not be playing the Saints!


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
Mathers
1
Wellens
2
Calderwood
20
Hardman
1
12
McKenna
3
Lyon
2
2
3
Walker
4
Talau
5
Bai
2
Gardner
6
McGuire
1
6
Hooper
7
Burrow
21
Roby
8
Bailey
8
Fozzard
14
Dunemann
9
Cunningham
15
Ward
1
17
Anderson P.
16
Poching
11
Gilmour
20
Ellis
15
Bennett
13
Sinfield
3
1
12
Wilkin
9
Diskin
14
Higham
10
McDermott
19
Graham
11
Lauiti'iti
1
27
Anderson V.
18
Jones-Buchanan
24
Fa'asavalu

Kick Off:
20:00
Half-Time:
12-00
Attendance:
13,209
Referee:
Ashley Klein


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