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Leeds Rhinos

2017 Super League Champions

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St Helens 10 Leeds Rhinos 14

28th March 2008

By Leeds Rhinos

As they did at Old Trafford back in October, Leeds Rhinos won this Grand Final re-match at Knowsley Road but this was a much tighter affair than the title decider. Leeds were grateful to a great place kicking display by captain Kevin Sinfield along with a try in each half for Ali Lauitiiti and Luke Burgess to six point gap on St Helens. Both teams arrived to a wet and cold Knowsley Road for eagerly anticipated Grand Final re-match. Brian McClennan recalled Ryan Hall to fill the gap left by Lee Smith on the right wing whilst Kylie Leuluai returns to the side after being knocked out against Bradford at prop. St Helens kept Jason Cayless on the bench with Bryn Hargreaves in the starting line up. After the Rhinos explosive start to their last three games, St Helens coach Daniel Anderson was obviously looking to take the wind out of the Rhinos sail in the opening exchanges with the home side kicking early on two consecutive sets

However, it was the Champions who applied the early pressure on their opponents line. The Rhinos got two repeat sets on the Saints line before Kevin Sinfield gave his side the lead after eight minutes when Chris Flannery was penalised for back chat when Ade Gardner knocked the ball out of play under pressure from Scott Donald. St Helens had the next chance when Leon Pryce threw a dummy close to the Leeds line before sliding over but video referee Phil Bentham spotted a double movement by the former Bradford man and the score was chalked off. Referee Ashley Klein was the busiest man on the field as St Helens and then the Rhinos gave away a succession of penalties in defence. One of those infringements led to a chance for Sean Long to level the score after 20 minutes and he successfully added the kick from 23 metres out. Not for the first time this season, Leeds found themselves playing into driving rain and Saints made the most of the obvious advantage of conditions. Long was able to give his side the lead with his second penalty of the night from 44 metres out wih the wind at his back after 24 minutes. Having absorbed that pressure, the Rhinos then counter attacked and came up with the first try of the game when Ali Lauitiiti made the extra man out wide to fly through a gap in the Saints defence. Sinfield added an incredible touchline conversion into the wind to make it 8-4 to the visitors. Ryan Hall made an error from the kick off when he allowed the ball to slip under his body and go dead and two tackles after the drop out, Leeds were penalised for a high tackle in front of the posts. Long too the straight forward decision to go for goal and cut the Rhinos lead to just two points with eight minutes remaining in the half. Saints then had their second try of their night ruled out by the video referee when the replay showed that a Leeds hand just managed to knock the ball dead from Sean Long's clever close range kick. However, once again from the drop out, Leeds were penalised, this time for offside and Long looked certain to level the game for his side heading into half time but he pushed his attempt wide to the right. Just a minute later he had another chance from 40 metres out but once again it was wide so Leeds held on to their narrow lead at the break.

WP – Home MPU

Now with the wind at their backs, the Rhinos took immediate advantage of the conditions with a towering bomb by Burrow that Scott Donald leaped above the defence to collect and looked to have scored. However, video ref Bentham said he had not got it down before the deadball line so it was ruled out. Having dominated the early exchanges of the second half, the Rhinos fell behind after Lauitiiti was penalised for a high tackle on Pryce. Saints kicked to the corner and three tackles later, Paul Wellens floated through the gap to score. Long missed the conversion so the lead was only 10-8 after 47 minutes. The pouring rain from earlier had subsided in the second half but the pitch was still sodden. Field position was crucial for each team as they tried to plough a way through. Quick thinking from youngster Luke Burgess saw the prop power his way over from close range to give his side the lead from five metres out. Sinfield added the conversion to make it 14-8 to the visitors after 63 minutes. The Rhinos had to withstand a barrage of attacks from the homeside in the last ten minutes but if defence really does win Championships, then Leeds produced the very best at Knowsley Road. Against any other team, St Helens would surely have won this game on their own patch however the Rhinos have the best defence in Super League and they showed why. Saints final chance came when Willie Talau threw a forward pass with a minute remaining.

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