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Leeds Rhinos

2017 Super League Champions

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St Helens 16 Leeds Rhinos 24

4th October 2008

By Leeds Rhinos

The heavens have opened at Old Trafford as the Rhinos looked to retain their Super League title against the red-hot favourites St Helens. Lee Smith has been named at full back whilst former Oulton Raider Ryan Hall has been drafted in on the right wing. Luke Burgess is the unlucky member of the squad to miss out on selection.

However Saints took an early lead after six minutes when Sean Long opened up the Rhinos defence with a reverse pass to Lee Gilmour. He broke through before passing to Paul Wellens. Lee Smith had worked hard in defence to close the opportunity but Wellens passed back to Gilmour who offloaded to James Graham to score. Long added the conversion to make it 6-0. The Rhinos had chances in the opening exchanges most notably when Keith Senior knocked on ten metres out and then Danny McGuire was penalised after James Graham milked the call from referee Ashley Klein. Scott Donald and Matt Diskin then produced a brilliant double cover tackle to drag Matt Gidley into touch when the Saints man seemed destined for the corner. Smith was settling in well in the full back role and created one superb counter attack before four minutes later scoring the Rhinos first try. Having been awarded a penalty inside their own half, Leeds attacked with purpose and a superb offload by Jamie Jones-Buchanan to Smith saw the full back slide in at almost exactly the same spot where Brent Webb had scored twelve months earlier. Sinfield added a fantastic conversion to make it 6-6 after 24 minutes. The Rhinos were growing in confidence as the half went on and, after Scott Donald had earned his team a penalty deep in their own territory, they got the score they deserved. Sinfield threw a wide pass to Senior who flicked it onto Ryan Hall. The young winger still had plenty to do but he had the presence of mind to dribble the ball ahead and then slide on his knees to touch the ball down. Sinfield added another great conversion in the swirling conditions to make it 12-6 to Leeds. There was still time left for drama before the break when McGuire and Nick Scruton combined to knock on the re-start. However great defence held Saints out and Donald intercepted to ensure the lead was maintained until the break.

WP – Home MPU

Saints came out fired up at the start of the second half and they were level within three minutes. Sean Long put in a crossfield kick that Ade Gardner outjumped Scott Donald to palm back to Gidley who cut back inside to slide under Diskin's tackle and score. Long added the conversion to level the score. It was a shock to the system for the Rhinos, coming so early in the half, but they regathered themselves and came right back at Saints. Lee Smith put in a brilliant 40:20 kick to put Leeds deep in the Saints territory and two tackles later, Sinfield put in a brilliantly weighted grubber kick for McGuire to chase through and touch down between the posts. Sinfield added the conversion to make it 18-12 after 49 minutes. The Rhinos had to produce some incredible defence to keep St Helens out. Time and time their big forwards came charging in and time and time again the Rhinos repelled the attack. However, it came at a price with Saints twice getting repeat sets as the Rhinos desperately went in chase of a releaving interception. Eventually the pressure took its toll and a mispass by James Roby released Ade Gardner to score down the touchline. Long however was unable to add the conversion so the Rhinos still led 18-16 after 59 minutes. That lead was increased after 62 minutes when McGuire pounced on a spilled kick by Francis Meli before stepping round two would be tacklers to dive in and score. Sinfield added the conversion to stretch the lead to eight points. Long then put his kick off out on the full giving the Rhinos another chance to attack from deep in Saints territory. However, they could not make the most of it as Jones-Buchanan was dragged into touch on the third tackle. Referee Ashley Klein then angered the Rhinos by three times ruling against Leeds on 50/50 calls. Firstly, Gardner appeared to knock on but was allowed to play on, then Jones-Buchanan was penalised for blocking after Roby had kicked ahead and finally the Rhinos were penalised for offside on their own goal line after Saints had knocked on. The Rhinos kept their minds on the job however and continued to stoutly defend their line. Having kept their line in tact the Rhinos set about spending as much time in the St Helens half as possible in the remaining minutes. A towering bomb by Sinfield was caught by Wellens but he had to slide out of play getting it to force a drop out. There was still drama as the drop out was regathered by Saints. However, a knock on gave Leeds the ball back with two minutes remaining.

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