Cowboys return to Headingley 19 years on
You can book your ticket now for the Dacia World Club Challenge by calling 0371 423 1315 or online at www.therhinos.co.uk/buytickets
Leeds Rhinos and North Queensland Cowboys clash this Sunday in the Dacia World Club Challenge but this is not the first time that the two sides have met at Headingley Carnegie. They faced off in 1997 in the ill fated World Club Championship when Tim Sheens side ran out convincing winners.
All the permutations had been meticulously worked out, every eventuality had been covered except allowing for the fact that the Cowboys would be on top of their highly impressive game. The atmosphere of the Adelaide game was recreated within the stadium but this time crowd exhortation was not enough to overcome a team that despite having nothing to play for produced a near faultless 80 minutes. Leeds played well in spells but lapses in concentration proved extremely costly and North Queensland punished every one ruthlessly.
They also had the key players on the night so that whenever they were under pressure clever distribution from acting half by Steve Walters, a lightening scamper from Andrew Dunemann, a powerful charge up the middle from impressive centre Paul Bowman or the pace outwide of Ray Mercy gave them the initiative back.
The match was a contest until the hour mark when Luke Phillips, whose 24 point haul including an unblemished goalkicking record was a highlight, majestically outjumped the Leeds cover to latch onto John Doyle's pinpoint crosskick. That made the score l4-24 and from then on the visitors went on the rampage. Three tries, all of them expertly crafted, in the last nine minutes gave a comprehensive margin to their win.
In the early stages the Rhinos had seemed solid on defence but disjointed on attack as they began with a changed half back combination of Holroyd and Sheridan. There were few gaps in the visitors defence to exploit anyway and they showed an eager willingness to keep the ball alive. Too much of the best early approach work ended with the concession of a penalty on both sides. Justin Loomans and Marvin Golden were locked in a fine battle, the young Leeds winger pulling off an excellent try saving tackle on his opposite number. After twenty minutes of absorbing stalemate, Rhinos skipper Gary Mercer broke the deadlock with the aid of the video referee.
Capitalising on a fortunate richochet and then a powerful Masella charge, the dynamic Kiwi loose forward had the ball stripped from him in a two man tackle over the Cowboys line and ‘penalty try’ lit up the screen.
The Cowboys were clearly annoyed, none more so than Andrew Dunemann but he extracted instant retribution. A fine gallop from recently arrived prop Buttgeig was carried on by Bowman and Cressbrook before the blond half twisted his way clear to go over.
Again, tenacity rather than craft gave the Rhinos the lead as Holroyd slipped over a penalty from 30 metres in front. Multiple substitutions on the half hour by both sides seemed to disrupt the Rhinos who began releasing panic passes o.it of the tackle and looked vulnerable at the marker.
Two tries in three minutes just prior to the break gave the Cowboys an enormous psychological boost, particularly as the first came on the back of a gilt edged Leeds opportunity. Mercer broke clear down the right with support but inexplicably lost the ball and Locke, Walters and Doyle on the counter sent Mercy over the whitewash.
Bowman then charged through some weak tackling in midfield and Cressbrook loomed in support to claim the score at the posts.
The second half started at a frenetic pace as Leeds sought to narrow the gap and restore belief in the crowd. Mercy was denied a score by the video ref after a huge Dunemann bomb ended in a melee behind the line before Leeds produced their best move of the match to bring renewed hope.
Golden, Gibson and Mercer started the charge, Harris and Masella kept the ball alive with superb passes and Mathiou, Newton and Golden drove to the line. Hassan was held but Harris, Sterling, Holroyd and Gibson somehow kept the ball alive for ever menacing Adrian Morley to crash over.
Although all was not lost, the ease with which the Queenslanders were making ground boded ill and once Phillips had grabbed his try they were going to be the only winners.
Within three minutes, Dunemann had sent in Murphy and though Morley, inevitably, tilt without support it was left to Dunemann, Phillips and Shipway to claim the late scores. The WCC roller coaster ended for the Rhinos but no one in the camp had anything but praise for the concept, the experience and the lesson.
Leeds: Damien Gibson, Paul Sterling, Francis Cummins, Phil Hassan, Marvin Golden, Graham Holroyd, Ryan Sheridan, Martin Masella, Wayne Collins, Jamie Mathiou, Adrian Morley, Andy Hay, Gary Mercer
Subs: Terry Newton, Anthony Farrell, Leroy Rivett, Iestyn Harris