Rampant Rhinos retain crown
Two tries for McGuire as Leeds claim back-to-back titles
By Ben Sullivan. Last Updated: 04/10/08 8:35pm
Rhinos are champions again
Leeds shocked St Helens for the second straight year in the Grand Final, retaining their Super League title with a 24-16 victory.
Saints arrived at Old Trafford on the back of a 23-game unbeaten run but were completely dominated by a Rhinos side crushed 38-10 at Knowsley Road just two weeks ago.
The wet conditions probably suited Leeds better but they were good value for their win after a dominant display against a Saints outfit that failed to unleash their expansive running game on a saturated surface.
St Helens have now topped the table for the last four years but have managed to win just one Grand Final in that time. Coach Daniel Anderson heads back Down Under after a hugely successful three years in charge, but on the back of yet another big-game disappointment.
When the hot favourites took the lead inside five minutes, they looked set to avenge last year's 33-6 defeat. Lee Gilmour made the initial break through the centre of the Leeds defence and exchanged passes with Matt Gidley before putting Man of Steel James Graham over beneath the sticks.
But that was almost the only time Leeds allowed Saints to make a break up the guts of their swarming defence.
After wasting a couple of chances in front of the Saints posts, Leeds hit back on 24 minutes after Long gifted them field position with a late shot. Five tackles later Rob Burrow and Jamie Jones-Buchanan combined to put Lee Smith over in the corner. Kevin Sinfield added the extras from the touchline and the scores were locked at 6-6.
Leeds were beginning to gain the upper hand in the physical battle but it was a piece of brilliance from Ryan Hall which gave them the half-time lead.
Keith Senior's flick pass put the winger in space but he still had to finish superbly, chipping the ball past Willie Talau and touching down in the corner. Sinfield was again on target from out wide and Leeds led 12-6 at the break.
Sky Sports pictures showed Anderson berating his troops in heated fashion in the dressing room and initially it paid dividends, as they levelled inside two minutes of the re-start.
Gareth Ellis failed to deal with a high bomb, Gardner tipped the ball back and Gidley collected and slid over in the corner, with Long matching Sinfield's accuracy.
Leeds were ahead again inside five minutes though, man-of-the-match Smith - a late replacement for Brent Webb at full-back - coming up with a superb 40-20.
That set up the chance for Sinfield to slide in a grubber kick for Danny McGuire to score under the posts.
Back roared Saints after Ali Lauitiiti gave away a silly penalty, passing when the tackle was completed. For once the Leeds defence became stretched and a long pass from James Roby out wide put Gardner in at the corner.
Long missed the conversion and on 62 minutes that proved crucial, as Leeds built a two-score lead for the first time.
Sinfield sent up a bomb, Francis Meli flapped at it and McGuire seized on the loose ball before weaving his way to the posts for his second score.
Saints had time to hit back but they lacked the composure to rattle a rock-solid Leeds defence.
Too many errors stopped too many Saints attacks in their tracks and Rhinos were able to hold on for the first back-to-back titles in the club's history.
First Utility Super League
Tue 30th Jun
Hull K R34 - 28Salford Red Devils
Wed 1st Jul
Wakefield Wildcats26 - 16Hull FC
Thu 2nd Jul
Warrington WolvesvsWigan Warriors
Fri 3rd Jul
Leeds RhinosvsSt Helens
Sun 5th Jul
Huddersfield Giants0 - 0Hull K R
Hull FC0 - 0Wakefield Wildcats
Salford Red Devils0 - 0Catalans Dragons
Castleford Tigers0 - 0Widnes Vikings
Thu 9th Jul
Wigan WarriorsvsLeeds Rhinos
Fri 10th Jul
St Helens0 - 0Huddersfield Giants
Sun 12th Jul
Hull FC0 - 0Castleford Tigers
Salford Red Devils0 - 0Hull K R
Wakefield Wildcats0 - 0Warrington Wolves
Widnes Vikings0 - 0Catalans Dragons
Thu 16th Jul
Warrington WolvesvsSt Helens
Fri 17th Jul
Hull K RvsHull FC
Leeds Rhinos0 - 0Salford Red Devils
Wigan Warriors0 - 0Widnes Vikings
Sat 18th Jul
Catalans DragonsvsHuddersfield Giants
Sun 19th Jul
Wakefield Wildcats0 - 0Castleford Tigers
Thu 23rd Jul
Hull FCvsWigan Warriors
Fri 24th Jul
St Helens0 - 0Hull K R
Sun 26th Jul
Huddersfield Giants0 - 0Wakefield Wildcats
Leeds Rhinos0 - 0Catalans Dragons
Widnes Vikings0 - 0Salford Red Devils
Castleford Tigers0 - 0Warrington Wolves