Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Engage Super League XVI Grand Final review by Simon Reuben
Leeds Rhinos came from behind on the hour to claim a fifth Super League Title and deny St Helens again.
These two great foes, St Helens and the Leeds Rhinos met again at the Theatre of Dreams for the fourth time in five years.
Saints, playing in a record breaking sixth successive Grand final were hoping to avoid a fourth successive defeat at the hands of their opponents.
For fifth place Leeds, they were looking for a record fifth Grand final success and to continue their rich vein of form.
For the time of the year we get our usual Manchester weather, as a day of rain had left a slippery, rain-sodden pitch - and the sort of conditions that the Rhinos exploited to the full on their three previous victorious Old Trafford meetings against their opponents.
With these conditions the early stages was a war of attrition. Leeds came close to scoring as an interception break from near his own line by Brett Delaney only ending when he ran out of steam, before Ryan Hall's burst down the left ended with a loose pass.
It took until the 25th minute for the first points to go on the scoreboard when Jamie Peacock was adjudged to have interfered with Lee Gaskell at the play-the-ball, Jamie Foster kicking the penalty goal for St Helens.
But Leeds were level within three minutes when Saints were similarly penalised - and Kevin Sinfield added a two pointer.
Then, on 33 minutes, came the moment that set the game alight as substitute Rob Burrow, dipped his diminutive frame under the first tackle that came at him before magically weaving his way on a 50-metre run past four more Saints players to go under the posts for one of the great Grand Final tries. Sinfield added the extras as the Rhinos went into the break with an 8-2 lead.
St Helens came out firing in the early stages of the second half and after- wave after wave - of possession they finally broke the Leeds stout defence as teenager Tommy Makinson scored a messy try when, with Leeds full-back Webb trying to guide a grubber kick out of play, the Saints winger clearly got downward pressure on the ball. Foster tagged on the conversion to make it all-square.
The Merseysider's know had the wind in the sail and took control of the game. Michael Shenton finished off a fine run around to give them the lead and with the boot of Foster on the 60 minute mark they were in firm control leading 16-8.
However, an elbow injury to Shenton seemed to disrupt Saints and Leeds were back to within two points on 64 minutes when Brent Webb sneaked over on the left, Sinfield kicking the goal.
It was all square again at 16-16 four minutes later when Sinfield's 45-metre penalty sailed between the posts.
Then Burrow weaved his magic again as another brilliant run set up Hall to go in at the corner for his 32nd try of the season.
The Rhinos were on the front foot and late scores from Carl Ablett and 19 year old Zak Hardaker put the icing on the cake as Leeds claimed a fourth - and most unlikely - Super League win in five years.
So for Saints and the departing James Graham -who joins the Bulldogs next year- it was a fifth successive defeat.
But the history making Rhinos claimed a fifth Old Trafford title and became the only team from outside the top three to claim the big one.
Leeds Rhinos 32 (Burrow, Hall, Webb, Ablett and Hardaker tries. Sinfield 6 from 7 goals.) defeated St Helens 16 (Makinson and Shenton tries. Foster 4 from 5 goals.) Att: 69,107 Played at Old Trafford Manchester
Man of the Match: (Harry Sunderland Trophy) Rob Burrow
St Helens: Wellens, Makinson, Shenton, Meli, Foster, Gaskell, Lomax, Graham, Roby, Puletua, Wilkin, Soliola, Clough.
Interchange: Moore, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wheeler, Dixon.
Leeds Rhinos: Webb, Jones-Bishop, Hardaker, Ablett, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Clarkson.
Interchange: Burrow, Lauitiiti, Bailey, Kirke.
Referee: Phil Bentham