Friday see?s Leeds and Wigan meet in the Play Offs for the third consecutive year in a repeat of the first ever Grand Final back in 1998 at Old Trafford.
In the four previous meetings between the Rhinos and Warriors, the men in Cherry and White have been victorious on each occasion including the narrowest of all wins here last season in a 23-22 victory.
Two of the four meetings occurred in the first Play Off series. In 1998 the Play offs were constricted to just the top five and Leeds, having beaten Wigan home and away for the first time in Super League, were just pipped to top spot by John Monie?s team. That meant another trip to Central Park and despite a try from Francis Cummins, Wigan ran out 17-4 winners with Mark Bell, Lee Gilmour and Henry Paul scoring their tries in front of 12,941 fans, incidentally Wigan?s second biggest crowd of that season.
Leeds bounced back from that set back to beat St Helens in the Grand Final Eliminator at Headingley winning 44-16, thanks to a Cummins? hat trick. The following week, all roads led to a rain soaked Old Trafford. This season?s Wigan squad includes five of the seventeen that played that day; Kris Radlinski, Gary Connolly, Terry O?Connor, Andy Farrell and Mick Cassidy plus Terry Newton who played for Leeds at Old Trafford. The Leeds squad for Friday night includes no player from that Grand Final 17. Barrie McDermott was not selected and only Francis Cummins and Daryl Powell are still at the club from that squad.
Indeed, last Saturday?s game against Bradford is the first time that Leeds have played a Play off game without Cummins, his record run of 179 consecutive appearance beginning against Halifax in 1998 and ended with last year?s defeat to Wigan.
The Leeds squad contains two ex-Wigan players. Dave Furner made the trip across the Pennines at the start of last season after two years at Wigan. Furner, a try scorer for Wigan in their Challenge Cup win over rivals St Helens in 2002, made 58 appearances scoring 28 tries and 110 points. Barrie McDermott played for Wigan in the 1994-95 season making just 13 appearances before moving to Headingley.
The Wigan squad includes three players with Leeds connections. Terry Newton starred for the Rhinos between 1996 and 1999, winning the Challenge Cup in his last season. In total he made 86 appearances scoring six tries. Danny Sculthorpe began his career at Leeds but never played in the first team, he moved to Warrington in 1997 with Iestyn Harris making the opposite journey. The last and the latest is Gary Connolly, who spent 18 months at Headingley before returning to Wigan in May this year. Connolly made 33 starts for Leeds scoring 8 tries and won the Lance Todd trophy for the Rhinos in the 2003 Challenge Cup Final.
The two teams have a full house this season having won one, lost one, drawn one in their three meetings. The Rhinos won 36-24 at Headingley back in March before suffering one of only two defeats in the Super League regular season at JJB Stadium, losing 26-22 back in June.
Finally, in September the two teams fought out a 12-12 draw at Wigan. The home side led 8-0 at half time but two second half tries from Danny McGuire looked to have sealed the win before Andy Farrell?s penalty gave Wigan a share of the spoils.
Incredibly, that was the third draw in six games in Super League between the two teams plus the one point decider in last year?s Eliminator. Danny McGuire has scored ten tries in his last nine games against Wigan stretching back to September 2002 and including four tries in 2004.
Super League record at Headingley:
1/6/96 Warriors won 40-20 Att: 9,508 Ref: Steve Presley 4/4/97 Warriors won 17-16 Att: 11,317 Ref:Stuart Cummings 15/5/98 Rhinos won 16-8 Att: 18,000 Ref: Russell Smith 19/3/99 Warriors won 26-12 Att: 15,160 Ref: Russell Smith 27/8/99 Rhinos won 28-22 Att: 15,835 Ref: Steve Presley 26/5/00 Rhinos won 26-19 Att: 11,881 Ref: Stuart Cummings 8/6/01 Warriors won 36-18 Att: 14,435 Ref: Russell Smith 24/8/01 Warriors won 38-18 Att: 11,585 Ref: Ian Smith 10/8/02 Warriors won 36-24 Att: 10,049 Ref: Russell Smith 6/5/03 Drew 24-24 Att: 11,115 Ref: Steve Ganson 15/8/03 Drew 24-24 Att: 14,019 Ref: Ashley Klein 19/3/04 Rhinos won 36-24 Att: 18,124 Ref: Richard Silverwood
Home: P.97 W.51 D.9 L.37 (53%) Away: P.97 W.20 D.2 L.75 (21%) Neutral: P.16 W.5 D.0 L.11 (31%) Total: P.210 W.76 D.11 L.123 (36%)
Rhinos leading try scorer v Warriors Danny McGuire & Francis Cummins 10 tries Rhinos leading points scorer v Warriors Iestyn Harris 64 points Warriors leading try scorer v Rhinos Jason Robinson 8 tries Warriors leading points scorer v Rhinos Andy Farrell 189 points
Highest Leeds score : at Headingley?1972-73 Leeds won 58-3 : away?1973-74 Leeds won 29-15 Highest Wigan score : at Headingley?1996 Wigan won 40-20 : away?1991-92 Wigan won 74-6