TEAMLIST TUESDAY | Possibly the last ever - and it's the GRAND FINAL edition!
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Australian superstar Andrew Johns was the toast of Warrington after playing a key role in a crucial 33-16 victory over reigning Super League champions Leeds.
The 31-year-old, reputed to be on ?10,000 a match for his stint in Super League, was full value for the money as he played the full 80 minutes just four days after stepping off a plane from Sydney.
And he made all the difference as the Wolves, beaten in all three previous meetings with the Rhinos this year, secured a precious win in front of a capacity crowd of 13,024 crammed into the Halliwell Jones Stadium in their bid to secure a home tie in the play-offs.
Johns, widely acknowledged as the best player in the game, displayed his full bag of tricks and inspired his new team-mates to new heights as they claimed the points to lift themselves into third place.
The Newcastle and New South Wales legend predictably carried off the man-of-the-match award for a masterly display in which he created a try for second rower Logan Swann and had a hand in two of his side?s other four touchdowns, in addition to kicking five goals from six attempts and landing a 35-metre drop goal.
Leeds were bit-part players in the Joey show as they went down to a fourth consecutive defeat and also fell two points short of equalling the Super League record of 1,120 in a season set by Bradford in 2001.
Johns could hardly have made a better start. His opposite number Rob Burrow spilled the ball from his spiralling kick-off and, from the scrum, the Australian provided quick ball for skipper Lee Briers to combine with Martin Gleeson to get winger Henry Fa?afili over for his 23rd try of the season after just 69 seconds.
Johns, wearing the number 31 jersey, then displayed pin-point accuracy to land the conversion from the touchline to give his new club a 6-0 lead.
He showed he is human with a fumble and he put too much weight on a kick to the corner that relieved the pressure on the visitors line but his distribution was first class and he managed to get one tactical kick to stop inches short of his opponents? dead-ball line.
Leeds drew level when full-back Richie Mathers dummied his way over after eight minutes and he reached the line a second time six minutes later only to be turned on his back.
The visitors also ought to have made more of a clean break by Andrew Dunemann, chosen to start the game ahead of hooker Matt Diskin.
But the Wolves soaked up the pressure and, after Johns had edged them back in front with a 22nd-minute penalty, they scored again when Great Britain centre Martin Gleeson easily went past the inexperienced Lee Smith, deputising for the injured Keith Senior, to touch down.
Johns? third goal from as many attempts made it 14-6 and it was going according to the script when full-back Brent Grose took a pass from the scrum-half and handed off Kiwi second-rower Ali Lauitiiti to score the Wolves? third try five minutes before the break.
Johns was off target for the first time with the goalkick and the Rhinos struck back either side of half-time to cut the deficit to just two points.
In first-half injury time, half-back Danny McGuire fended off Paul Noone to send fellow substitute Diskin over and then Lauitiiti produced some typical magical handling to create an opening for winger Marcus Bai.
Sinfield was off target for the first time with the boot and the Rhinos suffered a blow when Lauitiiti limped off.
Warrington increased their lead after 48 minutes when Johns split the Leeds defence with a delicious sidestep past Danny Ward and Swann was in support to claim the try.
Johns then added a penalty after Bai had been adjudged offside after making an interception and put over a drop goal before converting Nathan Wood?s last-minute solo try.
Warrington: Grose, Fa?afili, M. Gleeson, Kohe-Love, Bridge, Briers, Johns, Leikvoll, N. Wood, P. Wood, Swann, Noone, Clarke. Replacements: Riley, Bracek, M. Gleeson, Lima.
Leeds: Mathers, Calderwood, Walker, Smith, Bai, Sinfield, Burrow, Jones-Buchanan, Dunemann, Ward, Lauitiiti, Poching, Ellis. Replacements: McGuire, Diskin, Scruton, McDermott.
Warrington: (18) 33. Tries: Fa'afili, M. Gleeson, Grose, Swann, N. Wood. Goals: Johns 6. Drop Goals: Johns.
Leeds: (12) 16. Tries: Mathers, Diskin, Bai. Goals: Sinfield 2.
Referee: Ashley Klein (London) Att: 13,024
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Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this great article.
Coverage from UK national newspapers:
Click here to read Dave Hadfield's report from The Independent (11.9.05)
Click here to read Dave Lawrenson's report from The Observer (11.9.05)
Click here to read Michael Crossley's report from The Telegraph (11.9.05)