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2 days ago
Leeds Rhinos? departing stars bade farewell to Headingley on a high as the reigning champions ended the regular season with a welcome victory against Wakefield by 34-26.
Tony Smith?s side had lost their previous four matches and in so doing surrendered the league leaders? shield to St Helens.
But with six members of their side playing their last league game for the club, the Rhinos returned to winning ways ahead of their Grand Final qualifier against Saints in a fortnight?s time.
Francis Cummins, Mark Calderwood, Marcus Bai, Andrew Dunemann, Chris McKenna and Barrie McDermott will all leave Leeds at the end of the season.
And if the Rhinos overcome Saints at Knowsley Road on September 30, the loyal Headingley servants will never again grace the stadium in Leeds colours as the reigning champions will progress direct to Old Trafford for the Grand Final.
Leeds will require a vast improvement on this stumbling display against Saints, however, as Wakefield were level at the break and gave the Rhinos a late scare with three tries in the closing stages.
Not since 1996 have Leeds lost five successive matches and they were clearly determined to ensure there was no repeat of that unwanted statistic as Chev Walker opened the scoring after nine minutes.
Some slick handling from the Rhinos saw the ball worked out to Walker, who offloaded to Calderwood before taking the winger?s reverse pass to cross the line with ease.
The touchdown allowed Leeds to not only equal but overtake the Super League record of scoring 1,120 points in a season set by Bradford in 2001.
Skipper Kevin Sinfield failed to add the extras from near the touchline before Wakefield hit back strongly, drawing level after 16 minutes.
Wildcats second row Kevin Henderson collected a loose ball and intelligently offloaded to the on-rushing Rob Spicer, who raced over the line to draw the visitors level.
David March?s conversion edged Wakefield ahead as they sensed another shock victory. The Wildcats are one of only two teams to win at Headingley this year, courtesy of a shock 44-28 triumph on Easter Monday, which destroyed the Rhinos? 20-match unbeaten Super League record.
But their joy was short-lived as Leeds took just three minutes to regain the ascendancy. Pressure on Wakefield?s line allowed Great Britain stand-off Danny McGuire to find Willie Poching.
The Samoan slipped through two tackles and provided McKenna with the easiest of tasks to cross the whitewash from barely two yards out.
This time Sinfield did convert to make 10-4 but the Wildcats remained a threat on the counter-attack.
And they stunned Leeds again shortly before the hour mark when Ben Jeffries collected Sam Obst?s neat grubber and crossed the line.
March failed to convert to leave the scores finely poised at 10-10, but after McGuire had an effort ruled out, Poching crossed the line out wide for his second 13 minutes after the restart.
Sinfield converted to give Leeds a little breathing space before Henderson and Mathers were sin-binned for fighting.
Sinfield kicked the subsequent penalty for Henderson?s initial indiscretion and quickfire tries from Calderwood and Poching secured the points for Leeds.
Austin Buchanan, Sid Domic and Obst replied with late touchdowns for Wakefield to give Leeds a late scare, but with Calderwood completing his brace and Sinfield kicking five goals from seven, the Rhinos were back to winning ways.
Leeds: Mathers, Calderwood, Walker, McKenna, Bai, McGuire, Burrow, Bailey, Dunemann, Ward, Ellis, Poching, Sinfield.
Replacements: Cummins, Jones-Buchanan, Diskin, McDermott.
Wakefield: Halpenny, Wainwright, Domic, Spicer, Buchanan, Jeffries, Obst, Feather, March, Elima, Solomona, Henderson, Applegarth.
Replacements: Griffin, Korkidas, J. Field, Campbell.
Leeds (10) 34. Tries: Walker, McKenna, Poching 2, Calderwood 2. Goals: Sinfield 5.
Wakefield (10) 26. Tries: Spicer, Jeffries, Buchanan, Domic, Obst . Goals: March, Griffin 2.
Referee: Julian King (St Helens)