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British champions Leeds Rhinos have survived a spirited comeback from NRL premiers the Canterbury Bulldogs to win the World Club Challenge by 39-32 today.
In front of an ecstatic Elland Road crowd of 37,028, the Rhinos held a 38-12 lead early in the second half. But four tries from the Canterbury side shrunk the margin to just 38-32.
With only two minutes remaining, a stunning field goal from Rhinos' captain Kevin Sinfield put the match beyond the Bulldogs' reach.
In the end, the visiting Canterbury side were left to rue a couple of defensive laspses that gifted the home side with two of their seven tries.
The Rhinos' second try came from an error by Bulldogs' fullback Luke Patten, who failed to control a kick from Kevin Sinfield inside his own 20-metre area. Rhinos' winger Mark Calderwood tapped the ball ahead to touch down.
Leeds had raced away to a 12-0 lead before Canterbury briefly threatened a comeback.
Kiwi Test second rower Sonny Bill Williams, easily the Bulldogs' most impressive player, was inches short of scoring before winger Hazem El Masri crossed the line after Bulldogs' skipper Tony Grimaldi cleverly offloaded the ball to Patten.
El Masri's touchline conversion halved the deficit but the Rhinos responded, cutting loose with some brilliant attacking football and support play.
The Bulldogs came back again and looked to be getting the better of their opponents in the latter stages of the second half. But the Rhinos responded magnificently to win the world champion's trophy.
Clearly the better team on the day, Leeds Rhinos did not need any assistance from the Bulldogs who came back despite having had less than a week to acclimatise for the match.
Leeds 39 Tries: 7 Goals: 5 Field Goal: 1/1 Tryscorers: Chev Walker, Mark Calderwood, Danny McGuire, Willie Poching, Rob Burrow, Richard Mathers, Jamie Jones-Buchanan Goal scorers: Kevin Sinfield (5/7) Field Goals: Kevin Sinfield (1/1)
Bulldogs 32 Tries: 5 Goals: 4 Tryscorers: Hazem El Masri, Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Jammal Lolesi, Tony Grimaldi, Jammal Lolesi Goal scorers: Hazem El Masri (4/6)
Leeds: Mathers, Calderwood, Walker, Senior, Bai, Sinfield, McGuire, Bailey, Dunemann, Ward, Jones-Buchanan, McKenna, Ellis. Replacements: Burrow, Lauitiiti, McDermott, Poching. Canterbury: Patten, El-Masri, Lolesi, Tonga, Cutler, Anasta, Hughes, C. Armit, Perry, Asotasi, Maitua, Bill Williams, Grimaldi. Replacements: Oliver, Czislowski, Myles, Brideson.
Referee: Sean Hampstead (Australia)