Old Trafford is becoming something of a second home for Leeds Rhinos after the team won their fifth Super League Grand Final in six years in Manchester last weekend.
Indeed, so assured and confident are the Rhinos that despite heading into their past two finals as underdogs in the odds taken on by fans who bet on rugby against Lancashire opposition, the Headingley club have pulled together and defied the odds when it comes to Rugby League’s showpiece event.
A year ago Leeds won one of the greatest games in Grand Final history, beating St Helens 32-16 in a game that upset the rugby betting odds thanks to the intelligence and athleticism of scrum-half Rob Burrow. Burrow was magnificent that day, something Saints head coach Royce Simmons conceded in the post-match press conference.
“When you’ve got a little fella, who runs like he can, you’ve got to get your shoulder into the middle of his ribs and get him on the ground,” Simmons had warned. “All players want to do is grab them and drag them off the pitch. But you just can’t do it; they’re too quick.”
Maybe Warrington heeded Simmons’ words from last year because they did well to keep Burrow quiet for the majority of the game. However, Leeds are no one-man team and with the Wolves concentrating on stopping Burrow they largely forgot about Kevin Sinfield.
‘Sir Kev’ was impervious all night as the Rhinos ran out 26-18 victors: kicking well and pushing forward at every opportunity. The captain scored a vital 10 points with his boot and went over the whitewash to hand Leeds an early advantage. With the game nearing the whistle and Leeds hanging on Sinfield kicked a superb 40-20 to eliminate any Warrington hopes of finding a much-needed try at the death.
Last year was Burrow’s time to shine but on Saturday only one man stood tall above the rest.