The 15 rugby league games to have taken place at Elland Road since the turn of the millennium

Ben Olawumi
Elland Road

Elland Road ahead of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup semi-final between Australia and New Zealand - Alamy

Elland Road will play host to the Super League Magic Weekend in 2024, and though the venue is a new one for the event, it’s certainly no stranger to the game of rugby league on the whole.

Leeds United’s home was confirmed as the sixth different destination for a Magic Weekend yesterday afternoon, set to play host to all 12 Super League clubs over the weekend of August 17 & 18 next year.

With the standout game of the weekend a clash between reigning champions Wigan Warriors and their bitter rivals St Helens, six games will be played out on the Elland Road pitch in total.

Once they’ve all concluded, that’ll take the tally of rugby league games played at the 37,792-capacity stadium up to a whopping 272, with the first coming all the way back in October 1907 as a Leeds team were beaten 8-2 by New Zealand during an All Blacks Tour.

The first all-club game at Elland Road took place just over 30 years later, in April of 1938, as Hunslet beat Leeds in the Northern Rugby League play-off final in front of more than 54,000 spectators.

If you’d like to check out all 266 of the rugby league games played at the ground to date, give our friends over at the Rugby League Project a visit, but for now, we’ve run through all 15 there since the turn of the millennium.

Below you’ll find the dates of those games, along with a brief description of what went on and why, along with the attendance at each. They are – as you’d probably expect – listed in chronological order.

The 15 rugby league games to take place at Elland Road since the turn of the millennium

November 27, 2004 – Tri-Nations Final – Great Britain 4-44 Australia (39,120)

2004 Tri-Nations Final, Great Britain, Australia
Action from the 2004 Tri-Nations Final between Great Britain and Australia – Alamy

There was a seven-year gap between this Tri-Nations final and the previous rugby league game at Elland Road, but very little changed in that timeframe with Australia once again beating Great Britain.

A fortnight earlier than this final clash, GB had beaten their Kangaroo counterparts earlier on in the 2004 tournament, but found themselves 38-0 down by the break in Leeds and lost out comfortably. Stuart Reardon was the hosts’ only try-scorer.

February 4, 2005 – World Club Challenge – Leeds Rhinos 39-32 Canterbury Bulldogs (37,028)

For the first time since becoming ‘Leeds Rhinos’, having been crowned Super League champions the year before, Tony Smith’s side headed across the city as they hosted the Bulldogs.

Racing into a 20-point lead by the break, Richie Mathers and Jamie Jones-Buchanan both crossed for tries in the second half before the Aussies hit back with four tries of their own. Kevin Sinfield then kicked a drop goal to ease any nerves and seal a first-ever World Club Challenge triumph for Leeds.

November 27, 2005 – Tri-Nations Final – Australia 0-24 New Zealand (26,534)

For the second year running, Elland Road hosted the Tri-Nations Final, but this time around, Great Britain were nowhere to be seen with Australia and New Zealand left to battle it out.

Both had beaten their counterparts once earlier on in the tournament, and in the third meeting, the Kiwis blew the Kangaroos away to seal their first Tri-Nations triumph. It would prove to be their only one too, with the tournament played just oncemore the following year before being axed.

February 29, 2008 – World Club Challenge – Leeds Rhinos 11-4 Melbourne Storm (33,204)

Leeds Rhinos, 2008 World Club Challenge
Leeds Rhinos celebrate victory over Melbourne Storm in the 2008 World Club Challenge – Alamy

It took the Rhinos three years to be crowned Super League champions again, and this time around in the World Club Challenge, it was Melbourne who came to town.

Just as they had in 2005 – now under the tutelage of Brian McLennan – Leeds were victorious. 8-4 up at the break in a tight contest, Sinfield again stepped up, with his penalty and drop goal the only scores after the break. The evening was only dampened by a trio of injuries to Danny McGuire, Clinton Toopi and Keith Senior.

March 1, 2009 – World Club Challenge – Leeds Rhinos 20-28 Manly Sea Eagles (32,569)

Going back-to-back at Old Trafford in Super League, McLennan’s men returned to Elland Road 12 months later, but for the first time in six years, it would be the Australian side who won a World Club Challenge.

Three tries inside the opening six minutes of the second half put the game beyond the Rhinos, in a game which saw Rob Burrow sidelined after 16 minutes following a high shot, and both Jamie Peacock and Manly’s Josh Perry sin-binned following a fierce battle.

November 14, 2009 – Four Nations Final – England 16-46 Australia (31,042)

After a two-year absence, the Tri-Nations returned in 2009, except it had become the ‘Four Nations’, with France added to the mix and ‘England’ now competing instead of Great Britain. Headed up by former Leeds chief Smith, England did get to the final of the inaugural Four Nations and featured at Elland Road oncemore, but Australia had far too much for them.

Despite only trailing 14-10 at the break, a 46-16 scoreline gives an indication of how comfortable the second half was for the visitors from Down Under. New Warrington Wolves boss Sam Burgess got two of England’s three tries.

February 28, 2010 – World Club Challenge – Leeds Rhinos 10-18 Melbourne Storm (27,697)

Melbourne Storm, 2010 World Club Challenge
Melbourne Storm celebrate their 2010 World Club Challenge victory over Leeds Rhinos – Alamy

A few months later, Super League champions once again, the Rhinos returned to Elland Road for a re-match of the 2008 World Club Challenge against Melbourne.

The Storm would get the revenge they desired in another tight contest which saw Sinfield sidelined with an injury and the visitors take the lead late on courtesy of a penalty after veteran centre Senior was penalised for dissent.

November 19, 2011 – Four Nations Final – England 8-30 Australia (34,147)

The last-ever Four Nations game at Elland Road – at least to date – saw the Aussies pip England to the post with silverware on the line, with the big difference yet again being the second half.

Sinfield’s penalty levelled things up at 8-8 on 52 minutes, but Steve McNamara’s England barely laid a glove on their opponents from then on, conceding 22 unanswered points. Kangaroos captain Darren Lockyer, making his final career appearance, had the last say with the closing try.

February 8, 2018 – Super League Round 2 – Leeds Rhinos 20-11 Hull KR (16,149)

Just two Super League games have ever been played at Leeds United’s home, and perhaps unsurprisingly, both involved the Rhinos. During the re-development of Headingley at the start of the 2018 season, Brian McDermott’s side had to take a couple of games on the road.

Elland Road was the chosen venue, with the first clash there in Round 2 against Hull KR. In front of a crowd of just over 16,000, the Rhinos twice came from behind to record a win, inspired by a Jimmy Keinhorst hat-trick.

March 23, 2018 – Super League Round 7 – Leeds Rhinos 24-25 Castleford Tigers (23,246)

Castleford Tigers, Leeds Rhinos, Elland Road
Castleford Tigers celebrate a try against Leeds Rhinos at Elland Road – Alamy

Six weeks later, the Rhinos couldn’t quite repeat the feat, and in front of 7,000 more supporters, lost out to Castleford. Then, the attendance was just 1,758 less than the 13-year-old Super League record for a match away from the Grand Final. The Tigers led 25-10 at the break, and it was Luke Gale‘s drop goal late on in that first half which proved the difference.

Kallum Watkins, Ash Handley and Ryan Hall all crossed for tries, but Watkins couldn’t convert Hall’s try to nudge Leeds in front, and that’s how it ended in McDermott’s 200th league game in charge. The Rhinos’ men haven’t played at Elland Road since.

November 11, 2018 – International Test Series – England 0-34 New Zealand (32,186)

England‘s most recent Elland Road game saw a heavy defeat to Michael Maguire’s Kiwis, who denied the hosts a 3-0 series whitewash in style. Both teams spent 10 minutes a man light in the clash, with Jermaine McGillvary and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves sin-binned for holding down and a flop respectively.

St Helens flier Tommy Makinson – who was denied two tries by the video referee on the day – scooped the Player of the Series award, with Oliver Gildart too seeing a try chalked off. Then-England boss Wayne Bennett said post-match his side “were just outplayed.” England’s men haven’t faced New Zealand at all since then.

May 7, 2022 – Women’s Challenge Cup Final – St Helens 18-8 Leeds Rhinos (5,888)

May 2022 saw Elland Road chosen as the venue for a Challenge Cup triple-header, hosting both of the men’s semi-finals and the women’s final in the competition on the same day. This women’s final was up first, with an official attendance of just under 6,000 a record at the time.

In their home city, Leeds were 8-4 up at the break, and in the ascendancy. As they had done the year before though, it would be the Saints who lifted the Challenge Cup, scoring 14 unanswered points in the second half as Eboni Partington grabbed a brace, sandwiching a try from captain Jodie Cunningham.

May 7, 2022 – Men’s Challenge Cup Semi-Final – Wigan Warriors 20-18 St Helens (22,141)

Wigan Warriors, Elland Road
Wigan Warriors’ players and fans celebrate on the Elland Road pitch after beating St Helens to book their spot in the 2022 Challenge Cup Final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – Alamy

In the first of the two men’s semi-finals, Saints’ men couldn’t make it a double for the club on the day, losing out narrowly to Wigan in a thriller. The Warriors – who would go on to lift the silverware at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium a few weeks later – booked a first trip to a Challenge Cup final since 2017 having overcome a second half comeback in the semi.

Leading 14-0 at the break, the Cherry and Whites would concede tries to Konrad Hurrell, Jonny Lomax & James Roby before Liam Marshall crossed for the match-winning try at the other end with 10 minutes to go. As mentioned in the opening few lines of this article, the the pair will renew their rivalry at Elland Road next August as the headline act of Magic Weekend 2024.

May 7, 2022 – Men’s Challenge Cup Semi-Final – Huddersfield Giants 25-4 Hull KR (22,141)

An official attendance of just over 22,000 was given for the two men’s semi-finals, with the second seeing Huddersfield book their first trip to a Challenge Cup final since 2009 in very comfortable style. Tries from Josh Jones, winger McGillvary, Innes Senior and Owen Trout – along with Theo Fages’ drop goal – had the Giants 25-0 up with their tickets to the capital well and truly booked.

Veteran Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s four-pointer late on was the only thing that saved KR from being nilled on a bitterly disappointing day for the Robins, who this term went a step further but lost out at Wembley in the Challenge Cup final to Leigh Leopards, that defeat coming via the boot of Lachlan Lam in golden point extra time.

November 11, 2022 – World Cup Semi-Final – Australia 16-14 New Zealand (28,113)

Australia, New Zealand, Rugby League World Cup 2021, Elland Road
Australia’s players embrace on the Elland Road pitch having beaten New Zealand in the semi-finals of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 – Alamy

The most recent rugby league game at Elland Road came a little over six months later, and oncemore was an absolute thriller, as old foes Australia and New Zealand faced off under the lights on a Friday night in the first semi-final of the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

It was the Kiwis who led 14-10 at the break despite both sides scoring two tries, with Nathan Cleary’s missed conversion and a penalty from Jordan Rapana the difference at that point. The Kangaroos hit back on 53 minutes with a try from Cameron Murray right underneath the sticks, with Cleary’s conversion of that earning the all-important match-winning two points.

Hull KR’s new recruit Peta Hiku thought he’d put New Zealand back ahead late on, but the video referee ruled his try out for being in touch, and Australia – who would go on to beat Samoa the following weekend at Old Trafford – keeping up an outstanding record of having qualified for every World Cup final in history bar the very first one (1954).

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