Adam Cuthbertson played the ball with eight seconds left on the clock. Leeds Rhinos were level with Huddersfield Giants and the League Leaders Shield was only a matter of miles and seconds from being awarded to Wigan Warriors. Rob Burrow took the ball from dummy-half, gave it to Maguire who then put through a grubber kick in for Ryan Hall on the half-way line. As Ryan Hall gathered the ball there was one second left on the clock. The rest is largely history but, in case you missed it, Hall crossed the line after the buzzer and sent the travelling support into raptures. The pandemonium signalled that Leeds Rhinos had won the League Leaders Shield for the first time since 2009.
That try was also the last play of the regular season, with Wigan following Leeds into second place on goal difference. Huddersfield and St Helens trailed three points back in third and fourth of the Super League standings, respectively. Nevertheless, all four teams had made the play-offs. Tonight we will see who joins Wigan Warriors at Old Trafford, after they beat Huddersfield Giants comfortably last night, as Leeds play St Helens.
Only Three Teams Are Left Standing So How Have They Got Here?
Wigan Warriors opened the New Era of Super League with a dramatic draw against Widnes Vikings on February 5th. Chris Dean crossed the line under the posts with three minutes to play to see Widnes travel home with a point following a 22-all draw. It summed up a difficult start Wigan had to the start of the season. The Warriors didn’t get going until April, when they put wins together over St Helens, Catalan, Warrington and Wakefield. The Super 8s saw the Cherry and Whites step up a level with only one defeat to Leeds by seven points. Three victories over Huddersfield Giants also preceded their victory in the Play-Off Semi-Final last night.
It is by no fluke that Leeds Rhinos finished top of the table at the end of the regular season. With opening victories against Hull KR, Widnes, Huddersfield, and Hull FC, Leeds were humbled by Warrington Wolves. Six consecutive wins then followed before they again came up short against the Wolves at the end of April. Leeds eventually got their revenge in the Super 8s as they defeated their Lancashire rivals by 39 points. By now, Leeds were looking like potential Super League champions and their Challenge Cup demolition of Hull KR at Wembley signalled that the Rhinos were hitting their stride. With Ryan Hall, Kevin Sinfield, Cuthbertson, Jamie Peacock, and Tom Briscoe all raising their standards as the season has evolved, it is frightening to think the heights this Leeds Rhinos team could reach.
St Helens started the season in formidable form (excluding the 39-0 loss to South Sydney in the World Club Challenge), beating Catalan Dragons, Salford, Castleford, Wakefield, Widnes and Warrington, before a two-point loss to Hull KR away from home. Defeats to Wigan and Hull FC followed but St Helens have looked confident and played with intensity all season, finishing the Super 8s with wins against Leeds, Castleford and Wigan, before losing the Warrington Wolves on the last day 32-16. However the play-offs are a different kettle of fish and with the likes of Adam Swift, James Roby, and Luke Walsh peaking at the right time, St Helens are an outfit to not be underestimated when they arrive at Headingley Stadium this event.
However, if this season is anything to go by, St Helens will have their backs up against the wall ahead of the game this evening having been defeated by Leeds on three occasions this season.
Leeds beat Saints 41-16 back in April away from home, then again at Headingley with a 46-18 victory in Round 20. The Challenge Cup Semi-Final saw another win for the Rhinos 24-14. Although the Saints got their act together in Round four of the Super 8s, defeating Leeds 32-18 at Headingley.
Tonight’s game will be fast, feisty and, more than anything, entertaining. Two teams steeped in history, looking to again take on Wigan Warriors in the northern hemisphere’s biggest spectacle of Rugby League. Whoever wins will deserve the chance and will have to put their bodies on the line, but the prize is worth it; the Theatre of Dreams.
Fast forward a week and October 10th will see the climax of Super League 2015. Old Trafford will be the fitting venue for a Grand Final that is not to be missed. So wherever you are at 6pm next Saturday, tune in and enjoy the spectacle that is the Super League Grand Final.