Treble Winners: Leeds Rhinos

As part of a series, Last Word on Rugby is looking at the teams which have achieved the treble – winning the Challenge Cup, League Leaders and the Grand Final – in the same season. Finally, it is the Leeds Rhinos side of 2015.

Challenge Cup

The Rhinos were the holders after finally ending their cup final hoodoo the previous year, beating Castleford Tigers to lift the famous trophy for the first time since 1999.

They joined the 2015 edition in the sixth round as they were one of the top eight sides in the Super League the year before. Huddersfield were seen off comfortably before an impressive 24-6 win at Hull FC secured a semi-final berth. 

They faced St Helens for a return to Wembley, who they had put 40+ points past in their league meetings that season but in this topsy-turvy affair, they came through 24-14.

After a surprise win against Warrington, Hull KR were Leeds opponents in the final as the Rhinos looked to become the first side to retain the cup after Warrington in 2009 and 2010.

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They drew first blood within 10 minutes when Brett Delaney bundled his way over before legendary halfback Danny McGuire and Tom Briscoe crossed, making it two tries in three minutes.

Already 16-0 down at the break, it was looking a long way back for Rovers and their fate was effectively sealed when Briscoe collected a kick to run the length of the field.

The winger claimed his hat-trick, moments after Brad Singleton had gone over as it became a matter of how many Leeds would score. 

The final seven minutes rubbed salt into the wounds as scrum-half Rob Burrow raced clear to get on the scoresheet and Briscoe etched his name into Challenge Cup final history.

He touched down twice more to become the first person to score five tries in a cup final, beating Leroy Rivett’s record of four when ironically Leeds won the cup in 1999. 

Super League 

Brian McDermott’s side showed their intentions from the start, losing just one of their first 11 fixtures, scoring over 30 points in six matches.

They suffered in April and June with two wins from seven games including another loss to Warrington, a draw at Huddersfield and a surprise loss at Widnes. 

However, four wins from their last five including a 70-6 hammering of Salford, ensured they topped the table going into the Super 8s.

They continued their good form with three successive wins, including finally beating Warrington but as in 2014, they suffered a loss of form after the Challenge Cup final. Three consecutive defeats meant the League Leaders battle would go down to the final day with Wigan and Huddersfield also in with a chance.

Leeds would have to travel to third-placed Huddersfield and it looked as if their hopes were slipping away as they were 16-8 down with just over five minutes left.

However Wembley hero Briscoe gave them hope with a smart finish with Kevin Sinfield’s conversion bringing them within two points. Sinfield slotted over a last minute penalty to level the scores but at this point rivals Wigan would win the league after their comfortable victory over Castleford. 

There was still time for a final twist though as McGuire hoisted up a kick, Huddersfield fullback Scott Grix allowed it to bounce allowing winger Ryan Hall to collect, streak over as the hooter went and keep the treble dream alive. 

Play-offs

Another semi-final against St Helens beckoned and as with the Challenge Cup, it was another close affair, but Leeds edged it again as a late Kallum Watkins try sealed a 20-13 victory.

Rivals Wigan stood in the way of the Rhinos at Old Trafford and a historic season, a team Leeds had never beaten in a major final. 

Unlike their previous Grand Final meeting in 1998, the Warriors struck first through Joe Burgess in his final game for the Cherry and Whites.

Within minutes Leeds replied through a McGuire try and went into the break with a commanding 16-6 lead after Joel Moon and McGuire added further scores.

Wigan needed to score next and Dom Manfredi claimed a high cross-kick ahead of Hall to cut the deficit before fullback Matty Bowen showed great footwork, evading three players to score under the posts as they turned it around. 

Young forward Josh Walters had been introduced for the Rhinos and just as it looked like the treble was slipping away, with Bowen having added a penalty for a 20-16 lead, a McGuire kick came through hands and he dived over with Sinfield nervelessly converting for a two-point lead. 

There was still fifteen minutes remaining but Leeds held on for a famous victory. 

The Key Players

Departing trio Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai signed off in the best possible fashion.

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Captain Sinfield had played more than 500 games for the club and Peacock and Leuluai had been at the Rhinos for eight and nine years respectively.

Their back line included England winger Ryan Hall who top-scored with 22 tries, young centre Kallum Watkins grabbed crossed 20 times and fullback Zak Hardaker was named Man of Steel.

Legendary halves Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow combining for over a 100 points between them.

Upfront they were boosted by the offloading game of summer signing Adam Cuthbertson and academy graduate Stevie Ward.

Squad in full 

Zak Hardaker, Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai, Paul Aiton, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Kevin Sinfield, Stevie Ward, Brett Delaney, Mitch Achurch, Adam Cuthbertson, Liam Sutcliffe, Brad Singleton, Jimmy Keinhorst, Josh Walters, Andy Yates, Elliott Minchella, Robbie Ward, Ashton Golding, Ash Handley, Rob Mulhern, Jordan Lilley, Mitch Garbutt

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images


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