Bold Hall puts Leeds on top of the world
Leeds Rhinos 26 Manly Sea Eagles 12
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Saturday 18 February 2012
Leeds earned the right to call themselves the best club side in the world as they took revenge for their defeat by Manly three years ago.
The Rhinos lifted the World Club Challenge for a third time, thanks to a dominant performance in the first half, spearheaded by Ryan Hall, and any amount of gritty defence in the second.
Hall embellished his reputation as the world's best winger with two tries, but Leeds had to dig in and protect that advantage after the interval and could not breathe easy until two tries in the last five minutes clinched victory.
A packed Headingley saw Leeds presented with two glorious early chances, courtesy of Jason King's fumble from the first pass of the match and Daly Cherry-Evans's failure to find touch. Both were wasted, though, through knock-ons from Brent Webb and Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
It took 18 minutes for Manly's lacklustre, error-prone start to be punished. Hall's break and attempt to play the ball quickly drew a penalty from Cherry-Evans; the Rhinos ran the ball and Webb's cross-field dash and drop-off pass sent Kallum Watkins in.
The second try showcased Hall's enviable pace from long distance. He took the gamble of intercepting Brett Stewart's pass to David Williams and made it pay off with a glorious 100-metre sprint to the other end.
The only disappointing passage of play for Leeds came when they were harshly penalised for ball-stealing, and Brett Stewart scored from Kieran Foran's pass with rather too much ease.
However, Hall was on hand to demonstrate another aspect of his wing-man's repertoire. With four minutes to play in the first half, Kevin Sinfield hoisted a high kick to the right wing and Hall leapt above Williams and Jamie Lyon to claim the touchdown.
It was predictable that a side as good as Manly would come back in the second half and come back they did. Cherry-Evans scored with a dummying run at the Leeds line, while Steve Matai had a potentially equalising try disallowed from Foran's kick. The Sea Eagles continued to apply the pressure, but they were facing a Rhinos team that knows all about defending with their backs to the wall.
A scampering run by Rob Burrow lifted the siege and Tony Williams's tackle on him conceded a penalty that moved Leeds up-field. Another set of six tackles and Burrow struck again, too elusive for Manly as he linked up with Watkins to give Ben Jones-Bishop the overlap. A minute from time, Carl Ablett was first to a loose ball when Sinfield kicked and Leeds were safe
Leeds: Webb; Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Hardaker, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Leuluai, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Ablett. Substitutes used: McShane, Bailey, Griffin, Clarkson.
Manly: B Stewart; D Williams, Lyon, Matai, OLdfield; Foran, Cherry-Evans; King, Ballin, Kite, Watmough, T Williams, G Stewart. Substitutes used: Buhrer, Mauro, Lussick, Rose.
Referee: A Klein (Aus)
*Widnes have dropped three players – back-row forwards Hep Cahill and Simon Finnegan and hooker Scott Moore – from their squad to play Salford tomorrow at the Stobart stadium for disciplinary reasons.
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