Leeds 11 Melbourne Storm 4: Sinfield rides the Storm to hand Leeds world crown

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The Independent Online

Leeds, who won the Super League title with such flair and fluency last year, showed the tough side of their personality last night to earn the right to call themselves the best club side in the world for the second time.

Atrocious conditions at Elland Road ensured that the World Club Challenge would not be a free-flowing spectacle, but the Rhinos won it the hard way, despite disruptive injuries and an adverse penalty count as they played into the wind in the first half.

In the end it was the steadiness of Kevin Sinfield that saw them home with a strategic drop goal, and his overall leadership won him the vote as man of the match, although this was a genuine team triumph.

"It was such a tough challenge," said the Leeds coach Brian McClennan, after guiding his club to the world title in just his fifth game in charge. "We needed to dig real deep and when you do that the rewards feel even better."

In the first half, the 18-year-old prodigy, Israel Folau, came close to putting the Storm ahead but was stopped on the line by the bravest of tackles from Rob Burrow, a player approximately half his size.

Burrow was also involved when Leeds took the lead, his kick being grabbed by Billy Slater, who was penalised for passing after the tackle to give Sinfield an easy two points.

The Leeds scrum-half was implicated less favourably when Melbourne scored the game's first try. It was Burrow's knock-on that conceded possession and Cooper Cronk's well-timed pass sent Ryan Hoffman running wide, selling a dummy to the Leeds cover to score in the corner. Steve Turner missed the conversion but the Storm, with the appropriately strong wind and driving rain on their backs, were in front.

Two minutes before the break Leeds scored their try, Webb running at the defence and lofting the long pass for Scott Donald to go over, with the Storm claiming both a forward pass and an obstruction, both to no avail.

Worse still for the Australian champions, Sinfield put over an outstanding conversion into the gale from the touchline. Leeds were without Danny McGuire, the victim of a late shoulder charge in the first half, but this was a game less in need of his expansive skills and more suited to the hard grafters in the middle of the field.

With Clinton Toopi also off injured, Leeds were in danger of running out of bodies, but they went further ahead on the hour when Jeff Lima was penalised for a late tackle on Burrow. Sinfield's 40-metre penalty made it a six-point lead.

Cronk's kicking game remained a threat, but Donald and Lee Smith dealt superbly with a couple of dangerous efforts off his boot.

Leeds almost made the game as good as safe when Carl Ablett went over, but he was ruled to have knocked on as the ball came off his shins.

Far from letting their heads drop, Leeds looked up to see exactly what was required. That was Sinfield's drop goal; once that went over, Melbourne were always running out of time and their last chance disappeared when Ablett's tackle forced Anthony Quinn's foot into touch three minutes from time.

"Great players just have time and Kevin gave himself time," McClennan said. "The skipper put his hand up and showed the way."

Leeds: Webb; Donald, Toopi, Senior, L Smith; McGuire, Burrow; Leuluai, Diskan, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ellis, Sinfield. Substitutes used: Lauitiiti, Bailey, Scruton, Ablett.

Melbourne Storm: Slater; Turner, Chambers, Folau, Quinn; Geyer, Cronk; Lima, J Smith, White, Kaufusi, Hoffman, Johnson. Substitutes used: Aitken, Blair, Manu, Tagataese.

Referee: A Klein (Keighley).

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