Leeds establish dynasty to rival Wigan's great era of dominance

Leeds Rhinos 26 Warrington Wolves 18

When will we ever learn? Repeat after me: Never, ever bet against Leeds when there is a Grand in the final. The Rhinos have built the most overwhelming dominance in one trophy since Wigan bestrode the game 20 years ago.

Saturday's 26-18 victory over Warrington at Old Trafford was their fifth in six years of Super League Grand Finals. The real surprise is that the majority rated them as outsiders this time, leaving us to wonder how we doubted that Leeds would get the job done.

They did so by revealing a new facet of their know-how. They didn't invent anything new at Old Trafford, but they did one crucial thing as well as anyone can ever have done in a major final.

The tactic of targeting the opposition play-makers and forcing them to use up their energy in defence is as old as the Pennines. Rarely, however, has anyone been subjected to it as relentlessly and effectively as Warrington's Lee Briers.

Leeds did a job on the potential match-winner, running at him time and time again, especially through Carl Ablett, a forward disguised as a centre, who gave him a battering.

A couple of his contacts, as Briers was getting kicks away, were of borderline legality. In general, though, he just made him tackle, tackle and tackle again, probably the heaviest defensive workload he has ever had to shoulder.

Briers stood up to it manfully, although Ablett went through him for one try. The Warrington stand-off also produced a couple of moments of characteristic creativity, but he was not able to exert the influence that he usually does on the big occasion.

"He's had that for most of his career," said the Warrington coach Tony Smith, describing the pressure Briers was put under. "Some days you can overcome it, some days you can't."

There was support for Ablett in the voting for the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match, but the overwhelming choice was Kevin Sinfield. The Leeds captain had another of those big games where he seems to have had a private preview of the script and knows precisely what is going to be required to win.

He scored the first try, had a hand in a couple of others and landed five goals from five attempts – some of them from difficult angles – to complete a remarkable run of 21 in a row during the play-offs. The goal-kicking is only the tip of the iceberg with this coolest of big-game specialists. There is an assurance about him that spreads through the spine of the team and lifts the whole side. Zak Hardaker was a case in point. Not even tried at full-back until midway through the season, he could have been a weak link at Old Trafford.

Instead, he played with complete confidence, although the paucity of the Wolves' kicking game no doubt helped.

Smith, who had a good deal to do with his development as a player when he was coach at Leeds, paid fulsome tribute to Sinfield, especially his leadership off the field.

He underlined his value on it, despite spending part of the second half in a blur after a clash of heads with Michael Monaghan. Other players would have gone off but Sinfield does not do things like that.

Warrington played in fits and starts during a commendably adventurous and highly watchable Grand Final.

Their inability to produce their best often enough emphasised how difficult it is to achieve the double of Challenge Cup and Super League now the finals are so close together. Only St Helens in 2006 have managed it since the new calendar was adopted.

There are those who believe that Leeds twice winning the competition from fifth place makes a mockery of the regular season. The Rhinos play the system, however. They strive for consistency but they know that how you play in late February is far less important than how you play for 80 minutes in early October.

Already their minds are turning towards next season, starting in earnest with the World Club Challenge against the formidable Melbourne Storm.

Leeds have also declared their willingness to go to Australia if Melbourne want it that way. Winning there and winning the elusive Challenge Cup would be the achievements that remain on the wish-list for this remarkable Leeds team.

Warrington: Tries Myler, J Monaghan, Atkins. Goals Hodgson 3. Leeds: Tries Sinfield, Jones-Bishop, Ablett, Hall. Goals Sinfield 5.

Warrington: Hodgson; Riley, Ratchford, Atkins, J Monaghan; Briers, Myler; Harrison, Higham, Hill, Westwood, Waterhouse, Grix. Substitutes used Cooper, M Monaghan, Wood, Morley.

Leeds: Hardaker; Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Ablett, Hall; McGuire, Sinfield; Leuluai, Burrow, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Bailey. Substitutes used Kirke, Lunt, Ward, Griffin.

Referee Richard Silverwood.

Whole new ball game

Warrington Wolves prop Paul Wood has had a testicle removed after rupturing it in Saturday's Grand Final defeat by Leeds Rhinos.

Wood suffered the injury at the start of the second half but played on before going to hospital after the match.

He tweeted: "Ruptured my right testicle, got a knee 1 minute into the second half, had to have it removed."

The 30-year-old added: "Just coming out the hospital to go home... Seriously feel like I've left something?"

Suggested Topics
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence