A Grand Final to remember: Leeds 22-20 Wigan
Leeds Rhinos secured the treble with a 22-20 Grand Final win over Wigan Warriors in front of a 73,000 sell-out Old Trafford crowd.
The victory saw the club add to their earlier Challenge Cup and League Leaders’ triumphs and crown the fairy-tale ending to the careers of Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and Kylie Leuluai.
Leeds twice came from behind on the day in a thrilling encounter befitting of the occasion which saw Sinfield kick the winning points to end their hoodoo over Wigan in major finals.
It was the Warriors who got the opening points of the game when Dream Team selectee Liam Farrell took Matty Smith’s pass before sending the Sydney Roosters-bound Joe Burgess over for his 24th try on his final appearance for the club.
Leeds’ reply was instant after Matty Smith had fumbled the ball from kick-off, paving the way for Sinfield to slot in a neat kick which Danny McGuire picked up to score with the former levelling the game.
Just before the half hour mark Leeds edged into the lead when the video referee controversially awarded Joel Moon’s try in the right corner. The Wigan supporters weren’t happy as they thought McGuire had knocked the ball on in the build-up but credit to the newly crowned Man of Steel Zak Hardaker, who played to the whistle to put in Moon.
Sinfield, sporting a head strapping after an earlier head clash with Adam Cuthbertson, missed the conversion from the touchline so the score stood at 10-6. McGuire added to his earlier try when he supported a break by Kallum Watkins, before his inside pass saw the half-back slide in to extend the Rhinos lead. Sinfield added the conversion to see his side establish a ten point lead going into the half-time break.
Wigan drew first blood five minutes into the second-half when Dom Manfredi justified his inclusion over England international Josh Charnley, by added his 22nd try of the campaign after doing superbly well to outjump and Ryan Hall to a high bomb – with Bowen’s conversion edging his side to within four points.
Three minutes later and the departing Bowen crowned his final appearance in a Warriors shirt with a try on the biggest of stages. A weaving run saw the full-back cross under the sticks giving him an easy conversion to nudge his side ahead. His performance was magnified after the game when Shaun Wane revealed his partner had given birth on the eve of the game.
Bowen kicked another penalty to extend their lead with Leeds now needing a converted try to get ahead. Their lead didn’t last long when a spiralling McGuire kick saw Moon collect the palmed back ball before passing inside to Jimmy Keinhorst, who in-turn found 20-year-old substitute Josh Walters to cross for a try the youngster will never forget. Sinfield fittingly had the last say with the match-winning points as Leeds were crowned the winners of Super League.
Bowen cut a forlorn figure at full-time as he slumped to the floor, the full-back didn’t deserve to be on the losing side meaning he has now lost three Grand Finals in both hemispheres.
For Leeds it was the send-off their departing stalwarts deserved after stellar careers in the game as they lifted the trophy after a three-year wait.
Published on October 12 2015 for Rugby AM.