On this day in 2008: Leeds beat St Helens to win Super League Grand Final

By Sports Desk October 04, 2023

Daniel Anderson was denied a fairy-tale ending to his tenure as St Helens coach as Leeds won the second of three consecutive Super League Grand Finals on this day in 2008.

The Rhinos became only the second team – after Saints – to successfully defend their Super League title and they would go on to complete a hat-trick of successive crowns 12 months later at Old Trafford.

All three victories in Manchester came over St Helens, who boasted an astonishing 23-match unbeaten run heading into the final in front of a 68,810-strong crowd who braved the rainy conditions.

While Anderson – who went on to take charge at National Rugby League side Parramatta Eels – bowed out as a runner-up, his former New Zealand assistant coach Brian McClennan was able to celebrate a famous 24-16 victory in his first season at the helm.

Hero of the hour for the Rhinos was full-back Lee Smith, who was shunted from the wing in a late enforced change following the withdrawal of Brent Webb and responded with a man-of-the-match performance of which he could only have dreamed.

Rain began to fall an hour before kick-off and it was inevitable that whoever could hold their footing on the slippery surface would help decide the outcome of the tense duel.

And it was the sure-footed Danny McGuire who produced the decisive moment, jinking past wrong-footed defenders to weave his way over for the all-important try after 62 minutes.

McGuire had gained possession from a fumble by St Helens winger Ade Gardner, who was not the first to be deceived by the awkward conditions that turned rugby league’s showpiece occasion into something of a lottery.

But there was no denying the superiority of the Rhinos, who worked wonders to turn around the humiliation of a 38-10 defeat by Saints only a fortnight earlier as well as the loss of the inspirational Webb.

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