LEEDS RHINOS were crowned champions of the world for the first time 12 years ago this week.
A massive crowd of 37,028 turned out at Elland Road to see Rhinos take on NRL Grand Final winners Canterbury Bulldogs on February 4, 2005.
Canterbury’s line-up included young Kiwi forward Sonny Bill Williams and he provided the most memorable image of the night with a huge tackle on Leeds’ powerhouse winger Marcus Bai.
Williams made the watching world sit up and take notice, but the evening belonged to Rhinos as they built up a big first-half lead and then held on, just, when the Aussie visitors hit back.
It was an emotional occasion for lifelong Leeds United fans Danny McGuire and Richard Mathers and both got on the scoresheet.
McGuire’s touchdown was an outstanding solo effort, but Leeds topped it with a stunning team score just before the break, the ball zipping through nine pairs of hands before Rob Burrow crossed from Bai’s final pass.
Gareth Ellis – signed from Wakefield Trinity Wildcats – teed-up McGuire to provide a try-scoring pass for Chev Walker after just five minutes and Mark Calderwood added a second following a mistake by Luke Patten from Kevin Sinfield’s kick.
Hazem El Mazri struck back with a try which he also converted, but touchdowns by McGuire, Willie Poching and Burrow made it 26-6 at the break.
Patten pulled a try back soon after half-time, but it seemed like game over when Mathers and Jamie Jones-Buchanan increased Leeds’ advantage to 38-12 on 54 minutes.
Bulldogs were missing some key players, but showed why they were Australia’s best team with a rally which produced four tries from the 57th to 72nd minutes, El Mazri, Jamaal Lolesi – twice – and Tony Grimaldi crossing and El Mazri taking his goals tally to four.
That made it 38-32, but Sinfield, who had converted five of Rhinos’ seven tries, sealed the issue calmly with a drop goal in the final moments.
Rhinos coach Tony Smith described his team’s 39-32 triumph as a “great spectacle”, adding: “There was some extraordinary rugby league played and to win it is a great shot in the arm for British rugby league.”
Leeds Rhinos 39
(Tries: Walker, Calderwood, McGuire, Poching, Burrow, Mathers, Jones-Buchanan. Goals: Sinfield 5. Drop goal: Sinfield)
Canterbury 32 (Tries: El Mazri 2, Lolesi 2, Patten, Grimaldi. Goals: El Mazri 4)
February 4, 2005, World Club Challenge, at Elland Road
Leeds Rhinos: Mathers, Calderwood, Walker, Senior, Bai, Sinfield, McGuire, Bailey, Dunemann, Ward, Jones-Buchanan, McKenna, Ellis. Subs McDermott, Lauitiiti, Burrow, Poching.
Canterbury Bulldogs: Patten, El Mazri, Lolesi, Tonga, Cutler, Anasta, Hughes, Armit, Perry, Asotasi, Maitua, Williams, Grimaldi. Subs Czislowski, Brideson, Myles, Oliver.
Referee: Sean Hampstead (Australia).