ONE OF Leeds’ most popular imports, Ali Lauitiiti is now in his testimonial season.
Lauitiiti joined Rhinos from New Zealand Warriors mid-way through the 2004 season and was a key figure as they went on to top the table and win their first Super League Grand Final.
He played exactly 200 games for Rhinos, his farewell appearance coming in the 2011 Grand Final win over St Helens.
That secured his fifth Super League ring, to go with two World Club Challenge medals and made him one of the most successful overseas players in the club’s history.
During his time at Leeds, Lauitiiti scored 64 tries and five of them came in one game against the club he joined in 2012, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
What made Lauitiiti’s nap hand – in a 70-6 victory – all the more remarkable was the fact he started that match, a decade ago this week, on the substitutes’ bench.
Rhinos travelled to Belle Vue on Friday, June 10, 2005, in confident mood, having lost just two of their 19 previous games that season.
The first of those defeats had been at home to Wakefield on Easter Monday, when Leeds had been stunned 44-28 and a near-10,000 crowd turned up to see if the visitors could gain revenge.
For a while it looked as though Wakefield might be capable of doing something similar, as they stayed in the contest for the opening half an hour.
Richard Mathers, another player later to join Wakefield, got Leeds off to a flying start with the opening try and Kevin Sinfield kicked the first of his six goals.
Jamie Rooney landed a penalty for Wildcats and – after Marcus Bai had grabbed the visitors’ second touchdown – the stand-off crossed from half-back partner Ben Jeffries’ kick, for what was to be Wakefield’s only try.
That made it 12-6, but Keith Senior, Lauitiiti and Willie Poching went over in a blistering six-minute spell before the interval.
Leeds led 28-6 at the break and really cut loose in the second half, with Lauitiiti going on to become the first forward to score five tries in a Super League game.
He ripped Wakefield apart, touching down on 52, 55, 59 and 62 minutes. Other try scorers were Mathers, Rob Burrow, who also added three goals, Barrie McDermott and Gareth Ellis. After the game, Rhinos coach Tony Smith was full of praise for his star back-rower. He said: “He was in the mood and some of his all-round play – his offloads – was outstanding. When he gets going like that, how can you stop him?”
(Sheringham 44, Platt 89, Anderton 90+1)
Sweden 3 (Mild 11, 37, K Andersson 6)
Umbro Cup at Elland Road June 8, 1995.
England: Flowers, Barton, Cooper, Pallister, Le Saux, Anderton, Beardsley, Platt, Barnes, Shearer, Sheringham. Subs: Scales, Barmby Gascoigne. Unused: Walker, McManaman.
Sweden: Ravelli, Sundgren, Lučić, Björklund, Kåmark, Alexandersson, Erlingmark, Mild, Gudmundsson, Larsson, K Andersson. Subs: O Andersson, Lidman. Not used: Ljung, Mattsson, B Andersson.
Referee: Leslie Mottram (Scotland).