LEEDS RHINOS were crowned World Club Champions for the first time a decade ago on Wednesday.
The Super League title holders held off a storming fightback from Australlian NRL Grand Final winners Canterbury Bulldogs to triumph 39-32 in front of a massive 37,028 crowd at Elland Road, on Friday, February 4, 2005.
It was a memorable night for Rhinos and particularly half-back Danny McGuire – a lifelong Leeds United fan – who scored a sensational touchdown on his own personal field of dreams.
McGuire’s try came in the first half, the No 6 accepting Barrie McDermott’s offload and bamboozling Canterbury full-back Luke Patten and winger Hazem El Masri on a sensational 40-metre dash to the line.
Leeds – playing their first competitive game since beating Bradford Bulls in the Super League Grand Final the previous October – gave a debut to Gareth Ellis, signed from Wakefield and he handled in the move which led to Chev Walker’s opening try on five minutes.
A Patten error on the end of Kevin Sinfield’s kick handed a try to Mark Calderwood, before El Masri crossed and converted to get Bulldogs off the mark, but McGuire’s try put Leeds back in the driving seat before scores by Willie Poching and Rob Burrow, plus Sinfield’s third goal, made it 26-6 at the break.
Patten got the opening try of the second half, El Masri goaling, but Rhinos seemed to have the trophy won when Richie Mathers – another United fan – and Jamie Jones-Buchanan both went over for touchdowns which Sinfield converted. At 38-12 Rhinos were coasting, but Bulldogs finally found some bite as Jamal Lolesi bagged a brace, El Masri crossed again and Tony Grimaldi also touched down.
Two El Masri goals cut Rhinos’ advantage to just six points, but Leeds were able to celebrate when Sinfield – playing towards the Kop – booted a drop goal late on to complete the scoring.
Ironically, the game is perhaps best remembered for a huge hit by the then-teenage Bulldogs forward Sonny Bill Williams – who flattened Leeds winger Marcus Bai – than for Rhinos’ victory.
Bulldogs – who were missing several key players – did not lose with particularly good grace.
Rhinos hooker Andrew Dunemann revealed after the game that Canterbury’s players had grumbled about Leeds only beating their ‘second team’.
Dunemann said: “I told them not to be so hard on themselves – and anyway, we are world champions and they aren’t, so who cares?”