HIS YEAR’S event will be Super League’s eighth Magic Weekend and the third staged at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium.
The manufactured fixture list – designed to produce exciting, crowd-pulling matches – sees Leeds Rhinos face Wigan Warriors for the second successive year.
Last season Wigan ended Rhinos’ 100 per cent winning record at Magic Weekends when they edged to a controversial 20-16 success in the event’s seventh and final match.
Wigan – who ended the weekend three points clear at the top of the table, with Leeds back in fourth spot – got the benefit of a late video referee decision to disallow what looked like a legitimate Danny McGuire touchdown, for an alleged obstruction in the build-up.
It wasn’t the first time Rhinos had been involved in Magic Weekend controversy.
In 2011 the Magic Weekend, in Cardiff, opened the Super League season and Leeds looked to be heading for defeat to Bradford Bulls when they trailed by two points with time running out.
But then Ben Jones-Bishop broke clear, kicked ahead and was pulled down by Gareth Raynor – and the penalty try awarded by the video referee handed Leeds a 32-28 victory.
Leeds had benefited from a couple of marginal decisions earlier in the game, but the biggest talking point in a Magic Weekend occurred in 2007, again at Millennium Stadium and again in a Rhinos-Bulls derby.
The two arch-rivals were paired in the final game and Leeds emerged winners, but only after a series of decisions – or non-decisions – by the match officials which left Bulls fuming.
Bradford were leading 38-36 with seconds left when Leeds knocked-on, but referee Steve Ganson – on the advice of video official Ashley Klein – awarded a penalty for a Bulls man picking the ball up in an offside position.
Replays showed that was the wrong call, as the ball had come off a Rhinos boot. Kevin Sinfield opted to kick for goal, the ball bounced off the woodwork and Jordan Tansey followed up to touch down and send the Leeds players into raptures.
Ganson immediately awarded the try and was then left red-faced when replays showed Tansey had been standing in front of Sinfield – and therefore offside – when the kick was taken.
The hooter had already gone by the time Sinfield’s conversion made it 42-38.
Afterwards Bulls coach Steve McNamara fumed: “The referee decided the game. It was ludicrous, ridiculous and I am sick to the teeth.”
Leeds coach Tony Smith reflected: “We won’t see a finish like that for a long time. I was resigned to the fact Bradford were the better team.”
Bulls launched a series of protests, asked Leeds to hand the two points back and threatened legal action, but the result stood.