LEEDS RHINOS weathered the Storm to record one of the club’s greatest victories six years ago.
Coached by Brian McClennan, Rhinos were crowned World Club Champions for the second time after a thrilling 11-4 win over Melbourne Storm on Friday, February 29, 2008.
A crowd of 33,204 braved lashing rain and gale-force winds to see Rhinos tough out a superb triumph against a strong Storm team who took a 15th-minute lead through second-row Ryan Hoffman’s touchdown.
That proved to be the Aussies’ only score and it wiped out a goal kicked by Kevin Sinfield four minutes earlier, after Billy Slater had been penalised for passing after a tackle was completed.
Things looked grim for Leeds when Danny McGuire was hit late and had to go off mid-way through the first half.
But Rhinos – fielding an unchanged line-up from the previous October’s Grand Final win over St Helens – dug in and struck a vital blow just three minutes before the break.
Brent Webb began the move, putting on some footwork close to the Storm line before spotting a gap on the left-wing and hurling out a long pass, which Scott Donald finished at the corner.
Sinfield defied the conditions to land a sensational conversion, sending Rhinos in at the break 8-4 ahead.
Leeds suffered another injury blow in the second period when centre Clinton Toopi – celebrating his 28th birthday – went off with a serious shoulder injury.
Storm threw huge pressure at Leeds, but Rhinos’ goal line defence stood firm and they actually extended their lead on the hour through Sinfield’s second penalty goal.
Carl Ablett had a touchdown ruled out by video referee Phil Bentham.
But the Super League champions closed in on a momentous win when Sinfield landed a drop goal with 10 minutes left to edge them two scores clear. Ablett forced Anthony Quinn into touch late on, Bentham rejecting Storm’s claims of a try and Leeds held firm. Reflecting on an heroic defensive performance, Sinfield said afterwards: “It was like a Test match out there.
“Both sides played some great stuff in the conditions.
“It was brutal, some of the hits on both sides were fearsome and that’s what rugby league is all about.”
Scrum-half Rob Burrow added: “It was an outstanding performance.
“Both sides handled the weather and it was a great game overall.
“They threw a lot at us, but our forwards won the battle.”
Rhinos’ reign lasted a year and a day.
They were beaten 28-20 by Manly Sea Eagles at Elland Road on March 1, 2009.
A crowd of 32,569 saw Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Keith Senior, Ryan Hall and Danny McGuire cross for Rhinos, who trailed 26-4 at one stage before mounting a spirited fightback.