SIX WEEKS made a world of difference to Leeds Rhinos in 2012.
On August 25 Rhinos were beaten 35-18 by Warrington Wolves in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley.
Revenge was gained in emphatic style on October 6 when Leeds retained their Super League crown with a spectacular 26-18 victory over the same opposition at Old Trafford.
Warrington – without a championship since 1955 – went into the title decider as hot favourites, having finished second on the league table.
Leeds were attempting to win the Grand Final from fifth place for the second successive year, after ending the regular season a distant nine points behind their opponents.
Coached by Leeds’ 2004 and 2007 Grand Final-winning boss Tony Smith, Warrington came up against a Rhinos team in inspired form and led by a captain who had the game of his life.
Kevin Sinfield was an outstanding winner of the Harry Sunderland award as man of the match, displaying stirring bravery to get up and play on after being knocked cold early in the second half.
The final seemed to be following the script when Richie Myler crossed for a try which Brett Hodgson converted after just 14 minutes.
But Leeds were used to going behind at Old Trafford and they rallied when Sinfield’s high kick was knocked to Carl Ablett and his pass was finished by the Rhinos captain.
Sinfield converted, added a penalty and then booted the extras following the defending champions’ second try, scored by Ben Jones-Bishop from Danny McGuire’s pass.
It looked like Rhinos would go in two scores clear at the break, but Joel Monaghan pulled a try back for Warrington, Hodgson converted and then levelled matters with a penalty goal.
When Sinfield was hurt two minutes into the second half, following a collision with Michael Monaghan, Leeds’ grip on the trophy seemed to be loosening.
Leeds lad Ryan Atkins crossed to edge Warrington 18-14 in front, but with 22 minutes left Ablett capped an outstanding performance with a try from Shaun Lunt’s pass and Sinfield kicked Rhinos back ahead.
And Leeds sealed a sensational win with a brilliant team try eight minutes from time, Ryan Hall crossing after Rob Burrow, Brett Delaney, Kallum Watkins, McGuire and Ablett had handled.
Sinfield’s fifth goal completed the scoring.
Leeds Rhinos 26
(Tries: Sinfield, Jones-Bishop, Ablett, Hall. Goals: Sinfield 5)
(Tries: Myler, J Monaghan, Atkins. Goals: Hodgson 3
October 6, 2012, Super League Grand Final
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Ablett, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Leuluai, Burrow, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Bailey. Subs Kirke, Griffin, Ward, Lunt.
Warrington Wolves: Hodgson, J Monaghan, Ratchford, Atkins, Riley, Briers, Myler, Hill, Higham, Harrison, Westwood, Waterhouse, Grix. Subs Morley, M Monaghan, Wood, Cooper.
Referee: Richard Silverwood.