NINE YEARS ago tomorrow, Leeds Rhinos travelled to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats for a Super League fixture which was to include a record-breaking individual performance.
Rhinos were top of the the table and 9,457 fans turned up to see if 12th-placed Wakefield could pull of a shock.
They couldn’t and instead it was Leeds’ Ali Lauitiiti who stole the show, scoring what was then a record-equalling five tries in the game.
What made Lauitiiti’s feat more remarkable was the fact he did it as a substitute, not coming on to the field until the 23rd minute.
Leeds led 6-2 at that stage, through a Richard Mathers try and the first of Kevin Sinfield’s six goals, against a penalty by Jamie Rooney.
Lauitiiti’s first touch created a try for Sinfield, but Wakefield got in the game when Ben Jeffries’ kick set up an unconverted try for Rooney.
That was on 28 minutes and made it 12-6, but Leeds were 28-6 ahead by half-time. Danny McGuire’s kick was touched down by Keith Senior and then Lauitiiti bulldozed over for his first, before Willie Poching crossed against his former club.
The second half was a rout, with Leeds adding eight more tries – four of them to Lauitiiti in an incredible 10-minute spell.
Rob Burrow opened the floodgates on 43 minutes after Rhinos’ pack barged the Wakefield forwards off the ball at a scrum. Mathers crossed for his second touchdown and then Lauitiiti went over on 52, 55, 59 and 62 to become the first forward to score a nap hand of tries in a Super League game.
Barrie McDermott broke the monopoly with a try and Burrow kicked his third conversion and Lauitiiti created the final touchdown for former Wakefield man Gareth Ellis as it finished 70-6.
Players have touched down for five tries in a Super League game on 13 occasions, all the others being backs. Leeds’ Danny McGuire has achieved the feat twice and Ryan Hall once.
The record holder is Bradford Bulls’ Lesley Vainikolo, with six. Leeds’ win in June, 2005, was their biggest in 238 meetings with Wakefield.
Lauitiiti and Mathers now both play for Wildcats, whose team included future Leeds players Darrell Griffin and Chris Feather.
Lauitiiti, who had joined Leeds mid-way through 2004, remained at the club until the end of 2011, when he moved to Wakefield. His 200th and final game for Leeds was the 2011 Grand Final win over St Helens, when he became only the eighth overseas player to register a double century of appearances in blue and amber.
Lauitiiti is currently recovering from a knee injury suffered in Wakefield’s defeat at Leeds earlier this season, but Wildcats officials are hopeful he will sign a new deal keeping him at the club in 2015.