RELIEF WAS match-winning hero Liam Sutcliffe’s emotion after his kick snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for Leeds Rhinos against Catalan Dragons yesterday.
Sutcliffe landed a long-range, angled penalty after the final hooter had sounded to steal a 32-31 win which kept Rhinos in second place in First Utility Super League.
The 19-year-old is Rhinos’ fourth-choice kicker behind Kevin Sinfield, Zak Hardaker and Rob Burrow, who all missed the game.
“I have never been as nervous in my life,” Sutcliffe said afterwards.
“There was a lot of pressure, to kick the winning goal at the end when everyone’s watching and the hooter’s gone, but I got it over.”
Sutcliffe added: “The last time I kicked for goal was a couple of years ago, in the under-18s. I practiced a bit this week, but it’s a long time since I’ve done it in a game.
“It is different kicking in a game to kicking in training, with all the fans there. When it went over I was more relieved than anything.”
Coach Brian McDermott was full of praise for his youngster’s nerves of steel.
“It wasn’t an easy kick,” McDermott reflected afterwards. “He has done a lot of goal-kicking with the under-19s, but he has been with us for the majority of the past two years, so he’s had limited time.
“It was a big one for him. I thought the ones he missed from the sideline, he gave them every chance as well.
“He wasn’t miles off with any of them, but that will be a moment for him in his career I am sure.
“We look at the technique of goal kickers, but sometimes you have just got to hold your nerve and do what you do when there’s no pressure.
“I don’t think he has kicked a bigger one in his career so far. He is a cool customer.
“He does not seem to be fazed by much.
“I am not saying I was confident he would kick it, but I was confident he would not fluff it. I knew he would not miss because of nerves.”
Leeds trailed by 12 points in the first half and 10 soon after half time and McDermott added: “If you look at performances, I thought they performed better than we did.
“They did what they wanted to do better than we did and their full-back caused a huge amount of problems.
“They are a form team and they have a huge amount of momentum behind them. Am I comfortable with the win? Absolutely.
“We scored more tries than them. While we weren’t great and I had resigned myself to the loss, we feel fortunate we won, but I am not ashamed we won. We were in the mix throughout the game.”