Leeds Rhinos Nostalgia: Hardman Barrie McDermott packed a real punch in cup semi-final

SOME OF the nicest players off the pitch are among the most ferocious on it.

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 29th March 2020, 4:06 pm
Leeds Rhinos' Barrie McDermott.
Leeds Rhinos' Barrie McDermott.

That was true of prop Barrie McDermott who is now a well-respected pundit for Sky Sports – and one of rugby league’s most appealing characters – but in his playing days had a disciplinary record to rival any of the sport’s most notorious hardmen.

By the time he left Leeds, after the 2005 Grand Final defeat to a Bradford Bulls team including his friend and former team-mate Adrian Morley, McDermott had been sent-off nine times during his career with Oldham, Wigan and then Rhinos.

On top of that, he had been referred to the Rugby Football League’s disciplinary committee four times, been placed on report on three occasions and made 12 trips to the sin-bin.

Barrie McDermott, far right, watches on as St Helens' Paul Sculthorpe is tackled during the 2001 Challenge Cup semi-final.

One of the referrals followed a match played on March 31, 2001, when Rhinos faced St Helens in a thrilling Challenge Cup semi-final at Wigan’s JJB Stadium.

McDermott was found guilty of a “punch to the face causing injury”, Saints forward Peter Shiels being the victim of an incident which was missed by referee Russell Smith and his touch judges, but caught on the BBC cameras.

He was later banned for four matches, among the 40 games he missed through suspension during his career.

McDermott joined Leeds from Wigan in 1995 and became a huge fans’ favourite throughout his decade at the club.

Matt Diskin is tackled by Paul Newlove and Anthony Sullivan.

He was a Challenge Cup winner in 1999 and finalist the following year and a key member of the 2004 squad which secured Leeds’ first Super League title. The defeat by Saints, denied McDermott and Leeds a third successive Cup final appearance.

Under coach Dean Lance, Rhinos had made a strong start to the season – including a club record 106-10 win at Swinton in their opening Cup tie – but were beginning to feel the pinch as injuries piled up.

Keith Senior (broken thumb) missed the semi-final and joined Ryan Sheridan and Robbie Mears on the casualty list.

Youngster Jason Netherton was drafted in on the bench for what would have been his debut, but did not get on.

Leeds have been involved in some classic Cup semi-finals against Saints and the 2001 encounter was up there as one of the most exciting.

Ian Millward’s Saints went ahead when Paul Sculthorpe intercepted McDermott’s offload and Sean Long added the extras.

But Leeds hit back in stunning fashion with a long-range try.

Kevin Sinfield sent Chev Walker racing away, Francis Cummins and Brett Mullins continued the move and Mark Calderwood was in support to score his first Leeds try.

Iestyn Harris’ kick levelled the scores, but Saints eased 10 points ahead at the break through tries by Long – who added another goal – and Tommy Martyn.

Rhinos looked down and out, but another run by Walker set up a try for Karl Pratt within a minute of the restart.

Though Long booted a penalty, Rhinos were growing in confidence and Sinfield dummied through for a try which Harris improved to cut the deficit to just two points.

Paul Newlove went in for Saints’ fourth try, only for Leeds to equalise a second time – with 10 minutes left – when Harris added the extras to a touchdown by Mullins, who got on to the end of Pratt’s kick.

Martyn had a touchdown disallowed by the video ref, who spotted he had dropped the ball, but then kicked Saints back in front with a drop goal and was involved in the clinching try, scored by Sculthorpe to seal a 27-22 win for the Merseyside outfit.

Leeds Rhinos: Mullins, Cummins, Carroll, Walker, Calderwood, Harris, Pratt, Fleary, Diskin, McDermott, Farrell, Hay, Sinfield. Subs: St Hilaire, Clyde, Mathiou, Netherton (unused).

St Helens: Wellens, Hoppe, Iru, Newlove, Sullivan, Martyn, Long, Nickle, Cunningham, Fairleigh, Joynt, Shiels, Sculthorpe. Subs Matautia, Jonkers, Stankevitch, Stewart.

Referee: Russell Smith (Castleford).

Attendance: 16,416.