Leeds Rhinos Nostalgia: Hull FC defeat proved the end of the line for coach Dean Lance

A GAME 19 years ago today marked the end of one Leeds Rhinos era and the start of another.
TROUBLED TIMES: Leeds Rhinos coach Dean Lance watches his side from the dugout. Picture: Steve Riding.TROUBLED TIMES: Leeds Rhinos coach Dean Lance watches his side from the dugout. Picture: Steve Riding.
TROUBLED TIMES: Leeds Rhinos coach Dean Lance watches his side from the dugout. Picture: Steve Riding.

The final match of Australian coach Dean Lance’s troubled spell in charge of Rhinos was an 18-16 home defeat by Hull on April 6, 2001.

But one of Lance’s last acts as Leeds boss was to hand a debut to a young prospect who went on to become among the most successful and popular players in the club’s history, Rob Burrow.

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Twice a Grand Final winner with Canberra Raiders, Lance coached Perth Reds and Adelaide Rams in the Australian version of Super League before being appointed by Leeds to take over from Graham Murray at the end of 1999.

END OF THE LINE: Former Leeds Rhinos coach Dean Lance at Headingley. Picture: Steve Riding.END OF THE LINE: Former Leeds Rhinos coach Dean Lance at Headingley. Picture: Steve Riding.
END OF THE LINE: Former Leeds Rhinos coach Dean Lance at Headingley. Picture: Steve Riding.

Those were big shoes to fill and Lance never looked at home in England, despite taking Rhinos to a Challenge Cup final and a 13-match winning run at one stage.

Under Lance, Leeds lost their first five games of the 2000 Super League campaign, but also beat Featherstone Rovers, St Helens, Dewsbury Rams and Hull to reach a second successive Cup final.

They lost that, narrowly, to Bradford Bulls at Murrayfield, but eventually found their feet in the league.

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A shock 26-19 victory over Wigan at Headingley was the first of 13 successive wins, during which Leeds beat all their top-flight rivals.

FRESH START: Daryl Powell is unveiled as the new Leeds Rhinos head coach in April 2001. Picture: Gareth Copley.FRESH START: Daryl Powell is unveiled as the new Leeds Rhinos head coach in April 2001. Picture: Gareth Copley.
FRESH START: Daryl Powell is unveiled as the new Leeds Rhinos head coach in April 2001. Picture: Gareth Copley.

They lost five of their last seven games after that, but finished a respectable fourth in the league table.

Money was spent in the off-season as Kiwi Test star Tonie Carroll and Aussies Robbie Mears, Bradley Clyde and Brett Mullins were signed to spearhead a title push in 2001.

Rhinos thrashed Swinton 106-10 – a club record score – in the opening round of the Challenge Cup and also pulled off notable victories at Castleford and Hull before a semi-final loss to St Helens.

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A week later Hull made the trip to Headingley, but by then injuries were beginning to pile up and eight of Leeds’ side that night were aged 20 or younger.

STRONG START: Rob Burrow made his Leeds Rhinos debut under Dean Lance against Hull FC in 2001. Picture: Steve Riding.STRONG START: Rob Burrow made his Leeds Rhinos debut under Dean Lance against Hull FC in 2001. Picture: Steve Riding.
STRONG START: Rob Burrow made his Leeds Rhinos debut under Dean Lance against Hull FC in 2001. Picture: Steve Riding.

Leeds were without captain Iestyn Harris, who failed a pre-match fitness test, but Burrow was named on the bench and Rhinos had another debutant, Andy Kirk, at centre.

On a very wet night and a muddy pitch, Rhinos gave a good account of themselves and were 12-10 ahead at half-time, thanks to tries by Mears and Danny Ward and two goals from Kevin Sinfield.

Tony Smith bagged a brace of first-half tries for the visitors, one of them improved by Matt Crowther. Crowther and Deon Bird went over for Hull soon after the break and though Burrow’s pass sent Francis Cummins in for Leeds’ third touchdown with 18 minutes left, the visitors held on.

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Lance was upbeat afterwards, talking of seeing light at the end of the tunnel with players beginning to return from injury.

However, just two days after the round four fixture Rhinos issued a statement saying the coach had left the club by “mutual consent”.

Daryl Powell, who had become head of youth after hanging up his boots at the end of the previous season, took over the hot seat. Powell’s first game in charge was another defeat, 36-6 at Warrington six days later.

There was only one encouraging moment for Leeds, when Burrow – making his first start – stepped through for a brilliant solo try. Powell picked up his maiden win as Leeds boss four days after that, on Easter Monday as Castleford were beaten 32-22 at Headingley.

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Leeds Rhinos: Mullins, Calderwood, Kirk, Walker, Cummins, Sinfield, Pratt, Fleary, Mears, Ward, Farrell, Clyde, Hay. Subs: St Hilaire, Burrow, Wrench, Dowes.

Hull: Bird, Crowther, Maiden, Campbell, Raynor, Cooke, T Smith, Broadbent, Jackson, Felsch, Maher, Grimaldi, J Smith. Subs: Gene, Craven, Carvell, Parker.

Referee: Stuart Cummings.

Attendance: 12,693.

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