Leeds Rhinos Nostalgia: Victory at Hull KR kicked off greatest-ever season
Coach Brian McDermott’s side went on to thrash the same opposition 50-0 in the Challenge Cup decider at Wembley six months later, finished top of the Super League table – thanks to Ryan Hall’s try after the hooter in their last game of the regular season, at Huddersfield Giants – and completed an historic treble by pipping Wigan Warriors 22-20 in the Grand Final.
Leeds became only the third team in the summer era, after Bradford Bulls and St Helens, to win all three domestic trophies in a single season.
And in fairytale fashion, the Old Trafford showpiece was a glorious farewell for three of Rhinos’ all-time greats, skipper Kevin Sinfield and props Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai, who all bowed out after the club’s first win over Wigan in a major final.
Sinfield spent the next season playing rugby union for Yorkshire Carnegie, worked for the RFL for a spell and is now back at Headingley as director of rugby.
Peacock moved to become football manager at Hull KR – and made a brief playing comeback the following season – before returning to Leeds in a behind-the-scenes role.
Leuluai is now head of rugby operations at Warrington Wolves, having been player welfare officer at Leeds.
He revealed after the Grand Final he had been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat midway through the 2015 season.
Despite that, he still managed 22 appearances – eight in the starting side – in the final year of his playing career.
At one stage during 2015 – after a 41-16 victory over defending champions St Helens at Langtree Park, when Ash Handley, standing in for the injured Tom Briscoe, scored a hat-trick – Rhinos were six points clear at the top of Super League.
That dominance did not seem likely in the early stages of their season opener in front of a capacity 11,811 crowd at Craven Park.
Tom Briscoe gave Rhinos a first-minute lead, but Albert Kelly marked his Rovers debut with a brace of tries and Mitch Allgood also crossed as the hosts went 18-4 ahead after 14 minutes.
Sinfield and Danny McGuire pulled tries back, but Rovers led 24-16 at the break after a Terry Campese touchdown and the fourth of Josh Mantellato’s five goals.
Kris Welham crossed two minutes into the second half, but McGuire hit straight back and Leeds eventually wore Rovers down.
Kallum Watkins closed the gap, Zak Hardaker’s try with 14 minutes left gave Leeds the lead and Brad Singleton wrapped things up with a 76th minute touchdown.
Sinfield finished with six goals from seven attempts. McDermott admitted Leeds were “fortunate” to get the win.
“The bounce of the ball and a couple of other things went our way,” he said.
“Defensively we were leaky, but I am proud of the way we twice came back from 14 points down.
“That’s not easily done, but we know we can’t concede 30 points too often.”
Australian forward Adam Cuthbertson was Leeds’ only debutant.
He set a Super League record for most offloads in a season and went on to be nominated for the 2015 Man of Steel award, which was won by team-mate Hardaker.
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