Under new coach Graham Murray, Leeds Rhinos emerged as a force in Super League during 1998.
After struggling to 10th place in 1996 and fifth the following year, they challenged Wigan Warriors for top spot throughout the campaign before eventually finishing second.
With an eye closed and swollen, Morley returned to the field and set up the clinching score.The YEP’s Peter Smith
Two wins stand out from that year, both against Wigan.
The first was a 16-8 home success in front of a capacity 18,000 crowd in May. That was Rhinos’ sixth successive win since the start of the league campaign. Wigan suffered only two league defeats that season, the other also being against Leeds in an epic encounter at Central Park on August 21.
Nineteen years later it remains one of the toughest and most brutal games Super League has seen.
The tone was set from the kick-off when Leeds’ Adrian Morley smashed Wigan hooker Robbie McCormack, who had to be helped from the field and played no further part.
Wigan were furious. Later in the half Morley returned a drop-out and was flattened by a forearm to the head from rival back-rower Mick Cassidy.
Referee Stuart Cummings put the incident on report and Cassidy was later banned for six matches, but Morley had the last laugh that night.
That year Leeds were a tough team known for their strong defence and they were at their best in the first half, keeping Wigan out and leading 3-0 through a drop goal and penalty both kicked by Iestyn Harris.
Andy Farrell replied with a penalty goal early in the second half, but Leeds hit back through a brace of tries by leading scorer Francis Cummis, both of which Harris created.
That made it 11-2, but Simon Haughton’s long-range try, Farrell adding the extras, set up a tense finish.
With an eye closed and swollen, Morley returned to the field and set up the clinching score. He drove the ball in strongly following a drop-out and squeezed out an offload to centre Brad Godden who somehow stepped through a massed defence to touch down.
It was a memorable victory for Rhinos, but Warriors gained revenge with wins in the play-offs and the first Grand Final, at Old Trafford.
Wigan Warriors 8 (Try: Haughton, Goals: Farrell 2) Leeds Rhinos 15 (Tries: Cummins 2, Godden. Goal: Harris. Drop goal: Harris)
Wigan Warriors: Radlinski, Bell, Connolly, Moore, Robinson, Paul, Smith, Cowie, McCormack, Mestrov, Cassidy, Haughton, Andy Farrell. Subs: Clarke, Johnson, Gilmour, O’Connor.
Leeds Rhinos: Harris, Sterling, Blackmore, Godden, Cummins, Powell, Sheridan, Masella, Newton, Fleary, Morley, Anthony Farrell, Glanville. Subs: Holroyd, Mathiou, St Hilaire, Hay.
Referee: Stuart Cummings.