A HOME semi-final is the “perfect” scenario for Leeds Rhinos, six-time champion Rob Burrow says.
Rhinos’ dramatic 20-16 win at Huddersfield Giants last Friday night ensured they will be back at Headingley Carnegie in four days’ time to face St Helens, with a place in the Old Trafford title decider at stake.
Leeds looked to be heading for third place in the First Utility Super-8s – and an away tie at Huddersfield – when they trailed 16-8 going into the final 10 minutes.
But Tom Briscoe’s try gave them hope and a penalty kicked by Kevin Sinfield with 85 seconds remaining levelled the scores before Ryan Hall’s touchdown, after the hooter had sounded, sealed Rhinos’ first league leaders’ shield since 2009.
“Even if we’d finished second and got home tie it would have been big,” Burrow said.
“Playing a semi final at home is massive. It’s perfect for you.”
Burrow admitted he had wanted to go for a try when Craig Kopczak was penalised for a shoulder charge on Zak Hardaker close to Huddersfield’s line with less than two minutes remaining.
“When you are out there, I was thinking we need the win and we can’t be drawing,” Burrow confirmed.
“Then I did realise obviously a point would see us get the home tie so it was smart to do that.
“But out there I was working out what we needed to get top!”
Hall’s try snatched top spot from Wigan’s grasp. They looked to have moved ahead of Leeds with a home win over Castleford and a helicopter carrying the leaders’ shield had been within site of their DW Stadium, but was turned around when Hall scored.
Rhinos’ players waited on the pitch for the trophy to be delivered and there were jubilant celebrations in front of Leeds’ 4,000 travelling fans. It was Burrow’s first game since suffering a quad muscle injury in Rhinos’ Challenge Cup final victory last month and ended a run of three straight defeats.
He said: “It was amazing to get the win, but we’re not getting carried away. The league leaders’ shield was one of our goals, but the whole win at Huddersfield and to get a victory like that is fantastic, too.
“They are a great team and to win the shield there as well was something special.”
Burrow described the finish to the game as the best he has experienced in his glittering career, which began in 2001.
“I’ve played a lot of games, but it just changed like that,” he reflected.
“We were eight points behind with six minutes to go and going for the goal and thinking we needed the home tie.
“I’ve never had so much going on in my head, it was just amazing.
“It’s a crazy game isn’t it?”
The No 7 paid tribute to Danny McGuire for creating the touchdown and Hall, who had endured a poor game up to the final seconds.
He said: “Good players are consistent at being good in big games.
“We have a plethora of players who know how to act in these sorts of situations.
Whether it was experience that won us that, I don’t know, but the determination to dig in there from the lads was awesome.
“Huddersfield were outstanding in defence and I thought we defended really well, too.
“It was that sort of match –it was a play-off game and that could even have been the final and been rated as a good final.”
Huddersfield Giants will travel to Wigan Warriors in the first semi-final on Thursday evening.