Leeds Rhinos: Cunningham reveals respect for Rhinos and coach McDermott

St Helens head coach Keiron Cunningham.
St Helens head coach Keiron Cunningham.
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SATURDAY’S GRAND Final could be a thriller, according to St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham.

Saints’ hopes of retaining the First Utility Super League title were dashed when Leeds snatched a 20-13 win in last Friday’s semi-final at Headingley.

Saints led for much of the match and Cunningham felt they were the better team for large parts, but he was full of admiration for Rhinos’ ability to climb off the canvas and deliver a knockout blow.

“They remind me of the great Saints side in 2006, it is almost a once in a lifetime, special thing to see this group of players together, doing what they are doing,” he said. “The way the system is now, it is difficult to win the Challenge Cup and back up and even make the Grand Final.

“Testament to Leeds, they have done the unthinkable. They have got a shot at it and Wigan are a good side too, so it’s going to be another slugfest.”

Cunningham added: “I am pleased that Brian Mac [McDermott, Leeds’ coach] has got there.

“We are good mates and we get on really well. I was pleased they finished first. A lot of people threw his team under the bus, but the resilience of him as a coach and his team, to come through the other side, it takes a lot.

“Losing becomes a real habit, but Mac and his senior players have brought his team through the other side.

“I am pleased for JP [Jamie Peacock] and Kylie [Leuluai] and Kev Sinfield and all those warriors and legends of the game.

“Everybody had written Leeds off, apart from us, a few weeks ago, but Leeds do what they do best and they took the game out of our hands.”

Cunningham admitted a 40-20 kick by Kevin Sinfield, which led to Ryan Hall’s try to put Leeds ahead, was the turning point in the game.

“He is a great player, a very experienced campaigner,” said the Saints boss. “He came up with the play that changed the game.”