THE YORKSHIRE Evening Post’s match report the following day described it as being not quite the perfect performance, but as close as Leeds Rhinos are ever likely to get.
On July 23, 2004, less than a week after being held to a 36-36 draw at lowly London Broncos, Rhinos faced St Helens at a nervous Headingley.
Leeds had led comfortably against London before falling apart and the question was, had the league leaders’ bubble burst?
No, was the short answer to that one. The longer reply was provided over 80 blistering minutes as Saints were ripped apart. At the end the scoreboard read: Leeds Rhinos 70, St Helens 0.
It was Leeds’ biggest win over their long-term rivals and the first time Saints had been nilled in Super League. Rhinos scored an incredible 12 tries, 10 of them converted by Kevin Sinfield, who also booted a penalty.
The night was particularly memorable for Danny McGuire, who scored a hat-trick of tries, all inside the opening 13 minutes. That feat took his tally for the campaign to 28, equalling Paul Newlove’s competition record.
McGuire said: “There were 17 lads who wore their heart on their sleeve and gave 100 per cent for the full game. The win is just as important as any tries I score.”
McGuire added: “It was the best overall performance I have played in. Everything we planned to do came off. We played a quality St Helens side and to get a scoreline like that was great for us.”
Coach Tony Smith compared Leeds’ attacking performance to a boulder running downhill, but insisted he was happier with the nil than the 70.
He said: “It wasn’t perfect, I am going to find some faults in there, but they did what we planned and that was one of the things that really shone out.”
Saints were beaten inside the first 14 minutes, when Leeds scored four tries.
Marcus Bai set the boulder rolling with the opening try after 90 seconds and then McGuire scored his three in the space of just eight minutes.
That made it 26-0, but the 16,635 crowd had to wait until the 27th minute for the next score, Bai rumbling over.
Wayne McDonald bagged a brace either side of the interval, off passes by Matt Diskin.
He scored the next touchdown and Sinfield’s conversion made it 50-0 after 48 minutes. Keith Senior had a strong game and he put Richard Mathers in before sending Bai over for his hat-trick.
Ali Lauitiiti kept the scoreboard ticking over and Senior completed the rout five minutes from time.
Leeds Rhinos 70
(Tries: Bai 3, McGuire 3, McDonald 2, Diskin, Mathers, Lauitiiti, Senior. Goals: Sinfield 11)
St Helens 0
Super League July 23, 2004
Leeds Rhinos: Mathers, Cummins, Walker, Senior, Bai, Sinfield, McGuire, Ward, Diskin, Bailey, McKenna, Lauitiiti, Poching. Subs: Burrow, McDermott, McDonald, Adamson.
St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Albert, Gilmour, Feaunati, Talau, Hooper, Fozzard, Cunningham, Mason, Edmondson, Fa’asavalu, Wilkin. Subs: Bennett, Bibey, Roby, Hardman.
Referee: Karl Kirkpatrick.