THE 2000 season started and ended badly for Leeds Rhinos, but a remarkable spell in the middle of the year produced 13 successive Super League victories.
Dean Lance took over from fellow Australian Graham Murray as Leeds’ coach in the off-season and his 11th game in charge was a 24-18 Challenge Cup final defeat by Bradford Bulls at Murrayfield.
But for a home win over Huddersfield-Sheffield Giants in their previous fixture, Leeds would have gone into the final bottom of the table.
Leeds lost their opening five Super League games and though their form picked up a little after Murrayfield, a 44-2 drubbing by Bradford at Headingley in May left them eighth on the ladder.
Their next defeat was at Castleford three months later and by then they had beaten all their top-flight side rivals during a hot streak which lifted them into fourth spot.
Leeds’ winning sequence began a week after the humiliation against Bradford when they staged a stunning fightback to overcome Wigan Warriors 26-19 at Headingley.
The game was captain Iestyn Harris’ 100th for Leeds and he celebrated with five goals, but it seemed Rhinos were heading for another heavy defeat when they trailed 19-6 with 25 minutes remaining.
Kris Radlinski scored the opening try and though Richie Blackmore replied for Rhinos, Wigan went in at the break 13-6 ahead after a Brett Dallas touchdown.
Andy Farrell kicked two first-half goals and converted a 48th-minute try by Willie Peters, who had slotted a drop goal before the interval.
Rhinos’ comeback began when Blackmore scored his second try, on 55 minutes and David Barnhill touched down soon afterwards.
The result was in the balance until two minutes from the end when Francis Cummins’ try sealed a tremendous win.
Graham Mackay was among Rhinos’ substitutes after joining them earlier in the month, a decade after a spell with Bradford Northern. He went on to score 10 tries in 18 appearances and was Leeds’ only representative in the Dream Team.
After Castleford eventually ended Rhinos’ resurgence they hit another slump and lost five of their final seven games, finishing fifth in the table and being eliminated in the second round of the play-offs.
Leeds Rhinos 26 (Tries: Blackmore 2, Barnhill, Cummins. Goals: Harris 5)
Wigan Warriors 19 (Tries: Radlinski, Dallas, Peters. Goals: Farrell 3. Drop goal: Peters)
May 26, 2000, Super League.
Leeds Rhinos: Cummins, Sterling, Blackmore, Senior, Pratt, Harris, Sheridan, Fleary, Jackson, McDermott, Morley, Barnhill, Hay. Subs: Anthony Farrell, Mathiou, Mackay, Powell.
Wigan Warriors: Radlinski, Dallas, Renouf, Connolly, Robinson, Farrell, Peters, Malam, Newton, Cowie, Cassidy, Chester, Betts. Subs: O’Connor, Haughton, Gilmour, Smith.
Referee: Stuart Cummins.