THE ONLY time being in front in a game really matters is when the final whistle blows.
That was rammed home to a devastated Warrington Wolves outfit on August 1, 2009.
Warrington seemed to be heading for a notable victory when Mike Cooper crossed for a try which put the visitors 22-18 up with just five minutes remaining.
Leeds had won back-to-back Grand Finals and it takes a never-say-die spirit to achieve that sort of success. Though second best for much of the game, they refused to throw in the towel and snatched victory in the most dramatic fashion, with the final kick of the game. With 90 seconds left, Kevin Sinfield hurled out a long pass which was taken by winger Scott Donald, to touch down close to the right-hand touchline.
Chris Bridge had failed to convert Cooper’s try, so the scores were level and Sinfield had an opportunity to snatch the game with his conversion attempt. Sinfield had already missed three times, but with the South Stand behind him he made no mistake with this crucial shot, sending his kick between the uprights to edge the home team ahead for the first time in the game.
Sinfield’s kick ruined former Rhinos coach Tony Smith’s first return to Headingley as Warrington boss. Another ex-Leeds man, Richard Mathers, opened the scoring and Bridge converted, but Sinfield’s kick put Ryan Hall in for an unconverted try.
Vinnie Anderson went over with his first touch after replacing Brian Carney, who went off with a broken arm and Bridge’s second goal made it 12-4.
Donald pulled four points back with a touchdown from Danny McGuire’s grubber and both teams had scores ruled out by video referee Ben Thaler as Leeds went in at the break 12-8 adrift. Louis Anderson extended Warrington’s lead with a converted try, but Leeds again hit back as McGuire and Lee Smith crossed and a Sinfield conversion made it 18-18.
The Yorkshire Evening Post’s match report claimed Warrington had been “mugged”. It stated: “They were the better team for three-quarters of a scrappy, error-ridden game, which only sparked into life in the final 20 minutes when Leeds began their fightback from 10 points down.”
Rhinos coach Brian McClennan was never doubt Sinfield would land the winning points. He said: “You can put your money on him. He can kick big goals and they don’t come any harder than that.”
Leeds Rhinos 24
(Tries: Donald 2, Hall, McGuire, Smith. Goals: Sinfield 2)
(Tries: Mathers, V Anderson, L Anderson, Cooper. Goals: Bridge 3)
August 1, 2009 Super League
Leeds Rhinos: Webb, Donald, Smith, Senior, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Diskin, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield. Subs: Burgess, Lauitiiti, Ratu, Worrall.
Warrington Wolves: Mathers, Hicks, Bridge, Johnson, Carney, Briers, Grix, Morley, Monaghan, Carvell, L Anderson, Harrison, Westwood. Subs: V Anderson, Cooper, Clarke, Mitchell.
Referee: Ian Smith.