TOP OF the league, you’re having a laugh!
That was the taunt thrown at Leeds Rhinos when they took an unbeaten Super League record to Knowsley Road in April, 2004 and were thrashed 56-10.
It was Rhinos’ second defeat of the season at St Helens – following a 24-14 Challenge Cup reverse the previous month – and ended their eight-game winning run in the league.
But Saints weren’t laughing when they visited Headingley for the return leg, 14 years ago today.
Rhinos produced one of the most devastating attacking performances Super League has seen to destroy the visitors 70-0.
It was the first time Saints had been nilled in Super League – and their first blank sheet since January, 1995 – and they were torn apart from the opening whistle as Rhinos ran in 12 tries.
A 16,635 crowd were anticipating a thriller, but Leeds – who had drawn at London Broncos in their previous match – were too hot to handle.
Remarkably, they scored four tries in the opening 14 minutes – the first to Marcus Bai before Danny McGuire completed an eight-minute hat-trick.
That took him to 28 tries for the season, equalling Paul Newlove’s Super League record.
Kevin Sinfield converted them all and added a penalty and Rhinos led 26-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Bai’s second and a brace from Wayne McDonald either side of half-time extended the lead to 44 points and the half-century came up when Matt Diskin crossed and Sinfield landed another of his 11 goals from 13 attempts.
Richard Mathers and Bai, with his hat-trick score, continued the torture going into the final 20 minutes, Ali Lauitiiti went over and Keith Senior completed the scoring five minutes from time.
Leeds went on to win 25-19 at Saints in the penultimate round of the regular season en-route to finishing top of the table and then sealing their first Super League title.
Rhinos coach Tony Smith described the rout of Saints as the best performance of his time in charge of Leeds, but insisted: “We’ve been humbled by Saintys before so we’re going to be pretty humble now.”
Leeds Rhinos 70 (Tries: McGuire 3, Bai 3, McDonald 2, Diskin, Mathers, Lauitiiti, Senior. Goals: Sinfield 11)
St Helens 0
July 23, 2004. Super League.
Leeds Rhinos: Mathers, Cummins, Walker, Senior, Bai, Sinfield, McGuire, Ward, Diskin, Bailey, McKenna, Lauitiiti, Poching. Subs: Burrow, McDonald, Adamson, McDermott.
St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Albert, Gilmour, Feaunati, Talau, Hooper, Fozzard, Cunningham, Mason, Edmondson, Fa’asavalu, Wilkin. Subs: Roby, Bibey, Hardman, Bennett.
Referee: Karl Kirkpatrick.
Seven years ago tomorrow Leeds reached the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup with a 38-22 win at Hull. Carl Ablett and Ben Jones-Bishop both bagged a brace, other try scorers were Ali Lauitiiti and Brett Delaney and Kevin Sinfield booted seven goals.
Leeds won 46-22 at Warrington Wolves on this day in 2005. Try scorers were Chev Walker (2), Marcus Bai (2), Matt Diskin, Rob Burrow, Keith Senior and Mark Calderwood and Burrow kicked seven goals.
Rhinos lost 28-12 to visitors St Helens 19 years ago today after Adrian Morley was sent-off in the second minute for punching. Daryl Powell, pictured above, scored Leeds’ try and Iestyn Harris, who had a spell in the sin-bin, landed four goals.
Coach Dean Bell dusted off his boots and scored a try to help Leeds to a 34-12 home win over Paris St Germain on July 28. Graham Holroyd scored two tries and seven goals and Tony Kemp and Mick Shaw also touched down.