LEEDS Rhinos have had some memorable clashes with St Helens over the years and especially during the Super League era, when they have been two of the dominant sides.
Famously, the teams have met in four Grand Finals, with Leeds winning them all and they also squared off in an epic Challenge Cup semi-final – rated one of the best of all time – 11 years ago.
Of the club’s various league meetings since Super League began in 1996, one of the most fondly remembered by Leeds fans was at Headingley on April 11, 1997.
The match was significant for a number of reasons, not least that it marked the first start in Blue and Amber of one of the greats of the modern era, Iestyn Harris.
Now assistant-coach at Wigan, Harris was in dispute with Warrington at the start of the 1997 campaign, but was snapped up by Leeds for a world record £350,000 fee.
That was the most eye-catching statement of intent yet made by Rhinos’ new owners Paul Caddick and Gary Hetherington, who had taken over the previous autumn.
Harris had been linked with Saints, but instead made his full debut against them, after coming off the bench in a one-point defeat to Wigan for his first Leeds appearance.
That night against Saints – in front of a 12,683 crowd – is also considered by many to be the game when Super League finally took off in Leeds.
The club had been reluctant to switch to summer and Leeds finished third from bottom of the first Super League table before the new owners came in, saved the club and began a rebuilding process.
Leeds, though on the up, were not expected to defeat Saints, who were unbeaten so far and were the defending Super League champions.
But, boosted by Harris’ inclusion, Dean Bell’s side produced a stirring performance, led by forwards Adrian Morley and Anthony Farrell and centres Richie Blackmore and Phil “Prince” Hassan, who – along with full-back Damian Gibson – kept Saints out with a string of try-saving tackles.
Harris and Bobbie Goulding exchanged penalties before winger Paul Sterling crossed from Harris’ kick.
Apollo Perelini touched down for Saints and Goulding’s conversion levelled the scores, but Harris nudged Leeds back in front with two penalty goals.
With seven minutes left Harris landed a drop goal to open a five-point gap, but in the final moments Leeds’ defence failed to deal with a Goulding kick and he followed through to touch down, just to the right of the posts.
That left Saints a point adrift with the formality of the conversion to come, but – remarkably – Goulding’s kick struck an upright and bounced away and Leeds held on to record a famous 13-12 win, which Bell described afterwards as the best of his coaching career.