AN HOUR into Leeds Rhinos’ final home Super League fixture of 2003, an announcement was made over the public address system that season tickets for the following year were now on sale.
Fair enough, normally, but the problem was Rhinos were being totally outclassed and trailed an impressive Saints side 20-0. The announcement infuriated the home fans and boos rang around the stadium. Less than 20 minutes later, the jeers had turned to cheers and anger was replaced by disbelief and delight.
When Rob Burrow scored Leeds’ opening try on 63 minutes it seemed nothing more than a consolation.
But Mark Calderwood crossed just two minutes later and – with Kevin Sinfield converting both – suddenly Rhinos were only eight points adrift.
It stayed that way until nine minutes from time when Gary Connolly went over from acting-half. Sinfield’s third goal cut the gap to just two points and Saints looked as though they didn’t know what had hit them.
Connolly’s try was followed almost immediately by one from Richard Mathers to give the hosts a sensational lead.
And Rhinos wrapped up an incredible 30-20 victory – which kept them on course for second place in the table, behind Bradford Bulls – when Willie Poching touched down in the final minute and Sinfield landed his fifth conversion.
The dazzling final 17 minutes were in sharp contrast to earlier in the game, when listless Leeds looked to be limping to a second successive loss.
Saints led 12-0 at the break through tries by Darren Smith and Keiron Cunningham inside the opening 14 minutes, both improved by Sean Long.
There appeared to be no way back for Leeds when Anthony Stewart scored the visitors’ third try just four minutes into the second half. Long converted and booted a penalty to open a four-score gap and Saints were in total command.
The game was Daryl Powell’s last league match at Headingley as Rhinos coach. They finished as runners-up in the table, but lost to Bradford and Wigan Warriors in the play-offs, becoming the first top-two team not to reach the Grand Final.
Leeds Rhinos 30 (Tries: Burrow, Calderwood, Connolly, Mathers, Poching. Goals: Sinfield 5)
St Helens 20 (Tries: Smith, Cunningham, Stewart. Goals: Long 4)
SUPER LEAGUE, September 12, 2003
Leeds Rhinos: Mathers, Calderwood, Connolly, Senior, Cummins, Burrow, Dunemann, McDonald, Diskin, McDermott, Furner, McKenna, Sinfield. Subs: Feather, D Ward, McGuire, Poching.
St Helens: Wellens, Albert, Gleeson, Newlove, Gardner, Hooper, Long, Mason, Cunningham, B Ward, Talau, Stankevitch, Smith. Subs: Jonkers, Stewart, Jones, Higham.
Referee: Richard Silverwood.