A HAT-TRICK by winger Danny Williams steered Leeds Rhinos into the Challenge Cup semi-finals 12 years ago today.
When Rhinos beat Harlequins – now known as London Broncos – 36-18 at Headingley on June 4, 2006 it was their first win under Brian McDermott, five seasons before he officially took charge.
At the time McDermott was assistant to Leeds coach Tony Smith, who missed the game after being admitted to hospital suffering from a bout of gastroenteritis.
The Australian was taken ill during the week and only able to communicate with his right-hand man via text messages.
Leeds were made to work hard before entering the semi-final draw for the 12th time in 14 seasons.
There was no score until the 32nd minute when Willie Poching touched down. Williams went over for his first try soon afterwards and with Kevin Sinfield converting both, Leeds led 12-0 at the interval.
Rhinos seemed in command, but Harlequins got into top gear for a spell early in the second half. Luke Dorn crossed two minutes after the restart and when Michael Worrincy scored on 50 minutes an upset looked on the cards.
But Ali Lauitiiti’s introduction off the bench after Quins’ second try swung the game back in Leeds’ favour and he inspired a purple patch of four tries in 11 minutes.
Scott Donald eased Rhinos’ nerves just before the hour mark, Danny McGuire followed him over the line soon afterwards and Williams and Donald added to the hosts’ tally.
The Londoners hit back through Tyrone Smith and Patrick Weisner, but Williams completed his hat-trick in the final moments.
Sinfield finished with four goals and Rob Purdham landed Harlequins’ only conversion.
Smith watched the game from his hospital bed and was impressed with the job done by McDermott in the build-up and on the day. So were Harlequins’ management. When coach Tony Rea stood aside to join the board, one month and four days after the Cup defeat at Leeds, McDermott was appointed as his replacement.
He remained at the London club until the end of 2010 when he returned to Leeds as head coach.
Leeds Rhinos 36 (Tries: Williams 3, Donald 2, Poching, McGuire. Goals: Sinfield 4),
Harlequins 18 (Tries: Dorn, Worrincy, Smith, Weisner. Goal: Purdham)
June 4, 2006. Challenge Cup quarter-final
Leeds Rhinos: Smith, Donald, Walker, Senior, Williams, McGuire, Burrow, Jones-Buchanan, Diskin, Scruton, Peacock, Ellis, Sinfield. Subs O’Neill, Millard, Lauitiiti, Poching.
Harlequins: McLinden, Smith, Luisi, Purdham, Bradley-Qalilawa, Paul, Dorn, Tookey, Randall, Lolohea, Haumono, Hopkins, Mbu. Subs Williams, Mills, Weisner, Worrincy.
Referee: Karl Kirkpatrick.