LEEDS RHINOS will be aiming for a reversal of fortunes at the Magic Weekend in Newcastle.
Leeds face Wigan Warriors in Saturday’s final match, with Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats closing the event – which sees an entire Super League round staged over two days at the same venue – on Sunday.
Rhinos had a 100 per cent record at the event until two years ago, when they were beaten by Wigan.
And, in a strikingly similar contest, they lost again to Wigan in 2014, so will be looking to make it third time lucky when the sides meet at St James’ Park.
Despite those two setbacks, Rhinos remain joint-top of the Magic Weekend league table, alongside Hull KR and Warrington Wolves, with six wins since the event began in 2007.
Castleford and Wakefield have been less successful. Tigers missed the first Magic Weekend, when they were a lower division side, but have won four and lost three of their seven games on the big stage.
Of the sides involved this time, Wakefield have the joint-poorest record, with only two victories. Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield is the only player to have scored points at all eight previous Magic Weekends and is one of just seven ever-presents.
The others include team-mate Ryan Hall, who made his debut in Leeds’ 2007 win over Bradford Bulls at Millennium Stadium and Tigers’ Andy Lynch, though five of his appearances were for Bradford and two with Hull.
Hall’s nine Magic Weekend tries are a record, one ahead of Warrington Wolves’ Joel Monaghan.
Leeds were involved in the most notorious of all Magic Weekend fixtures, back in the inaugural event.
The final match of the second day ended in a 42-38 win for Rhinos over Bulls on the pitch and uproar off it.
Leeds were trailing 38-36 in the final seconds when Bulls were penalised – incorrectly – for off-side, on the say-so of video referee Ashley Klein.
Sinfield’s penalty attempt hit a post and rebounded to the chasing Jordan Tansey, who touched down.
Referee Steve Ganson awarded the try, without handing the decision on, but replays clearly showed Tansey had come from an off-side position, so the score should have been ruled out and Bulls won the game.
Controversy involving Ganson also occurred in 2013, when Hull beat Hull KR 22-16. The scores were level late on when Chris Green touched down from Danny Houghton’s kick.
Referee Ben Thaler handed the decision on and video official Ganson gave the green light, despite the scorer having been in front of the kicker and therefore offside.
After their unjust win in 2007, Leeds had little trouble seeing off Bradford the following year, when Frenchman Eric Anselme was among their try scorers in a 40-26 victory at Cardiff.
The event was moved to Edinburgh’s Murrayfield in 2009 and Leeds recorded a 36-16 victory over Catalans Dragons, but it was much tougher at the same venue 12 months later. Rhinos looked to be heading for a shock defeat against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, who led 28-10 just before half-time, but Chris Clarkson’s first senior try and a late touchdown by Danny Buderus sealed a dramatic 34-30 victory.
The RFL tried something different in 2011, moving Magic back to Cardiff and using the event to launch the Super League season.
Leeds trailed 28-10 with 17 minutes of Brian McDermott’s first game as coach remaining, but rallied to snatch a 32-28 victory in unusual circumstances.
Two minutes from time Ben Jones-Bishop broke clear from Kallum Watkins’ pass, kicked ahead and was pulled down by Gareth Raynor. Video referee Richard Silverwood was called into action and he awarded a penalty try.
Magic was on the move in 2012, to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. Rhinos again faced Bradford, trailed 18-6 at one stage, but hit back to win 37-22, thanks largely to five tries from Danny McGuire. That is an event record, shared with Joel Monaghan, who went nap the same season.
Then came back-to-back losses to Wigan. In 2013 Leeds staged another thrilling fightback and should have won, but McGuire had a late touchdown ruled out by video referee Ian Smith, due to an alleged obstruction in the build-up.
Wigan won 20-16 and it was 18-14 last season, again after Rhinos were denied late on by the video official.
Wakefield’s two Magic victories came in 2008 and 2012, both against Tigers.
The first of those was a 54-16 romp, in which Danny Brough was outstanding. The second was the opening match of Magic’s first venture into Manchester, when Wildcats won a thriller 32-26, Tim Smith scoring the decisive try.
The event’s first year was a disaster for Wildcats, who were beaten 36-12 by a Brad Drew-inspired Huddersfield Giants.
It was a similar story in 2009 as Wakefield were crushed 32-16 by Bradford Bulls, though their 2011 loss to Castleford was more creditable, coming shortly after the club had gone into administration.
Rangi Chase was the star as Wakefield – who had just entered administration and struggled to raise a team – were beaten 40-20 by Castleford.
That match is best remembered for the record 37 penalties – 22 against Wakefield – awarded by referee James Child.
Winger Kirk Dixon scored four tries in Tigers’ 49-24 victory over Wildcats two years ago, which was Daryl Powell’s first win as Castleford coach.
It was even more straightforward last season, Marc Sneyd scoring 22 points in Tigers’ 50-12 success.
Tigers have only played opposition other than Wakefield twice at Magic. In 2009 they were beaten 24-16 by Hull and the following year they broke their duck with a 34-18 win against Catalans, when Brent Sherwin and Ryan McGoldrick each bagged a brace.