BELIEF IN each other and a refusal to give up has got Leeds Rhinos to Old Trafford.
That’s the view of unsung hero Joel Moon as weary Rhinos begin preparations for one more big effort.
Saturday’s Grand Final will be Rhinos’ 36th game of a long and punishing season which began way back on February 8 and has included just one weekend off, three weeks into the campaign.
The Challenge Cup winners and league leaders have looked out on their feet at times in the last two games and trailed late in both of them, before a grandstand finish saw them home.
Moon, whose pass set Ryan Hall up for the try which gave Leeds the lead for the first time in their 20-13 Super League semi-final win over St Helens three days ago, admitted Rhinos were pushed to the limit.
“Saints played really well,” said the Australian, who is preparing for his first Grand Final.
“It was like the week before [the last-gasp win at Huddersfield Giants]. We hung in there and believed in each other and we came up with the win.
“We’ve got one game left and hopefully we can pull another one out.”
Moon joined Rhinos in 2013, after Leeds had completed back-to-back Grand Final wins.
He was a member of Rhinos’ Challenge Cup-winning team in 2013 and two months ago, but said reaching Old Trafford and the title decider is a dream come true.
“I’ve always wanted to get to a Grand Final,” admitted the former Salford, Brisbane Broncos and New Zealand Warriors three-quarter.
“I know Leeds have been there a few times, so to get there with this group of players gives me a lot of confidence.”
Moon was a key figure for Rhinos in the win over Saints, making a series of line-breaks.
As well as the assist for Hall’s try, he twice carried the ball deep into Saints territory in the first half, when the hosts were struggling to gain go-forward in the game.
But Moon, who has scored 14 tries in 31 games this year, felt he could have done better. He said: “There’s still a lot to work on.
“I missed a few tackles and I could have done a bit more in attack, but I guess all the boys played well.
“There’s a few things to improve on in training though.”
Last Friday’s game was the final competitive match at Headingley for props Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai and Kevin Sinfield’s last as a Rhinos player before he switches codes with Yorkshire Carnegie.
“That was massive,” Moon reflected. “We always had that in the back of our head.
“They didn’t want us to rely on that, but we knew we had to do it for them, as well as the team. To get to Old Trafford is massive and I am looking forward to it.”
Moon’s clash with John Bateman, the former Bradford Bulls’ second-rower who has made an impressive transition to centre for Wigan this year, could be one of the decisive battles in Saturday’s final.
“He has been going really well,” Moon said. “It is always tough playing against him, so it’ll be a good contest.”
Both centre Kallum Watkins and second-row Carl Ablett left Headingley on Friday wearing a protective boot, but Rhinos’ management are confident they will be fit for the final on October 10.
Second-row Stevie Ward missed the semi-final due to a knee ligament injury suffered the week before at Huddersfield and is not expected to play again this season.
Other players on Rhinos’ casualty list are Liam Sutcliffe (knee), Jamie Jones-Buchanan (quad), Paul Aiton (arm) and Mitch Achurch (hand).