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Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Saturday, 4 October 2008 16:58 UK
2008 Grand Final
Old Trafford, Manchester

St Helens 16-24 Leeds FT


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By Sam Lyon

1955: Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield lifts the trophy to the half of the Old Trafford crowd still standing and now the celebrations really can start. Keith Senior leads the Rhinos' dance as the champagne mixes with the rain amid scenes of unadulterated joy in the Leeds camp. What a match, what a result - and what a sport. Brilliant.

"Leeds deserved to win, We (Saints) were dreadful. Thats the worst performance of the season."
raven_down on 606
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"The St Helens end had emptied out with minutes still remaining in the match - their fans knew their dreams of avenging last year's defeat were all over long before the final whistle. It was a frustrating evening all round for the Saints, who just never seemed to get going and looked uncharacteristically - and increasingly - rattled as the match wore on. Leeds played out the final minutes to strains of "Yorkshire, Yorkshire" and fully deserved their grand final victory."
BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Old Trafford

1950: The Harry Sunderland Trophy winner? Who else - Lee Smith of Leeds. What a fairytale for the wing-turned-full-back.

1945: Lee Smith - who has been unbelievable this evening - leads the Rhinos' celebrations, with dejected Saints players strewn all around the pitch. It may be Leeds' third title in five years, but the players and staff are celebrating as if it's their first for 50 years...

"Cracking Grand Final - especially for us neutrals. It's games like this that prove that nothing else can match rugby league for entertainment!"
Matt, Bristol via text

FULL-TIME: St Helens 16-24 Leeds
It's all over! Leeds grab back possession and run the clock down before the final whistle comes to spark stunning scenes of joy from all in the Rhinos camp. Rival coaches Daniel Anderson and Brian McClennan embrace on the touchline - what a gesture that is - and Leeds retain the title for the first time in their history. Sensational.

79 mins: But, wait, Sean Long's tapped kick is collected by James Roby and the Saints will launch a last desperate attack...

78 mins: Not much has gone right for St Helens this evening and even as Paul Wellens takes a bomb from up high from Kevin Sinfield, he slides over the goal-line and it'll be a goal-line drop-out.

77 mins: That's game over, I reckon, folks. St Helens probe and probe but, on the sixth tackle, Sean Long's attempted kick goes awry and Leeds will have possession 20 yards from their own goal-line.

74 mins: The Saints defence are tiring by the look of things and Carl Ablett almost puts the game firmly out of their reach, breaking through the defensive line though the centre, only to lose the ball under the weight of Wellens' tackle. St Helens will counter...

"The Leeds fans are willing their team to hold on, while Saints look rattled - their body language just doesn't look right. Never write them off, though."
BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Old Trafford

72 mins: More joyous scenes in the Leeds camp as Jon Wilkin - under pressure from Lauitiiti - kicks the ball out on the full on halfway.

71 mins: Offside from Leeds 10 yards out - but James Graham, of all people, gifts possession back to the Rhinos with a wild pass. This does not look like being Saints' day, people...

70 mins: Moments after Ade Gardner gets away with a bit of a spill, James Roby earns a penalty as he is shut out of it by two Leeds defenders after a quick tap. St Helens will launch their attack from touch deep in the Leeds half.

68 mins: Sensational kick and chase from Rob Burrow, Ade Gardner dumped on his backside 10 yards from his own line as the Saints are forced to kick-start their six from deep in their own half.

"I've had a quick look in Daniel Anderson's direction - I would want to make sure I won if I was in a red and white shirt. He is not a happy bunny to say the least."
BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Old Trafford

65 mins: Oh dear, disastrous kick from Wellens, the full-back sending his restart out on the full and the initiative is firmly in Leeds' hands.

63 mins: TRY St Helens 16-22 Leeds
Take a bow Danny Maguire - sensational. Yet another high ball is sent Francis Meli's way and the tactic finally pays dividends as the winger spills the pass to Maguire 15 yards from the try line. There's still plenty for Maguire to do, though, and twice he jinks inside to take the Saints defence out of the equation and Kevin Sinfield adds the extras - his 2000th point in a Leeds shirt - and the Rhinos are bang in the driving seat again. St Helens 16-24 Leeds

59 mins: TRY St Helens 16-18 Leeds
And the pendulum swings once again! Saints' fine spell of possession is rewarded as Ade Gardner climbs into James Roby's pass on the touchline and there is not a Leeds defender in sight as the winger crosses for his 31st try of the season. Sean Long misses the conversion, though, and Leeds keep their noses in front.

58 mins: Danny Maguire goes in high on Paul Wellens and the Saints will launch another set of six from inside the Leeds half.

56 mins: Close! St Helens pile forward again in search of an all-important reply but James Graham is brilliantly held up on the line by four or five Leeds defenders on the sixth tackle and once again the Saints are frustrated.

54 mins: Tremendous break from Nick Fozzard and the prop looks certain to cross the try-line, only for Leeds' defence to hold up brilliantly once more. Rob Burrow then pushes the Saints all the way back to their goal-line with a superb kick and this is a fabulous Rhinos display so far.

"The kicking games have been excellent - from Leeds in particular. No quarter being asked or given in very tricky conditions."
BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Old Trafford

52 mins: Great defence from Ali Lauitiiti as Sean Long's half-break is stopped in uncompromising fashion five yards out. Lee Smith then carries out behind the goal-line to thwart a Leon Pryce kick and the full-back is having an absolute stormer.

49 mins: TRY St Helens 12-16 Leeds
That's simply stunning work from the Rhinos, Kevin Sinfield collecting on the fourth pass, feigning a pass out wide, and then slipping a delicious kick behind the Saints defence which allows Danny Maguire to slide home. A replay suggests Maguire MIGHT have been in an offside position at the time of the kick, but the video ref is not consulted and Sinfield converts with ease. St Helens 12-18 Leeds

48 mins: Sensational kick from Lee Smith on the fifth tackle and it goes into touch 20 yards from the Saints line. A look at the kick from the video ref and it's a 40-20! Leeds will launch a huge attack here, surely...

46 mins: Leeds look to hit back and they go through five tackles before launching the high one into the corner - but Francis Meli collects well again and the Rhinos' attack is thwarted by a rejuvenated Saints side.

43 mins: TRY St Helens 10-12 Leeds
Well, I'd say that was just about the response Daniel Anderson demanded at half-time?! Sean Long sends a high one into the corner on the sixth tackle, the ball is padded back by Ade Gardner and Matt Gidley collects and powers over the line. Sean Long's kick from the right touchline is successful and we're back level again. St Helens 12-12 Leeds

42 mins: With Kieron Cunningham bouncing along the touchline - how long before he is introduced by St Helens boss Daniel Anderson? - the Saints press Leeds' backline as the second half gets off to a chess-like start.

1859: We're back under way... what response have St Helens got for us?

"I dunno what touch judges are paid for these days but there are so many forward passes (both ways) going unpunished it's ridiculous!"
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1850: Contrasting scenes from the two dressing rooms - Daniel Anderson is tearing strips off the St Helens walls as he rips into his players in furious fashion, while a clearly contented Brian McClennan addresses a far more serene Leeds squad. Saints need something to turn around, for sure, and if they aren't inspired by Anderson's rantings they will surely face defeat for the second Final in a row.

"There was a sense at Old Trafford in the last 10 minutes of the half that the momentum was really with Leeds. It was the Rhinos fans making all the noise before Ryan Hall went in at the corner, whilst the St Helens supporters had gone very quiet. But an error-strewn first-half has given us all the ingredients for a superb second 40 minutes."
BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Old Trafford

HALF-TIME: St Helens 6-12 Leeds
Leeds surge forward with half-time closing fast, but Kevin Sinfield - looking for the one point - is closed down brilliantly and the attack is snuffed out. The half time whistle goes and Leon Pryce is left clutching his face after wearing one in the eye from his own player Fa'asavalu on the whistle. What. A. Half.

38 mins: Big error from Nick Scruton as he allows Lee Smith to go offside from the restart. It looks a cracking opportunity for the Saints, but Meli tries to offload unnecessarily on the second tackle and the Rhinos snatch back possession. Saints rattled?

37 mins: TRY St Helens 6-10 Leeds
Superb try from Ryan Hall! The wing latches on to Keith Senior's brilliant flick on the touchline, boots over the last defender, and steams over the line. It goes to the video ref but it is given - despite some suggestion of a knock-on over the try line. Might that prove a controversial decision? Kevin Sinfield converts off the post and Leeds lead. St Helens 6-12 Leeds

35mins: More indiscipline from St Helens and Clough concedes the penalty for offside - Leeds will launch another attack 25 yards out.

34mins: It's St Helens' turn to display some heroic - and desperate at times - defence, and Francis Meli misses a high one to hand Keith Senior what looks a good opening, only for the Saints defence to rally brilliantly and kill the attack on the sixth tackle 10 yards out.

31 mins: Just as Leeds look to press, Willie Talau steals possession and breaks with options out wide - only for Ali Lauitiiti to crunch into a monster tackle to halt the Saints attack. The Rhinos defence is immense right now.

31 mins: Once again - as they have all match - Leeds kick on the fourth tackle and it turns Saints around momentarily. The Saints' attack is then thwarted by an uncharacteristic error from James Roby and this could be a great platform for Leeds.

29mins: Leeds concede a penalty for interference on Meli, and an uber-rare moment of calm follows. The Rhinos are building momentum here, though, and the Saints may have to change things up.

24mins: TRY St Helens 6-4 Leeds
It has been coming and Lee Smith is the try scorer, the wing taking Jamie Jones-Buchanan's beautiful offload 10 yards out and piling over the line. Take a bow BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher (see below)! Kevin Sinfield converts and we're back level. St Helens 6-6 Leeds

"While Saints look capable of scoring at any moment, you get the feeling inside OT that Leeds are really starting to ask questions now."
BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Old Trafford

"I'd like to see more dummy-half running from Leeds because Saints look a bit disorganised."
Justin Morgan on 5 Live sports extra

22 mins: Tremendous break from Rhinos wing Lee Smith from inside his own half and Nick Fozzard concedes the penalty 30 yards out. Keith Senior makes a half break yards from the line but St Helens diffuse the attack well and the chance comes and goes as Meli again takes one well from out of the sky.

19mins: Leeds are starting to probe Francis Meli under the high ball, but the wing copes admirably on two occasions to repel Leeds attacks.

17mins: Scott Donald takes a cracking catch under a high one and another promising Saints attack is repelled.

16mins: Ouch! Jamie Jones-Buchanan's face practically explodes on the knee of team-mate Danny Maguire and there's so much claret he looks like an extra from an old war movie. No worries, though, as he bounces up, puts on some head bandage, and rocks into a huge challenge on Wilkin first up. This aint a game for softies people.

15mins: Another brilliant break from Lee Gilmour - the Rhinos just can't cope with his movement and power right now - and it sets Saints on their way for another flowing attack. The ball is worked outside well but Matt Gidley is forced into touch two yards from the line, with another try begging. Cracking defence from Donald.

13mins: Ade Gardner has to defend under a huge up-and-under, but all he can do is spill the ball out of touch two yards out under pressure from Leeds wing Scott Donald. Once again the Rhinos fail to make the most of their good position as Kevin Sinfield obstructs from the scrum and it's penalty Saints.

11mins: Matt Gidley fails to roll away from the tackle on Rob Burrows and that's a Leeds penalty. The Rhinos kick for touch and they will launch another set of six from 35 yards out.

"Long - sublime one minute, sloppy the next. Leeds have to make the most of errors like that."
BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Old Trafford

9 min: Huge tackle from Willie Talau! Gareth Ellis is bruised by a thumping challenge and spills the ball to hand possession back to the Saints.

8 mins: A knock-on from Sean Long on the 20-yard line gifts possession to Leeds... can they make the most of this set of six?

6 mins: TRY St Helens 4-0 Leeds
Unbelievable! All Leeds's good early work is undone as Lee Gilmour breaks two tackles to stride through the centre, the second rower exchanging passes with Paul Wellens before setting up Man of Steel James Graham five yards out and the prop makes no mistake. Sean Long converts easily from in from. St Helens 6-0 Leeds

5 mins: It's all about territory for Leeds so far, the Rhinos making an impressive start and kicking each time on the fourth tackle.

4 min: Another huge Leeds kick on the fourth tackle pushes Saints back and Ade Gardner is felled on the first tackle 10 yards from his own try line. Leeds look bang up for this, but Paul Wellens retrieves his own kick after it is charged down to restart to the six.

2 mins: Great kick and chase from Leeds on the fourth tackle and immediately the Rhinos forwards are right in the Saints' faces, James Graham wearing a meaty one from Rob Burrow.

1 min: St Helens kick off...

1759: Out come the teams and the noise from what looks a pretty darn packed Old Trafford is pretty incredible. We're moments away...

1756: Welsh songstress Katherine Jenkins (dribble) is doing her thang out on the Old Trafford pitch as the players approach the tunnel. All 26 starters look the picture of focus and determination - but their insides are doing a Riverdance I reckon, no doubt about it.

"A lot of people are of the belief the rain is going to help Leeds, but I think it's going to help St Helens. They've got a more powerful forward pack."
Hull KR coach Justin Morgan on BBC 5 Live sports extra

"Disaster! The wife insists I accompany her out at 1900 BST so I'll miss the second half. Any suggestions?"
sirkeithmumby on 606
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Mate, follow it right here on this commentary on your mobile or PDA. Failing that, it's all about D-I-V-O-R-C-E son.

1751: Right, with the teams about to make their way out onto the pitch, there's just about time for my prediction - as if it counts for anything other than a wasted bet. I'm going with Saints - on an unbeaten run of 23 matches, lest we forget - to win by six, with Matt Gidley my tip for the Harry Sunderland Trophy. But, let's be honest, the fact I'm tipping St Helens should lift the spirits of anyone following the Rhinos today, especially in the rain...

"The pre-match entertainment is almost over, with all of the participants soaked to the skin. Old Trafford has filled considerably and the two teams have completed their warm-up routines. Leeds skipper Jamie Peacock looked extraordinarily focused."
BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Old Trafford

1743: A straw poll of the hospitality suites suggest Saints fan and comedian Johnny Vegas is backing his own team - shock - while England cricketer and Bradford supporter Ryan Sidebottom is tipping Leeds Rhinos. Either way, the dancing juice has clearly been flowing and spirits are high. Not a bad way to enjoy the match I suppose.

1740: "I know they are red-hot favourites, but this game has the recipe for being one of the great games. In my mind, I don't believe in favourites - that's for the punters and bookies. It is 50-50. One thing I know for certain is when the two teams run on the field and everyone looks at the scoreboard, both teams will have a zero underneath their name. We have trained well and prepared well this week. We are quietly confident we can perform well on the night."
Leeds boss Brian McClennan

"I've got 10 on the first score being a St Helens drop goal... Come on Sean, don't let me down!!"
CherryPie on 606
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1735: "I don't feel any sentiment - I don't want to buy into that. I've had a couple of send-offs in the town and I've enjoyed the last week of training. But I'm certainly not shedding any tears. There's business to be done. We're all very professional and very honest at St Helens and I'm sure it will stay that way until the end of the game. It's been a tremendously successful season so far but the icing is Saturday."
St Helens coach Daniel Anderson

"I arrived at the ground nice and early, such was my excitement, and I was not surprised to see the supporters milling around from as early as 1500 BST. I think it's fair to say that more than a few of them have been getting stuck into a long day out on the sauce and the banter in and outside the stadium is rocking between the fans. Not ideal weather for boy band Scouting for Girls to bust some moves to, though... And there are still plenty of empty seats too."
BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Old Trafford

1728: So, Lee Smith comes in to cover for Brent Webb at full back for Leeds, with Ryan Hall out on the wing. The surprise, though, is that there is no place in the St Helens side for prop Jason Cayless despite his recovery from a knee injury. What do we make of that?
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"Bonjour Sam, we have flown in from Liverpool airport for the game and the atmosphere is building like a Dubai building site! Pryce and Graham will be huge for Saints tonight and I predict Saints to win by at least 12, at least 500,000 pints to be drunk and, yes, I will be scouting for girls. COME ON YOU SAINTS!"
Luke inside OT via text

1723: The teams are in people...

St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Gidley, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, Graham, Cunningham, Hargreaves, Gilmour, Wilkin, Flannery.
Replacements: Roby, Fozzard, Clough, Fa'asavalu.

Leeds: Smith, Hall, Ablett, Senior, Donald, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Diskin, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ellis, Sinfield.
Replacements: Lauitiiti, Bailey, Scruton, Kirke.

Referee: A Klein (Great Britain)

"I think the Rhinos will desperately miss Webb, but if their forwards can match Saints', they should be ok!!"
cherrywarrior on 606

"I hope my ambitious bet on Jamie Jones-Buchanan as MOM is money well spent. He has to have a massive game to get in the England Team, anyone agree?"
rhinos88 on 606
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"What's the atmosphere like down there at the min then mate? Is the ground filling up?"
rlref08 on 606

It's filling up nicely apparently mate, though our man at the ground Fletch is still not sure whether OT will hit capacity. There are some tickets still available at the gates, we believe. Still, the crowd are lapping up a bit of good ol' fashioned pop music blaring out of the stadium speakers - rest assured, the place will be jumping come 1800 BST.

1717: "A strong wind is swirling around Old Trafford and, predictably, persistent rain to say the least as well. Veteran commentator Ray French reckons this could have a big impact on the result but, nonetheless, most people are tipping Saints to win."
BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Old Trafford

"You think you are worried greenwichlufc... I have the Sky engineer working on my box now so I may not even get to see the game... Very nervous!"
Paula, Kent via text

1711: Let's get this out of the way early - the trophy's St Helens's for the taking isn't it? It's Daniel Anderson's last match as Saints coach, the Rhinos went down by 28 points to the same opposition just a fortnight ago, Jason Cayless has been passed fit for a Saints side aiming for a second title in three seasons and Leeds have been rocked by the loss of the influential full-back Brett Webb. Right?

That said, wasn't it a similar story last year? And we all know what happened then, don't we...

1705: Oh - and don't forget, I want your biggest and bravest chat on 606 or via text on 81111. Make it good and I'll make you famous. Where will the game be won and lost? Who will be the key players? Just how many pints of the good stuff will the fans at Old Trafford get through this evening? And just how will the crowd cope with being whipped into a frenzy by the likes of Scouting for Girls and Katherine Jenkins? All massive, MASSIVE questions...
Join the debate on 606

"I'm not sure I can watch. I have a bad feeling. I might just go for a two-hour walk with my phone turned off!"
greenwichlufc on 606
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1700: It simply doesn't get any bigger or better than this does it?

The long domestic season is over, the heartache and the romance of the play-offs have been played out and the talking is finally about to stop. Welcome, ladies and gents, to the Super League Grand Final.

Just league leaders St Helens and defending champions Leeds Rhinos remain - and with Old Trafford sure to be packed to the rafters, we are looking at what promises to be a classic. Are you ready?

see also
St Helens 16-24 Leeds Rhinos
04 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Super League Grand Final photos
04 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Jon Wilkin column
02 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Pryce confident of beating Leeds
04 Oct 08 |  St Helens
Cunningham extends St Helens deal
02 Oct 08 |  St Helens
Perelini set for St Helens exit
29 Sep 08 |  St Helens
Leeds 18-14 Wigan
26 Sep 08 |  Rugby League
St Helens 38-10 Leeds
19 Sep 08 |  Rugby League
Leeds stunned after play-off loss
19 Sep 08 |  Rugby League
Gardner aims for perfect finish
17 Sep 08 |  St Helens

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