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Page last updated at 21:37 GMT, Saturday, 4 October 2008 22:37 UK
2008 Grand Final
Old Trafford, Manchester

Leeds players, left, celebrate as St Helens look on at Old Trafford
Leeds players, left, celebrate as St Helens look on at Old Trafford

By Jon Wilkin
St Helens and England forward

It is difficult to find the words to express what it feels like to lose a Grand Final but needless to say I am gutted and disappointed.

I remain proud of what we have achieved this year - winning the Challenge Cup and the League Leaders Shield - but we just did not put it together in the final.

You have to give credit to Leeds. I thought our defence was good but the Rhinos were superbly opportunistic. They might not have broken us down defensively all that often but they reacted to situations, making the most of a few ricochets and openings, and putting in some brilliant kicks.

Leon Pryce and Nick Fozzard, right, tackle Rob Burrow
The Grand Final defeat was the last match for St Helens for Fozzard (right)

Having said that, we did not perform anything like we can. We played well for the first 10 minutes but then we were awful for the rest of the half.

We were sloppy in possession, we slipped off tackles, we did not muscle up in the forwards and we conceded needless penalties.

The problem when you play Leeds is that they are a huge 'confidence' side. If you get on top of them, they will cower and go away, but when they get in front their chests puff out and they start "whooping" as they make tackles.

It is tough to beat them when they are in that mood.

It might have been different had we taken the chances we had to gain momentum, but at crucial moments we were either penalised or came up with an error. We came up with dumb plays at the wrong time, and that is where the game was won and lost.

As a consequence, Leeds had the lion's share of possession in the opening half and we had to do a lot of defending, which really took a lot of juice out of us.

Trying to chase a game when you don't feel fresh is very difficult. The wet and blustery conditions did not help - and it is inevitable that a team will make errors when the weather is poor - but that cannot be used as an excuse. It was the same for both teams.

Saints have now lost consecutive Grand Finals to Leeds. People will draw all kinds of conclusions and will doubtless make a big thing of it if we reach another Grand Final against the Rhinos.

The only similarity between this year and last is that Leeds played well in the rain and beat us both times.

Saturday's game was the final one in charge for coach Daniel Anderson. A few others, such as conditioner Apollo Perelini and forward Nick Fozzard, are leaving, too.

As a consequence, the final was deemed to be the end of an era for Saints. But the end of every season is the end of an era to some extent or other. Every year people leave and new faces emerge.

As a player you don't realise until the season finishes just how much pressure you are under. Even when you are not playing or training you are under pressure

It is not necessarily your big guns that win you the major honours either, but the players who have come through the ranks, to strengthen and compliment the nucleus of the squad.

They can make or break your season and we will be looking for our young players to step up next season.

As for the next few days, I will spend some time with my family and enjoy a few days without any pressure at all.

As a player, you don't realise until the season finishes just how much pressure you are under. Even when you are not playing or training you are under pressure.

People come up and say you must win this game or you need to play well in such and such a fixture. They might be doing it tongue in cheek but pressure really builds, it is cumulative.

There will be a lot of talk about Daniel Anderson dishing out a rollicking to us at the break.

To be honest, I think it is a complete and total joke that television cameras are allowed in the changing room.

Daniel's words and actions at half-time are for us, the players, not for public consumption. It is a privilege to be in the changing room and you should really have to earn the right.

It is a farce that the Rugby Football League sell out to television and allow a camera to be in the dressing room. What goes on in there has nothing to do with anybody except the players and staff.

I'd better watch what I say. I'm not happy about it at all.

Jon Wilkin was talking to BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher.

see also
St Helens 16-24 Leeds Rhinos
04 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Sinfield praises Leeds 'warriors'
04 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Anderson rues poor Saints display
04 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Grand Final as it happened
04 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Super League Grand Final photos
04 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Jon Wilkin column
02 Oct 08 |  Rugby League

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