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St Helens 10-18 Leeds Rhinos

St Helens (8) 10
Tries: Eastmond Goals: Eastmond 2
Leeds (8) 18
Tries: Diskin, Smith (2) Goal: Sinfield Drop-goal: Sinfield, Burrow

Leeds celebrate their third straight Grand Final win
Leeds celebrate their third straight Grand Final win

By Paul Fletcher
BBC Sport at Old Trafford

Lee Smith scored two tries on his final appearance for Leeds as the Rhinos won a captivating and engrossing match to complete a hat-trick of Grand Final victories over St Helens.

Leeds led 11-10 when Smith scored the decisive try in the 72nd minute of a match that was short on clean breaks but rich in entertainment.

The result was harsh on St Helens - and ensured there was no fairytale farewell for Sean Long and Lee Gilmour in their final appearances for the club.

But the golden era for Leeds continues as they celebrate an unprecedented run of success in Super League, while coach Brian McClennan can now boast back-to-back Grand Final victories in his two years at the club.

PAUL FLETCHER'S BLOG

Saints teenager Kyle Eastmond, who bagged all his side's points, opened the scoring with a try that he converted and then extended the advantage with a penalty.

Scores from Matt Diskin and Smith ensured the scores were level at the break before Kevin Sinfield edged Leeds ahead with a drop-goal minutes after the restart.

The match seesawed one way and the other before Smith's try settled it.

But it was a controversial call, the player appearing to come from an offside position as he latched on to Danny McGuire's kick to score.

Man-of-the-match Sinfield converted to put Leeds 17-10 in front before a late drop-goal from Rob Burrow settled matters.

Leeds had been marginal favourites going into the match but Saints suggested they were capable of pulling off a victory when the gifted Eastmond, playing in the centres, opened the scoring after 13 minutes when he collected a Jon Wilkin kick that took a slight deflection off Sinfield.

Eastmond celebrates his early try
Eastmond celebrates his early try

The 19-year-old snatched the ball from the grasp of Scott Donald and ran unopposed to the line before cutting inside and crossing under the sticks.

After the video referee had signalled he was happy with the score, Eastmond added the straightforward conversion.

Saints appeared to have the match under control at that stage, with the half-back combination of Burrow and McGuire largely peripheral figures for Leeds.

Mick Potter's men made consistent yards down the middle before turning the Rhinos with their probing kicking game.

However, a precise cross-field kick from Burrow after 20 minutes almost resulted in a score for Leeds, Francis Meli managing to thwart the danger by gathering the ball at the second attempt.

With the Rhinos finally starting to enjoy some field position, Jamie Jones-Buchanan almost burst through but the second rower was held up just short of the line.

After Eastmond extended the lead with a penalty, an opportunistic run from dummy half by Leeds hooker Diskin saw him bundle over for a try despite the presence of several opposition players.

Leeds then scored a second try when Meli - a player the Rhinos targeted throughout - failed to flick a McGuire grubber kick into touch.

It was a poor attempt and duly punished when Smith touched down the ball as it dribbled towards the deadball line.

With Sinfield failing to convert either of his side's four-pointers, the scores were intriguingly tied 8-8 at the break.

At the very start of the second half, Saints came up with another error, Ade Gardner's mistake allowing the kick-off to bounce into touch.

Moments later, Sinfield kicked a drop-goal that edged his team in front for the first time.

Leeds skipper Kevin Sinfield congratulates tryscorer Lee Smith
Leeds skipper Kevin Sinfield congratulates tryscorer Lee Smith

The momentum seemed to be with the energised Rhinos, but a rare break from Matt Gidley almost resulted in a try for St Helens, Gardner bundled into touch as he closed in on the line.

An even phase of play followed until Eastmond nudged Saints back in front just short of the hour mark with a penalty after Burrow - the smallest player in Super League - was penalised for a high tackle on Long.

The lead switched again when Kieron Cunningham was penalised for interference in front of the Saints posts and Sinfield made no mistake to puts the Rhinos 11-10 in front.

Eastmond then went close in the corner, a wonderful tackle from Sinfield denying him a second try of the night.

But Smith, who now moves to rugby union side Wasps, did make it two when he slid over with eight minutes remaining.

The match threatened to boil over with a couple of late scuffles but Leeds kept their cool and closed out the match to seal a famous win.


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

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

Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).



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see also
Smith delighted by dream send-off
10 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
Grand Final as it happened
10 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
Super League Grand Final photo gallery
10 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
Saints need to believe
09 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
Long to steer Saints to victory
09 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
Long clarifies betting comments
08 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
Peacock demands emotional control
08 Oct 09 |  Leeds
Gidley hopes for third time lucky
07 Oct 09 |  St Helens
Defence key in final - Flannery
06 Oct 09 |  St Helens
Leeds 27-20 Catalans
02 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
St Helens 14-10 Wigan
03 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
Rugby league commentaries
03 Apr 10 |  Rugby League
Road to Old Trafford
25 Sep 09 |  Rugby League
The Jon Wilkin interview
30 Sep 09 |  Rugby League


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