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So for the third time, Kevin Sinfield lifts the Grand Final trophy at Old Trafford. On that note, it's goodnight from me. Thanks for tuning in, we'll be back for the Four Nations tournament in a few weeks time.
So it's no champagne baths for Sean Long, whose final game for Saints ends in defeat. "It's not a fairytale ending, I'm a bit gutted really," says the 33-year-old. He could also do a good job playing bass guitar for the Levellers with that barnet should he decide life in Leeds isn't fir him.
Two seasons and two Grand Finals for Brian McClennan. However, would the match have finished the same way had video referee Phil Bentham not awarded Lee Smith's second try in the final 10 minutes? Hull KR Justin Morgan was absolutely incredulous on 5 live sports extra when he discovered the try had been given.
FULL-TIME: LEEDS 18-10 ST HELENS 80 minutes:
More handbags, this time from Ryan Bailey and James Graham, but Kevin Sinfield, named the Harry Sunderland man of the match, boots the ball to touch and Leeds have created history - the first team to win three successive Grand Finals. Take a bow boys.
78 minutes: DROP-GOAL Leeds 18-10 St Helens
That's it, it's all over - Rob Burrow
extends the lead to eight points with a pinpoint drop-goal in front of the sticks. The blue half of Old Trafford begin their celebrations as the Saints players begin to lose their nerve.
Saints desperately spread the ball wide in an effort to steam into Leeds territory, but the minutes are ticking down for the Knowsley Road outfit, who could go trophyless for the first time in a season since 2003. Brian McClennan, or "Bluey" as he's known, skips down pitchside to bark orders.
73 minutes: TRY Leeds 17-10 St Helens
A lovely, cheeky left-foot grubber from Danny McGuire deflects off Jon Wilkin and into the path of Lee Smith
, who saunters over and touches the ball down under the posts. However, referee Steve Ganson goes to video referee Phil Bentham to check whether Smith was onside when the kick was made. It's marginal - very marginal - but the try is awarded - and the Leeds fans go ballistic. The Saints fans can't believe it. Looking at the replay, I can see why. Very controversial. No matter, the score stands and Kevin Sinfield adds the two points in front of the posts. Looks like game over from here.
Oh my giddy aunt - Francis Meli has spilled the ball on the first tackle after Paul Wellens slips gathering the ball inside his in-goal area following a long kick. Zero tackle is signalled by referee Steve Ganson and Leeds are camped deep inside the Saints 10m line.
A stray pass from Sean Long deflates Saints' momentum inside the 20m line, but Francis Meli farms the ball out to Kyle Eastmond on the loop and the fleet-footed centre has the ball down - but was he brought down before Kevin Sinfield bundles him out of touch? Referee Ganson goes to the video referee, who confirms Eastmond was in touch before putting downward pressure on the ball. Unbelievable. Love it.
More handling errors, this time from Luke Burgess, hands Saints possession 30m out from Leeds' tryline.
64 minutes: PENALTY Leeds 11-10 St Helens
Huge call from referee Ganson, who awards Leeds a penalty as Kylie Leuluai has the ball knocked out of his hands as he attempts to play the ball a metre out from the tryline. Up steps Kevin Sinfield
to land the two points and edge the Yorkshiremen in front. Again.
What a clanger from Matt Gidley! The Aussie sends out a dodgy pass from dummy-half inside his own 10m line miles away from Ade Gardner, his intended target. Somewhat harshly, referee Ganson awards a forward pass.
Back to basics from Saints with surging dummy-half bursts from Francis Meli and Paul Wellens, doing the job of their prop forwards.
58 minutes: PENALTY Leeds 9-10 St Helens
A double team clothesline move from Rob Burrow and Kylie Leuluai stops Sean Long dead in his tracks and referee Steve Ganson awards Saints a penalty for a high tackle - quite right too. Up step Kyle Eastmond
for his - and Saints' - 10th point of the match. This game has thriller all over it.
Brent Webb forgets to play the ball, pushing the ball through his legs and Saints are back in possession. A string of passes sees Francis Meli brought down inches from the whitewash, but awesome cover defence from Danny McGuire snuffs out the kicking threat on the fifth tackle.
This is belting - Kevin Sinfield sends through a precise grubber kick for Scott Donald to chase, only for Francis Meli to provide the defensive cover just in front of his tryline. "Blood and thunder stuff", says BBC commentator George Riley.
Leeds' Jamie Jones-Buchanan has claret spilling out of a split lip, but the second row has no intentions of trotting off for treatment as Lee Smith clings on to a Sean Long high ball just in front of his tryline as Saints are penalised for offside, allowing Leeds to clear their lines.
The hits are getting bigger and badder, especially from the bruising runs from James Graham and Jamie Peacock.
A brilliant burst from Matt Gidley down the right, farming a superb overhead pass for Ade Gardner to run for the right-hand corner. The winger is just bundled out of touch as he grounds the ball, but video referee Phil Smith adjudges Brent Webb, coming in from full-back to put Gardner off touching down, of sliding with his knees straight into Gardner's ribs. Is that a penalty try? Not according to the video official, who awards Saints an attacking penalty. Controversial.
41 minutes DROP-GOAL Leeds 9-8 St Helens:
A smart drop-goal from Kevin Sinfield
from about 15m out sails right through the middle of the posts, handing Leeds the lead for the first time in the match. News on Ali Lauitiiti, the big Kiwi is limping badly and looks like he will play no further part in this final.
So after a gruelling, sweat-caked first 40 minutes, we're all set for much of the same as Kevin Sinfield kicks off the second half. Oh dear - a basic handling error from Ade Gardner to hand Leeds head and feed on Saints' 20m line.
HALF-TIME: LEEDS 8-8 ST HELENS 40 mins:
Seriously cheeky from Smith - fresh from a try, the winger chips over the onrushing Saints defence as the hooter sounds, but knocks on attempting to gather his kick, ending an enthralling half. More of the same for the second 40 minutes please.
36 mins: TRY Leeds 8-8 St Helens
Maurie Fa'asavalu and Francis Meli get in each other's way attempting to smother Danny McGuire's cute grubber kick. Prop Fa'asavalu knocks the ball backwards into in-goal area, allowing fleet-footed winger Lee Smith
, playing his game for the Rhinos before crossing codes to join London Wasps, touches down, much to the chagrin of the two Pacific Islanders crumpled in a heap on the floor. From a similar position far out on the right, Kevin Sinfield misses the conversion. Even Steven all the way.
Unsurprisingly for a match played at such high tempo and intensity, mistakes are creeping in with both teams guilty of rudimentary errors.
30 mins: TRY Leeds 4-8 St Helens
Kevin Sinfield is hauled down just a metre from the Saints line on the fifth tackle. Quick thinking from Matt Diskin
sees the hooker muscle over from dummy half with the defence expecting a Rob Burrow kick. Referee Steve Ganson calls for Phil Bentham's input in the video referee's box - and confirms the try is good. But Sinfield misses the two points, his kick rattling off the upright.
26 mins: Pen Leeds 0-8 St Helens
Leeds are penalised for offside from a high kick, Brent Webb is having a few issues dealing with the bombs. Two fingers are signalled from the Saints bench - and Kyle Eastmond
duly obliges with a confident penalty from the right.
A huge cheer erupts from the blue end as Kevin Sinfield drills a perfect 40-20 kick to hand Leeds head and feed on Saints' 20m line. The resulting play-the-ball sees Jamie Jones-Buchanan come within sniffing distance of the whitewash, but is brought down just before the tryline. Ryan Bailey bundles over the tryline - but referee Ganson blows his whistle just before the big unit touches down to signal Sean Long was taken out in the air by Brent Webb in the build up.
Ferocious defence from Saints as Leeds attempt to pummel through the middle inside their 20m line. Rob Burrow hangs a high kick for Scott Donald to contest, but the ball bounces kindly into the grateful mitts of Francis Meli.
Leeds once again opt to kick early as Rob Burrow's long clearance kick forces Paul Wellens to gather inside his 10m line. It looks like an obvious tactic to catch the Saints full-back unawares positionally.
From Justin Morgan on BBC 5 live sports extra:
"The video referee is checking to see if Eastmond's hand knocked the ball into Donald, which would be the same as a knock-on - but it would be a tough call"
14 mins: TRY Leeds 0-6 St Helens
Oh well, it had to happen - Jon Wilkin's grubber kick rebounds off Kevin Sinfield and bobbles favourably for Kyle Eastmond
, playing centre this evening, who snatches the ball ahead of Scott Donald on the left wing to run 20m and touch down the first try of the match. The 20-year-old, very much Sean Long's successor next season, adds the extras.
Sean Long attempts to bisect the Rhinos defence with a left-footed kick with the outside of his boot, but just puts too much gas on the ball and Leeds clear to safety. Despite the excellent handling skills, it's still 0-0.
Brilliant stuff from Saints. Leon Pryce's high finds Matt Gidley, whose incredible overhead pass finds Ade Gardner, whose precise kick to the corner is bundled out of bounds by Brent Webb for a Leeds drop-out.
Jon Wilkin, head bandaged - it seems to be permanently strapped in big matches these days - slices his clearance kick into touch inside his own half, handing Leeds possession in a decent position. However, a handling error from Danny McGuire and the ball is back in Saints hands on their 10m line.
Ryan Hall, Super League's top scorer, earns Leeds a penalty as Tony Puletua gets a little keen in the tackle. The resulting penalty sees Hall lunge the 10m line, but referee Steve Ganson spots a forward pass from Brent Webb in the build-up. Nice play though.
Hull KR coach Justin Morgan on BBC 5 live sports extra on St Helens low scoring in recent matches:
"The remit for the last month of the season is to win games and defence is the corner stone - if you score 10 that's fantastic as long as you keep the others to four or six."
Blistering start as Leeds full-back Brent Webb snags a high, hanging Sean Long kick just under his posts.
Decent set of six from Leeds, who sweep down into Leeds' 10m line courtesy of a fine Rob Burrow kick. But back-to-back penalties for Saints as Leeds are penalised for a high tackle and offside.
Saints - in the form of Paul Wellens - to kick off.
So here we go, first against second, Aussie against Kiwi, Yorkshire against Lancashire, red against blue. Some lovely ladies belt out cricket's unofficial anthem Jerusalem around the Theatre of Dreams before a cacophony of roars as the two teams walk out on to the immaculate carpet-green pitch to the theme tune of Requiem for a Dream. This is bigger than big, this is huge.
Seeing Sean Long in anything other than the red and white of Saints will be very odd next season. Anyone been abreast of his serialised revelations? Unbelievable, especially reading about his "George Best" period. Fletch has been digging into 'Longy: Booze, Brawls, Sex and Scandal - The Autobiography of the Wild Man of Rugby League'. Does what it says on the tin, apparently. But you can't deny the man is a born entertainer - a full house at Old Trafford is just his ideal stage to shine. The Old Trafford faithful were treated to some audio entertainment from Liverpudlian three-piece The Wombats, although the bassist is from Norway. Not sure whether they get The Great Game in the sub-arctic climes of Tromso.
1753: The teams: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)
With the exception of Leeds' Danny Buderus, both teams are at full strength, although Saints hooker
Keiron Cunningham is playing despite a hairline fracture in his hand
. "I don't think anyone will tell Keiron he's not playing in a Grand Final, regardless of the outcome of the scan," said Saints coach Mick Potter. I wouldn't want to tell him he's not playing, that's for sure. Brent Webb
is out on the pitch, which means the New Zealand full-back starts in the number one shirt. Interestingly, Hull KR coach Justin Morgan believes we won't see too many long-range tries because the grass on the Old Trafford pitch is shorter, which means the evening dew under the lights becomes a factor. However, the Aussie is tipping Sean Long to have the game of his life as he bids farewell to 12 years of running defences ragged at Knowlsley Road and inspire
St Helens for victory.
From djdandeman on 606:
"It should be a classic game especially with the added spice from the game a couple of weeks ago."
1741: From BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher in Manchester:
"An overcast afternoon at Old Trafford but no rain, for which I'd imagine Saints must be thankful as they look to rediscover some of their flowing rugby that has been so notably absent of late. Nobody I've spoken to seems willing to predict a winner, while there are plenty of stand-out candidates for the much-coveted Man of the Match award. Will Sean Long clean up on his farewell appearance? I've been reading his recently released autobiography and it would be fair to say that cleaning up hasn't always been a strength of his, if you see what I mean."
Bit of news around the ground concerns the fitness of Leeds full-back Brent Webb, who missed last year's Grand Final because of injury. We'll keep you informed...
If you haven't done so already, I would strongly urge you to read
Paul Fletcher's thoughts about the third successive Saints-Rhinos clash
in Manchester. Fletch is safely embedded in the Old Trafford press room, cup of Bovril steaming next to his laptop, ready to send in pearls of wisdom throughout the match and on
. As a man who loves a bit of needle in his 80 minutes, expect plenty of wisdom from Fletch.
"I think it's now classed as the number one fixture in Super League and it definitely shows with the rivalry." The words of one Keith Senior, three-time Super League Grand Final winner and all-round large bloke, about the Leeds-St Helens rivalry. In the words of Cleo McDowell from 'Coming to America': "I'm so happy I could breakdance."