Ryan's Rugby League section. Contact Ryan if you have any news or info.
Leeds claimed their unlikeliest Super League crown following a thrilling victory over Saint Helens at Old Trafford yesterday.
A few short weeks ago, a place in the top eight was in doubt, let alone any thoughts of a run to the grand final.
A narrow defeat by Wigan in Challenge cup final seemed to galvanise the Leeds team into life for the season run in. To that point, Leeds had failed to beat any of the top 4 and had suffered an embarrassing loss at home to the woeful Bulls and an even more embarrassing double loss to the Harlequins.
The rugby league were justified in not including any Leeds players in their super league dream team and even the most optimistic of Leeds supporter could have only expected a win or 2 in the playoffs.
However, the performances that came in the run in represented a come back as unlikely as Rocky Bilboa's against Apollo Creed in Rocky II.
The playoffs started with a comfortable 42-10 victory over a poor Hull team who themselves had under performed to scrape into the top 8. A stiffer test lay ahead in their visit to Huddersfield but Leeds showed that they meant business from the start. A couple of late tries flattered Huddersfield to the final scoreline of 28-34.
Then came the biggest of challenges with a visit to league leaders, the Wire, in unseasonably hot weather for a place in the final.
Warrington were massive favourites and it was clear that Leeds would need to pull something remarkable out of the hat to overturn a team that had twice walloped them in the regular season. And, in one the best playoff matches of all-time, they did just that. Leeds weathered a first half storm, not helped by relentless decisions in favour of the home team from referee Mr Ganson, and found themselves only 12-6 behind at half time.
Down 18-12 well into the second half, a victory for Leeds seemed well against the odds before Rob Burrow cut the wire apart to feed Danny McGuire, who then slipped a ball to Ryan Hall to go in at the corner. 2 minutes later and it was Brent Webb darting through the defence to feed Burrow and Leeds were suddenly in front. Warrington hit back to level before the first marginal decision of the night for Leeds (Richie Myler given offside by the linesman) gave Kevin Sinfield the opportunity to kick the goal and grab the win. Final score, Warrington 24 – 26 Leeds and the improbable trip to Old Trafford had become a reality.
It is good to see Warrington doing well and getting decent crowds. While it would have been great for the game to have a new team competing in the grand final, teams must get through the playoff system nowadays. Warrington staff and fans should not have been complaining about this process as, firstly, they were beaten by the better team on the day and, secondly, they have had plenty of opportunities to make an impact from lower down the pecking order. They once famously signed Aussie legend Andrew Johns just for the playoffs. Until this season they have never really threatened to reach the final.
So, it was off to Old Trafford for 3rd (St Helens) versus 5th (Leeds) and a battle for the right to be called 2011 champions.
Typical Manchester drizzle greeted the near 70,000 fans.
As the Leeds coach arrived it was interesting to hear the cheers for Brian McDermott, a man most folk would have gladly seen the back of a couple of months ago.
Nobody was bothered at the curtain raising no show by rock band Feeder as the crowd were about to witness the most riveting of the 4 recent finals between these clubs. With little between the 2 teams for the first 30 minutes, it took the introduction of little Rob Burrow to separate the teams. He ducked under a couple of flailing Saints arms and then sublimely stepped around Paul Wellens to dash over for one of the great individual grand final tries. Leeds led 8 – 2 at half time and it looked very positive.
Leeds were under a lot of early second half pressure though after a couple of basic errors. Saints spent much time on the Leeds line and eventually got their reward with a dubious decision from video ref Ben Thaler, awarding a scrappy try to Mackinson when there appear to be a little knock on.
The tide had turned, a Shenton try and a couple of penalties followed and Leeds were suddenly 8 points down with less than 20 minutes left.
However, a Brent Webb score followed by a Sinfield penalty saw Leeds level going into the last 10 minutes before Rob Burrow came to the fore again, waltzing through the Saints defensive line to put Ryan Hall in the corner. Leeds were in front and the party was back on.
Late tries by Carl Ablett and the promising Zak Hardaker put extra gloss on the victory, with Leeds running out 32-16 winners.
It's hard not to have some sympathy for the Saints fans. They turned out in force to see their team loose in the final for a 5th straight season. However, they had won their previous 4 appearances at the grand final so in the greater scheme of things, a record of 4 wins and 5 losses isn't that bad.
So, did Leeds deserve to be champions this season? Probably not.
Did they deserve to win every match in the playoffs? Unquestionably YES.
Highlight: Local lad Ryan Hall touching down in the corner following a scintillating break from Rob Burrow. The score took Leeds in front with not long left only a few minutes after thing had looked bleak.
Low light: A small group of idiots from Hull had come along with the intention of sitting amongst the Leeds fans and causing friction. During the second half, they started fighting in lumps.
Most Super League Championships: Leeds (5)
Caption of Most Grand Finals: Kevin Sinfield (6, 5 wins)
Most Grand Final Wins: Jamie Peacock (7, 4 at Leeds, 3 at Bradford)
Most Grand Final Man of the Matches: Rob Burrow (2)
Final Score: Saints 16 – 32 Leeds
Ref: Phil Bentham
Hunslet Hawks this week announced that Head Coach Paul March is to leave the club with former Crusaders assistant coach Barry Eaton taking over the vacant position at the South Leeds Stadium.
The Hawks reported on their official website that 'The decision not to renew Paul’s contract has not been taken lightly, but given the clubs current financial position and the new direction we want to move Hunslet Hawks forward in the local community the clubs board feel that it is in both our own and Paul’s best interests for us to part company at this time'.
March had done a sterling job, in just 2 and a half years he had guided the Hawks to the play-offs in 2009, won the Championship 1 title in 2010 and retained Championship status in 2011.
Barry Eaton, who takes over from March has excited Hawks officials as a new era dawns in South Leeds. As per the Hawks official website, Hunslet Director of Rugby Darren Williams said “I am delighted to be able to welcome Barry to the South Leeds Stadium. For Hunslet to be able to attract such a highly respected coach on a two year full-time contract speaks volumes for the club. Now that the club's ownership will soon be in the hands of the supporters trust it was vital that we had a full time coach working right at the heart of the community on a day to day basis"
Barry Eaton said “I am delighted to be joining Hunslet Hawks as Head Coach and I am grateful for everyone involved in making it happen. I am looking forward to helping the club build and putting structures in place that will enable Hunslet Hawks to continue to prosper both on and off the field".
A few eyebrows were raised this week at the absence of any Leeds RL player from the super league dream team for 2011.
Whilst this is perhaps a little harsh on Leeds players, it does reflect a total fall from grace from being 4 times champions (2004, 2007-2009) to also-rans (5th in 2011).
It is disappointing that there's no place for local lad, Ryan Hall, in the elite 13. He has continued to be strong, powerful and pacey this season and has been one of the few figures of consistency in an inconsistent side.
Carl Ablett (who heralds from Middleton Juniors) arguably also deserves a spot. Underrated for many years, Ablett probably fell foul of a move from the second row to the centres mid season – the dream team is compiled by a monthly vote for each position. Surely Ablett is now a must for the England team.
Hats off to Steve Menzies from Catalan Dragons for getting a place aged 38. This though raises worries for the state of the game if someone a little younger can't be found for our best 13.
So, following such a drab season, do Leeds have any hope at all going into the playoffs?
To put a positive spin on it, Leeds should have enough to topple Hull which would then probably set up a tie with Huddersfield who Leeds have just beaten. A win would then leave Leeds just a match from the Grand Final, possibly against Warrington. Warrington could be there for the taking; they only gained top spot because of Wigan's Wembley hangover. So that could well leave a Leeds-Wigan final and Leeds should have beaten Wigan on all 3 occasions that the teams have met this season.
Is this realistic? No chance.
Playoff Prediction: Leeds will have too much for Hull before another wobble allows Huddersfield to gain their revenge.
Watch this space...
Hunslet Hawks are set to become a club owned and run by its own supporters after the clubs chairmen Grahame Liles gifted his shares to the Hunslet Trust and thus making the supporters group the majority share holder in the club.
The Trust's secretary Simon Hunt and Chairman Neil Hampshire outlined that talks had been ongoing for some time with the relevant stakeholders and also consolation with the RFL.
After a supporters trust meeting at the clubs Phoenix Bar, the trust voted unanimously to accept the offer.
HIST is now working alongside Grahame Liles until 1st December when the Trust will officially take over the club. An AGM & Board election are likely to be held in January.
Updates on how the takeover is progressing will be posted on www.hunslettrust.co.uk and via Facebook (www.facebook.com/hunslettrust) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/HunsletTrust).
To read the clubs official press release, please click here
Leeds Rhinos today announced that the South Stand at Headingley will not be redeveloped as previously planned.
Chairman Paul Caddick and Chief Executive Gary Hetherington attempted to gloss over the bad news.
Caddick said “We have worked hard with cooperation from Leeds City Council to achieve planning permission but after reviewing our business, the cost of borrowing and repaying the debt and the risk to the club involved, the board have decided to look for a funding model in line with all other super league clubs… With this in mind we have met with Yorkshire CCC and Leeds City Council and have agreed to form a working group to explore how the final phases of development for rugby and cricket at Headingley Carnegie can be funded and delivered in the future.”
Hetherington: “It was an excellent meeting, attended also by Robin Smith of Yorkshire CCC. We confirmed that Headingley Carnegie will stage a full programme of International Cricket fixtures and we are bidding to host matches in both the 2013 RL and 2015 RU World Cups.”
This could be acceptable for now if the club were making statements about the money saved being pumped into the playing side (a finish outside the top 4 for Leeds is simply not acceptable) but this doesn't seem to be the case.
With there being minimal likelihood of receiving any sort of funding from the council at the moment and Yorkshire Cricket being broke it is easy to question the value of this working group?
Many folk love the South Stand at Headingley but it is fast becoming a relic. It is hard to find a viewpoint that isn't obstructed by a pillar and the club now face the continued embarrassment of the front 2 corners of the stand remaining closed for safety reasons.
Thank goodness for the derelict state of our near neighbours stadiums (Wakefield, Castleford and Bradford). With most other clubs now in modern surroundings, these are saving Leeds from being the laughing stock of Rugby League.
If Wakey and Cas can deliver the improbable and be in new stadiums in a few years time (Wakey's will be very close to us here in LS26) then there will only be Bradford and Hull KR with arguably worse premises.
Round here, Oulton Raiders is the local rugby club. Current Leeds Rhino and England international, Ryan Hall comes from their ranks.
Check out their website: http://www.oultonraiders.com (it’s decent enough a bit out of date mind).