THE dream is over. Warrington Wolves failed to claim victory in their historic first-ever Grand Final going down 26-18 to Leeds Rhinos in a hard fought battle at Old Trafford.
At 14-14 at half-time, the stage seemed set for a thrilling climax after the interval.
And when Wolves snatched the lead early in the second half, Wolves fans were ecastatic.
Ryan Atkins latched on to a Hodgson pass and beat off two defenders to go over. Hodgson could not convert but Wolves were 18-14 up.
Leeds came back hard and put the Wolves defence under intense pressure.
Eventually, the pressure proved too much and Carl Ablett crashed over Lee Briers to cross the line. Kevin Sinfield converted to put Rhinos 20-18 up.
Rhino continued to dominate and on 71 minutes, Ryan Hall’s try, again converted by Sinfield, put them 26-18 up and on the way to their sixth title in seven years – making them the undisputed play-off kings.
The first half was much more evenly contested.
Warrington got off to a dream start in the fourth minute when Richie Myler shrugged off a defender and went over the line. Brett Hodgson duly converted to put Wolves 6-0 up.
But Leeds forced Warrington onto the back foot for most of the rest of the first half and Leeds equalised after 20 minute through Sinfield who went over in the corner after backing up Carl Ablett. Sinfield then converted his own try to level the scores.
Five minutes later Sinfield converted a penalty to put Rhinos into the lead.
On 28 minutes, a sweeping move sent Ben Jones-Bishop over in the corner and Sinfield stepped up with another conversion to put Leeds 14-6 in the lead.
But then it was Wolves’ turn to hit back. Joel Monaghan crossing over in the corner and Hodgson converted from wide out.
Right on 40 minutes, Wolves were gifted a penalty when Leeds were penalised for not being square at the play-the-ball.
Hodgson made no mistake and the teams went in all square at half time.
Before the match, most this side of the Pennines regarded Wolves as favourites.
But history was on the Rhino’s side. It was to be their fifth win in the last six Grand Finals and their sixth title since the launch of the competition – and much of it was due to Kevin Sinfield, for his five goals and one try, a tally that rightly resulted in him being named man of the match.
After the game Head Coach Tony Smith said he was proud of the team effort.
“It was a good tough game of Rugby League which could have gone either way.
“We had to do too much defending on our try line in the first half and we could have had a little bit better discipline, especially on our try line.
“But I am proud of the guys who put in a tremendous effort.
“Our last plays were may be not quite good enough but we will quickly move on from this and use what we are feeling now as inspiration for next season.
“It has been a great season on all fronts and we are smart learners who will learn from this experience.
“Each year we have got better and better and we are keen to go for all three titles next season. Meanwhile we will handle this defeat with dignity, just as we would have handled a victory with dignity.”
Meanwhile Warrington Prop Paul Wood was taken to hospital after suffering a ruptured testicle after being kneed in the groin!
He suffered the injury in the first minute of the second half – and played on until the 57th minute!
It started so well as Richie Myler crossed in the opening minutes
The Wolves players celebrate Myler’s try.
Stefan Ratchford is tackled
A dejected Lee Briers collects his losers memento
Leeds celebrate another Grand Final success
Smith makes his point with former colleague Jimmy Lowes
For more pictures check out our picture gallery HERE