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Over 68,000 people were at Old Trafford in Manchester on Saturday to see Leeds Rhinos retain their Super League crown, after they defeated St Helens in the Grand Final, English rugby league's equivalent of the Super Bowl. It is the third time in four years they have been crowned English Champions. Prior to 2004, they hadn't won the league since 1972.

The Rhinos will play Australian side Manly Sea Eagles in the World Club Challenge after they beat Melbourne Storm 40-0 in Australia's Grand Final.

BBC Sport

SUPER LEAGUE XIII, GRAND FINAL (At Old Trafford. Attendance: 68,810)

VS

St Helens 16-24 Leeds Rhinos


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

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

Leeds retained their Super League crown and ruined Daniel Anderson's farewell game for St Helens by winning a rain-soaked Grand Final in Manchester.

Saints opened the scoring with a James Graham try but underdogs Leeds led 12-6 at the break thanks to touchdowns from Lee Smith and Ryan Hall.

Matt Gidley went over to draw the sides level at the start of the second half.

But two Danny McGuire tries ensured Ade Gardner's 31st touchdown of the season for Saints was to no avail.

St Helens, who had crushed the Rhinos 38-10 just a fortnight ago, broke the deadlock with a fantastic try inside six minutes - and Sean Long was the architect.

After being pinned back by Leeds in the opening exchanges, they carved through the Rhinos defence when Long set Lee Gilmour free with a well-timed inside pass around the halfway line.

Gilmour then swapped passes with Paul Wellens before offloading to newly-crowned Man of Steel Graham, who, with no-one in front of him just five yards from the line, had the simplest of tasks to score the first try of the night.

Long stepped up to kick the conversion from just to the right of the posts to make it 6-0.

The Rhinos had looked the dominant side up until then and refused to be knocked out of their stride by the setback.

They continued to heap pressure on Saints, forcing them into a number of errors, before eventually drawing level on 24 minutes.

A great offload from the bandaged Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who just a few minutes had blood gushing from a wound high on his forehead after colloding with the knee of a team-mate, found stand-in full-back Smith, who brushed off several tackles to slide over on the left.

Leeds skipper Kevin Sinfield duly tied the scores with a tricky conversion.

Both sides were making handling errors in the wet conditions, but Saints looked uncharacteristically ruffled and disorganised.

It was from a penalty, conceded by Saints for not standing square at the play-the-ball, that Leeds eventually took the lead on 36 minutes.

Sinfield picked out Keith Senior with a long, floated pass, but the centre flicked it on to Hall rather than catch it himself.

Hall still had plenty of work to do to reach the line, but a clever kick took him past Willie Talau and allowed him to touch down by the right-hand corner flag.

Sinfield extended the lead by landing the conversion the ball going over via the left upright.

Leeds deserved their half-time lead, but, after a rollicking by Anderson, Saints began the second half with a bang.



The Rhinos celebrate as the final hooter sounds at Old Trafford


A high kick by Long was patted back by Gardner for Gidley to power his way over, with Long curling home the conversion to tie the scores again.

Leeds were unfazed by the poor start following the interval and went ahead for a second time when Sinfield's deft kick off his weaker left foot split open the Saints defence and allowed McGuire to touch down under the posts.

With Sinfield adding the extras, Leeds once again had a six-point advantage with 50 minutes gone.

That lead was cut to just two points just eight minutes later when Gardner dived over in the right corner after taking James Roby's pass, with Long failing to add the extras.

But it was up to eight points when McGuire darted over for his second try of the night after a high Sinfield kick had caused mayhem in the Saints defence.

Francis Meli failed to collect it cleanly and McGuire shrugged off one tackle before sidestepping another defender to go over under the posts, making the conversion an easy one for Sinfield.

Any chance Saints had over hauling their way back into the game was thwarted by a series of errors and some resolute Leeds defending.

But the Rhinos deserved their win as they became only the second team - after Saints - to successfully defend their Super League title.

Smith walked off with the man-of-the-match award to put himself in the frame for an England call-up ahead of the World Cup.


St Helens are on a 23-match unbeaten run going into the Super League Grand Final while Leeds are looking to defend their title


Welsh diva Katherine Jenkins braves the rain to warm up the Old Trafford crowd before kick-off with a rousing rendition of Jerusalem


The wet conditions make life difficult for the players of both sides

[img]
http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/45079000/jpg/_45079174_gilmourpass300.jpg[/img]
But after a strong start by Leeds, it is St Helens who open the scoring, Lee Gilmour breaking through the Rhinos defence[/img]


Man of Steel James Graham (left) is the tryscorer but Matt Gidley ensures Gilmour is praised for his role in the fantastic score


Leeds draw level on 23 minutes when stand-in full-back Lee Smith dives over after a superb offload by Jamie Jones-Buchanan


Smith, playing at full-back because of an injury to Brent Webb, is mobbed by team-mates Scott Donald (left) and Rob Burrow


James Peacock, as usual, does a lot of the donkey work for Leeds


While Rhinos team-mate Danny McGuire is always a threat


Leeds lead 12-6 at the break but Aussie centre Matt Gidley pulls Saints level at the start of the second half with a well-worked try


The dangerous McGuire then scores the first of his tries, sliding over under the posts despite the best efforts of Sean Long


And it's back-to-back Super League titles for the magnificent Rhinos

Leeds pose for the cameras following their 24-16 win at Old Trafford

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