Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow marked their last game for Leeds in impressive style with a 24-6 win over Castleford to win a record eighth Super League Grand Final.
A poor advert for Super League
This years Grand Final was a poor quality spectacle all round. After a fairly average performance from Razorlight, the Old Trafford Crowd were treated to an error-strewn performance with little attacking merit and a distinct lack of execution to match the ambition shown by both sides. Leeds decided to squeeze Castleford out the game in between the plethora of knock-ons across the pitch, and squeeze they did, to a 24-6 victory against the odds. While it is a massive achievement for the Rhinos’, it made for, without doubt, the worst game of the finals series and a strange end to a somewhat flawed competition – but that’s something for another day.
Magic McGuire claims Harry Sunderland Trophy
Danny McGuire capped off an amazing career at Leeds with another Grand Final win and the second Harry Sunderland Trophy of his career. And no wonder – the man outplayed Luke Gale, one of England’s current playmakers, as well embarrassing the rest of the Castleford team and their management in taking apart their game plan. He controlled the game, kicked perfectly and built pressure so effectively throughout the game in what was a master class for the underdog; outsiders take note.
In the context of things, it was a performance to behold. Don’t get me wrong, there were other players on that pitch too, but McGuire’s kicking game was outstanding, and with two drop goals and two tries to his name at the final whistle it was clear he had put a massive shift in to deservedly win the Harry Sunderland Trophy.
Big game players and big game teams still matter
The 2017 Betfred Super League will forever be remembered as the year Castleford choked. As harsh as that sounds, it’s true, and it’ll be remembered that way for a number of reasons; the exclusion of Hardaker – a well renowned big game player, and Leeds Rhinos’ depth of finals experience. No one will ever fully understand the complexities behind Hardaker’s exclusion in the week leading up to the Grand Final, but it clearly affected Castleford in one way or another.
However, it was hard to know whether it was the actual omission of Zak Hardaker or the hype of which that was present in the build up that felled the Castleford’s infallible composure and confidence. Regardless, it told in the struggle to handle a fairly simple Leeds game plan that they had previously walked over more than once this year. On the other hand, the big game player theory seamlessly manifested itself in the Leeds side through Danny McGuire, who seemingly had full control over the game. Combine that with his teammates who had plenty of finals experience between them and it was clear why Leeds thrived on the occasion.
Performance over potential
There is no doubting that Castleford are the best team in Super League this season after winning the regular season in such emphatic style. The problem for Castleford, however, was their failure to do it on the big stage. Leeds provided the performance on the day that was far superior to anything Castleford were able to muster and as a result stand as Super League Champions.
In doing so, the Leeds Rhinos proved that it really doesn’t matter what potential your side has but the amount of desire and drive to perform when it counts. There’s no doubting that Castleford wanted to win the Grand Final, but much like for me, it seemed as though it was a given that they would do so. It’s clear it doesn’t always pay to finish miles ahead at the mid-point, or even with a quarter of the race to go; it truly is the end that counts.
|Castleford (0) 6|
|Try: Foster Goal: Gale|
|Leeds (7) 24|
|Try: Briscoe 2, McGuire 2 Goal: Watkins 3 Drop-goal: McGuire 2|
Leeds’ Coach Brian McDermott:
“Proud and excited and pumped – I can’t really believe what we’ve just done. I think the fact that we finished second after last year and got though to the Grand Final was great – to win it was a chapter I don’t think anyone thought we would write.
“We’ve sent some legends out on a win today. We did it for Kevin Sinfield, Kylie Leuluai and Jamie Peacock last time and we’ve done it again today. I couldn’t be any more proud.”
Castleford coach Daryl Powell:
“I’m massively disappointed that we couldn’t build any pressure on Leeds at all.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t do ourselves justice. If we’d been able to do that and got beat, you hold your hands up and say ‘fair enough’.
“Leeds didn’t see the best of us. They were pretty good, I thought, and massively deserved the win because we were nowhere near.”
Castleford: Eden; Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Hitchcox; Roberts, Gale; Massey, McShane, Sene-Lefao, Holmes, McMeeken, Milner.
Replacements: Millington, Moors, Cook, Foster.
Leeds: Walker; Briscoe, Watkins, Sutcliffe, Hall; Moon, McGuire; Singleton, Parcell, Garbutt, Jones-Buchanan, Ward, Cuthbertson.
Replacements: Burrow, Ablett, Ferres, Mullally