Danny McGuire marked his final Leeds game with two second-half tries as the Rhinos eased past Castleford to win a record eighth Super League Grand Final.
Captain McGuire was named man of the match at Old Trafford to bring his 15-year Leeds career to a perfect end before his move to Hull KR for 2018.
Tom Briscoe scored Leeds’ other two tries on a wet night as they also said goodbye to the retiring Rob Burrow.
Alex Foster grabbed a late consolation for League Leaders’ Shield winners Cas.
His last-minute score meant the Tigers narrowly avoided becoming the first side not to score a point in a Grand Final.
Too many handling errors in slippery conditions proved costly in their first appearance in Super League’s showpiece, and contributed to them struggling to reproduce the free-flowing rugby that saw them finish 10 points clear of Leeds at the top of the table.
McGuire also kicked two drop-goals as his display earned him the man of the match award in the Grand Final for the second time in three seasons.
He and Burrow, also featuring in his last match for the Rhinos before joining the coaching staff at the club’s academy, are two of only three players to have won the Harry Sunderland Trophy twice in the 20-year history of the Grand Final. The other is their former team-mate Kevin Sinfield.
- Relive Leeds’ Grand Final victory over Castleford
The perfect farewell
In 2015, legendary Leeds trio Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai bowed out in style with a Grand Final win over Wigan.
The Rhinos said farewell to two more legends in similar fashion on Saturday, with McGuire’s contribution key.
Leeds’ resolute defence was typified in one first-half moment when, as Super League’s leading try scorer Greg Eden seemed destined to touch down in the corner, McGuire made a desperate grab for the ball and it slipped from the grasp of the Castleford full-back.
McGuire’s drop-goal in the closing seconds of the first period gave Leeds a seven-point advantage at the interval and he was on the spot to collect the loose ball when Eden lost an aerial challenge with Ryan Hall.
Leeds fans sang McGuire’s name lustily late on, and with good reason. He and Burrow have appeared in all eight of the Rhinos’ Grand Final wins.
Burrow – who scored arguably the best try in Grand Final history in Leeds’ 2011 win over St Helens – came off the bench for the final 15 minutes. As Castleford hopes faded, the pair had the chance to say goodbye in style, combining for McGuire’s second and Leeds’ fourth try of the contest.
Rhinos recover from woeful 2016
If the domestic treble of 2015 was the stuff of dreams for Leeds, then 2016 was their annus horribilis.
The defence of their Super League title was over before the Super 8s split, and it took a decent run of results in the Qualifiers to guarantee their Super League status.
There have been rocky moments along the way to an eighth Grand Final win – a 66-10 thumping by Castleford in March, for one.
But the Rhinos have an uncanny knack of coming good when it matters, and 2017 was no different.
Tigers fail to roar at Old Trafford
This season will go down as one of the greatest in Castleford’s history, despite a painful defeat in the Grand Final.
Their tale in recent years really is one of “rags to riches”. As recently as 2013, they were within 30 minutes of extinction.
Off the field, they have become a stable business. On it, under Daryl Powell, they have steadily grown into a team capable of challenging for major trophies.
Adopting an exciting, expansive style, the Tigers have been the dominant force of Super League in 2017 and finished top of the table for the first time in their 91-year history.
Zak Hardaker’s omission on Thursday because of a “breach of club rules” could be pointed to as a disruption in the build-up, but in truth Castleford were below the standards they have set throughout the campaign.
Leeds Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott told BBC Radio Leeds:
“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.”
Outgoing Leeds Rhinos skipper Danny McGuire told BBC Radio Leeds:
“The lads have been fantastic and deserve a lot of credit. We’ve had tough times this season but we never stopped believing and we’re thrilled to bits.
“We deserved it today – we worked hard for each other and I thought we outplayed a very good Castleford team.
“I’ll miss everything about the club and all the boys. It’s the start of a new chapter for me next year but I’m definitely going to enjoy tonight.”
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.”
On the absence of full-back Zak Hardaker: “It was a big disruption. I still thought we had a team out there that could have won the game if we’d played anywhere near our potential, but if you take a player like him out of any team, it’s going to be a disruption.
“You take your full-back out two days before the game, and you have one session of preparation – it’s clearly not going to help.
“It is what it is. There’s absolutely nothing we can do about that.”
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
Referee: James Child (RFL)
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-league/41536394