PAUL Wood’s testicle will forever be what the 2012 Super League grand final is remembered for in the wider world- but the night really belonged to to Leeds’ Kevin Sinfield
Sinfield scooped the Harry Sunderland trophy in his 78th consecutive appearance as his Rhinos chalked a record-extending sixth Super League title by beating Warrington 26-18 at Old Trafford.
Media outlets the world over which had no cause to even the mention the result soon found cause to report on events in Manchester on Saturday night – when it became public that Wood had played on with a ruptured testicle, calmly took part in post-match interviews, then went to hospital where it was removed.
But back to Sinfield. The Leeds captain scored a try and didn’t miss a shot at goal in a contest of high drama, with Warrington twice leading before winger Ryan Hall romped home with nine minutes to go to seal an end to the season which is becoming tradition.
Sinfield was the last Leeds player to join the dressing room celebrations as he walked in behind his coach, Brian McDermott and the Super League trophy and was authentically softly spoken as he took time to acknowledge the night’s opponents.
“Tonight was about coming here and playing as well as we could. I don’t think it was vintage but it was a tight, close final and Warrington are a great team, a great club and I have so much respect for the players, Tony Smith and Simon Moran and what they’ve built there but thankfully tonight we had enough,” he said.
Sinfield’s exemplary performance, quietly going about his business and leading by example earned him 27 of the 33 votes for the prestigious Harry Sunderland trophy for man of the match but Sinfield wanted to talk about his coach after yet another season where he finds himself a champion after unconvincingly limping into the postseason.
“Fifth isn’t good enough for a club like this but it was a tough year with the World Club Challenge, the amount of games we’ve had to play, the size of the squad, people involved in the Knights team and England teams, it’s a struggle for the coaches,” said Sinfield.
“I said last week he’s (McDermott) the best coach I’ve ever had and I’ll say that again tonight. The realism about him … you can see tonight what the lads think of him and I’m chuffed to bits for him. He’s had some bullets shot at him and he’s led from the front.”
At the final hooter Sinfield embraced McDermott on the pitch while celebrations kicked off around them but he wasn’t for revealing what was said.
“It was a private moment but I know how much it meant to him and he knows how much it meant to us,” Sinfield said. “We’ve been through a lot this year and come out the other end, I suppose, a bit like deja vu.”
Warrington’s Richie Myler scored first after just three minutes and it looked as if they were ready to justify their tag as favourites but Leeds, adopting open football in contrast to the smart kicking which saw off Wigan a week ago, found themselves 14-6 in front thanks to Sinfield’s try and an effort from Ben Jones-Bishop.
Warrington’s Tony Smith became the first man to coach two different sides in an English Grand Final and his primrose and blue outfit managed to tie the scores at 14-14 at the break when Brett Hodgson kicked a penalty for the markers not standing square after the hooter.
And they returned from the sheds in the mood to regain the lead with a Ryan Atkins try which was tinged with controversy. In the build-up, Zak Hardaker spilled the ball in his own 20 thanks to a blow to the face from Richie Myler and the Leeds contingent in the stands was understandably disgruntled when the video replay flashed up on the big screen.
It was to be Warrington’s last strike, though, as Carl Ablett scored to help Leeds back in front with 20 to go before Ryan Hall’s try condemned Warrington to count another year on the 57 they have already waited for a league title.
Hall himself was relaxed after the game, watching the celebrations but choosing to sit and take it in, and he was thrilled to score the vital try.
“Emotions run through the body and (you are) obviously overjoyed,” he said.
Hall has five winners’ rings from the Leeds dominance of the competition in recent years and his captain, Sinfield has all six, but the skipper revealed why he hasn’t kept them.
“I gave last year’s to my dad,” he said, adding, “I’ve got six now so my kids have got two each. This next one’s going to my brother. I said to him last year if I was lucky enough and good enough to win another….
“I saw him in the crowd, a bit teary-eyed, and he didn’t want to (him to) take it because I think he’s going for a few beers and he’s scared of losing it so I’ll see him in the morning.”
Sinfield and Hall both snatched a few moments with their families before returning to the sheds – Hall posing for a picture for the family album with his partner and baby son and Sinfield also managed a quick gathering with his family.
“The special moments to go and share with your mum, dad, wife and kids just to have 30 seconds with them after a game like that is huge,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Warrington dressing room was a very different place, with forward Wood having to be carted to hospital with a ruptured testicle. he Tweeted :Now just sat in hospital with a ruptured testicle! Please don’t laugh it’s very very very painful! & embarrassing #wolves2012 [sic] and later confirmed he had had surgery to have it removed after he ‘got a knee one minute into the second half’.
LEEDS 26 (Kevin Sinfield, Ben Jones-Bishop, Carl Ablett , Ryan Hall tries; Sinfield 5 goals ) beat WARRINGTON 18 (Richie Myler, Joel Monaghan, Ryan Atkins tries; Brett Hodgson 3 goals) at Old Trafford, Manchester. Referee: Richard Silverwood. Crowd: 70,676.
Final team lists:
WARRINGTON: Brett Hodgson; Chris Riley, Stefan Ratchford, Ryan Atkins, Joel Monaghan; Lee Briers, Richard Myler; Simon Grix, Trent Waterhouse. Ben Westwood, Chris Hill, Mick Higham, Ben Harrison. Res: Adrian Morley (c), Michael Monaghan, Paul Wood, Mike Cooper
LEEDS: Zak Hardaker; Ben Jones-Bishop, Kallum Watkins, Carl Ablett, Ryan Hall; Danny McGuire, Kevin Sinfield (c); Ryan Bailey, Brett Delaney, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Jamie Peacock, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai. Res: Ian Kirke, Darrell Griffin, Stevie Ward, Shaun Lunt.
Halftime: 14-14. Harry Sunderland Trophy: Kevin Sinfield.