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28th February 2010

Leeds 10-18 Melbourne

Leeds Rhinos 10-18 Melbourne Storm

Leeds were condemned by the indiscipline of Keith Senior to a second consecutive World Club Challenge defeat in a game that will be best remembered for Richard Silverwood’s inability to referee it effectively.

Senior finally ran out of patience at Silverwood’s indulgence of the spoiling tactics for which Melbourne Storm are renowned in the 60th minute, complaining loudly to the Dewsbury-based official after one of the painfully slow play-the-balls that bunged up the contest.

It was a brainless moment from the Rhinos’ most experienced player, allowing the Storm captain Cameron Smith to kick his team in front for the first time in the match.

But he would have found plenty of sympathy among the 27,697 crowd, and anyone else who sat through the scrappiest world club clash in recent memory. The game never developed any flow, and Melbourne won it with hardly a memorable contribution from their brilliant backs Billy Slater and Greg Inglis. They were just tough and efficient, especially in exploiting Silverwood’s weakness.

The bad weather removed any doubts that this would be a tight, low-scoring contest, which had always seemed likely anyway, after Leeds ground out an 11-4 win on the teams’ only previous meeting two years ago. Yet the Rhinos had two good try-scoring chances in the first 13 minutes, with their inability to take either threatening to prove costly.

They had started the game brilliantly, with Rob Burrow, the smallest player on the pitch, collecting Kevin Sinfield’s short kick-off to put them straight on to the attack, and Ryan Hall then tapping back Burrow’s chip into the arms of Brent Webb. But the full-back lost the ball over the line in a desperate Melbourne cover tackle, and 12 minutes later in the opposite corner the young wing Kallum Watkins also had the ball jolted loose after being given a sniff of the line by Danny McGuire’s pass.

By then the score was 2-2, Sinfield having kicked a fifth minute penalty that was quickly equalised by Smith after Jamie Jones-Buchanan was caught offside at marker. It was desperately scrappy stuff enlivened by a proper scrap, without which no World Club Challenge would be complete.

It was triggered by a late tackle on Danny Buderus by the Storm substitute Hep Cahill, and came shortly after Burrow had regained the lead for the Rhinos with a second penalty, having taken over the goalkicking duties when Sinfield was forced off with a bang to the hip.

Cahill escaped with a warning and it was Leeds who lost their discipline, with an error by Ryan Bailey allowing Smith to kick his second equalising goal.

The Rhinos finally broke the deadlock in the 48th minute, but only with a hugely controversial try. It was a spectacular 90-metre run from McGuire, who showed impressive pace to hold off the Melbourne wing Anthony Quinn. However, the stand-off looked to be offside when he collected a ricochet off the knee of the Leeds centre Brett Delaney, and only the willingness of the video referee Phil Bentham to award the benefit of a considerable doubt to the attacking team allowed the try to stand.

Burrow added another good goal, but Leeds wasted their good luck with a moment’s sloppiness in defence, as they stood back expecting Melbourne to kick a penalty. The Storm capitalised slickly, with quick hands sending Luke MacDougall in at the right corner, and Smith converted from the touchline to level the scores again. Within nine minutes Senior lost his cool, and Smith punished him clinically.

Leeds still had their chances after that, but Watkins was denied again when Slater sprinted across to push him into the corner flag – an all too rare moment of drama in a night memorable for the wrong reasons. Quinn then scored Melbourne’s second try in stoppage time.

Leeds Rhinos Webb; Watkins, Delaney, Senior, Hall; McGuire, Burrow; Leuluai, Diskin, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Kirke, Sinfield (capt). Interchange Buderus, Lauitiiti, Eastwood, Bailey.

Try McGuire. Goals Burrow 2, Sinfield.

Melbourne Storm Slater; Quinn, Nielsen, Inglis, MacDougall; Finch, Smith (capt); Tolman, Hinchcliffe, Lima, Blair, Hoffman, Lowrie. Interchange Kostjasyn, Proctor, Cahill, Bromwich.

Tries MacDougall, Quinn. Goals Smith 5.

Referee R Silverwood (England). Att 27,697.


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