9th December 2017, 15:34 | Leeds
Betfred Super League: Winners
Ladbrokes Challenge Cup: Semi-Finalists
Top Scorer: Matt Parcell (17)
Few Super League fans would have backed Leeds to have lifted their eighth Super League title in 2017, following their disastrous 2016 campaign, but the Rhinos showed brilliant grit and determination to clinch yet another crown.
Pessimism was high at Headingley at the start of the campaign, with the heavy 10-66 defeat at local rivals Castleford putting plenty of pressure on head coach Brian McDermott.
Leeds chief Gary Hetherington stuck by his man and was vindicated in that decision as the Blue and Ambers began to turn their season around.
New signing Matt Parcell was a linchpin in the newly-improved Rhinos as they climbed back into the top four, where they stayed for the remainder of the season as consistency of performances improved.
After favourable draws against Doncaster and Featherstone Rovers in the Challenge Cup, they took on holders Hull FC in the semis in Doncaster.
Despite an imperious recent record over the Black and Whites, Lee Radford’s side were men on a mission as they went onto retain the title, and won that semi 43-24.
Attentions could now solely be focussed on making it to Old Trafford and with Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow both announcing that they would leave Headingley at the end of the season, they and Leeds wanted to send the icons out on a high.
In the Super 8s they tied up a top two spot meaning a home semi-final – once again they faced Hull FC.
After the excitement of the previous nights’ semi-final, the Headingley semi was a much grittier affair and Leeds won through as they beat Hull 18-16.
The season’s in-form team Castleford Tigers were their opponents at Old Trafford, a side they hadn’t beaten in their four league meetings that season.
However it proved that Grand Final experience was invaluable and that coupled with a heroic performance from departing captain McGuire, saw Leeds clinch a record-smashing eighth Super League crown.
After the 2016 season and the mixed start to the 2017 season, the finger was on the trigger over McDermott’s role as head coach but the club held its nerve and kept the hugely experienced coach on.
Fortunes took a turn for the better and after an emotional evening for Brian Mac at Headingley in the semi-finals, he became the first man to coach a Super League side to a fourth Super League title.
The only addition of any real note in the winter, hooker Matt Parcell was probably the signing of the Super League season as he soon had a huge impact on the Leeds side.
Top scorer with 17 tries, as well as making over 1,000 tackles during the campaign, Leeds fans will be delighted that he is staying around for 2018 after speculation of a move back to the NRL.
Been there, done it.
Big game experience is an invaluable commodity to have in Rugby League and as they walked out at Old Trafford for the tenth time, it clearly gave Leeds an edge over debutants Castleford Tigers.
On his farewell bow for Leeds, half-back McGuire turned up, producing one of the greatest performances of his career, which included two tries, and assist and a drop goal.
After a similarly spectacular run against Catalans Dragons earlier in the season, veteran half Rob Burrow produced a brilliant run to see away the Warrington chasers.