This week: The Super League X Rugby Report.
Qualifying Semi-Final - St Helens vs Leeds Rhinos (Friday 30/9)
This clash between the top two teams in the regular season promised much but delivered little in terms of quality, as conditions at Knowsley Road were not conducive to good, attacking rugby league. St Helens started the game the much stronger team but it was Leeds who took the lead against the run of play in the 14th minute. Saints centre, Jamie Lyon, was hit hard by Chris McKenna and the ball popped out to a grateful Danny McGuire who opened the scoring (try coverted by Sinfield). St Helens again then dominated the play for a long period. Maurie Fa'asavalu and Keiron Cunningham both went agonisingly close but Leeds' defence held firm against the onslaught. Indeed, it was Leeds, on one of their rare attacks, who scored next. A clever inside ball from Matt Diskin allowed Danny Ward to score. The try was converted by Sinfield and Leeds had a 12-0 half-time lead. Saints started the second half with real intent, shown best of all by Paul Wellens' crunching tackle on Richie Mathers, firing up the crowd and his team mates. However, the game then looked beyond Saints when Ali Lauitiiti collected a misplaced grubber kick from Jon Wilkin and ran 75 metres to score (converted by Sinfield). A Sinfield drop goal then moved Leeds into a 19-0 lead, but Saints' pressure began to tell. Jamie Lyon hit top form and scored a converted try to bring it to 19-6. A delightful pass from Lyon put Ian Hardman in at the corner, but Lyon missed the conversion. Lyon himself then added his second and the conversion to make the score 19-16 but, despite the support of the Knowsley Road crowd, Saints' effort was too little too late. Final Score: St Helens 16 Leeds Rhinos 19.
Elimination Semi-Final - Bradford Bulls vs Hull FC (Saturday 1/10)
This clash should have been a classic encounter, but was over as a contest as early as the sixth minute. By this time, Hull were already 6-0 down after a try from Ian Henderson, converted by Paul Deacon. In the sixth minute, Hull's Stephen Kearney was red-carded by referee Steve Ganson for a high tackle on Stuart Fielden. From then on, Hull were never in the game as Bradford ran in 12 unanswered tries. It was 41-0 by half-time and with 30 more points in the second half, Hull were totally blown away. Try scorers were Henderson (2), Vainikolo (4), Peacock, Withers, Johnson, Hape, Harris and Fielden, with 10 conversions from Paul Deacon. Final score: Bradford Bulls 71 Hull FC 0.
Final Eliminator - Bradford Bulls vs St Helens (Friday 7/10)
The Bradford Bulls took on St Helens at Knowsley Road in this final game before the grand final. These two teams were playing for the chance to face Leeds Rhinos in the Old Trafford showpiece, and the game lived up to the billing. The Bulls took the early advantage when Shontayne Hape and Paul Johnson both scored converted tries to give them a 12-0 lead. Saints were let off by handling errors from Brad Meyers and Jamie Langley and made the Bulls pay when Jon Wilkin crossed for two tries, both converted by Jamie Lyon to make the score 12-all. Saints then went into the break with a 14-12 lead due to a Jamie Lyon penalty. Bradford reclaimed the lead early in the second half when Jamie Langley atoned for his earlier error by crossing in the corner. Paul Deacon missed the conversion and Saints retook the lead when Jon Wilkin crossed again to complete his hat trick (conversion missed by Lyon). Bradford then drew level through a Paul Deacon penalty and took the lead when Deacon scored a 30-metre drop goal. Then, right at the end of the match, a long pass from Iestyn Harris found Shontayne Hape out wide and the kiwi scored in the corner. Final Score: St Helens 18 Bradford Bulls 23.