Leeds Rhinos returned to form when it mattered as Ryan Hall’s last-gasp try clinched the Super League minor premiership and snapped their three-game Super 8s losing streak in a breathtaking 20-16 turnaround at Huddersfield Giants.
Leeds had been suffering from a Challenge Cup final hangover in recent weeks and their prospects of securing a home semi-final looked bleak heading into the final ten minutes at The John Smith’s Stadium.
Stevie Ward had opened the scoring in the ninth minute for the Rhinos but Jermaine McGillvary ghosted over almost straight from the restart to bring his try tally up to 27 for the season.
Danny Brough and Kevin Sinfield exchanged kicks and the hosts appeared to have taken the initiative in the second half when Jack Hughes and Leroy Cudjoe combined to send Jamie Ellis over for a try.
Brough’s boot then extended the gap to eight points but Tom Briscoe pulled Leeds back in it with a 74th-minute try before Hall’s intervention in the last action of the game.
It means the Super League semi-final line-up sees Leeds Rhinos host St Helens and the Giants travel to Wigan Warriors, who if not for Hall would have lifted the League Leaders’ shield following their 47-12 thumping of Castleford Tigers.
The Warriors wasted no time in opening up a lead as Dom Manfredi and North Queensland legend Matt Bowen powered over within the first seven minutes.
However, after a succession of missed Wigan opportunities, former NRL pair Luke Dorn and Junior Moors followed over to drag Castleford back to within two points.
But a sensational effort from Manfredi saw him pile on three more tries after half-time — two coming with Denny Solomona in the sin-bin — before George Williams, Oliver Gildart, Joe Burgess and Larne Patrick all added their names to the scoresheet.
Attentions within the DW Stadium soon turned to the goings on at Huddersfield — and the atmosphere deflated somewhat after news of Leeds’ victory filtered through.
Reigning Super League champions St Helens have work to do after skipper Joel Monaghan and former New Zealand captain Roy Asotasi scored tries in their farewell appearances for Warrington Wolves.
Long-time Canberra Raider Monaghan brought up his 145th try on his 145th and last appearance for the Wolves in addition to tries from teammates Jack Johnson and Chris Hill in the first half.
Saints had initially taken an early advantage through Joe Greenwood and, after going into half-time 14-6 down, fought back to within four points.
But Asotasi and Kevin Penny, who had seen four tries disallowed upon referral to the video referee, wrapped up an emphatic 32-16 Warrington victory.
And in Sunday’s dead rubber game between seventh and eighth in the Super 8s, Tom Lineham signed off with a bang at Hull FC though he couldn’t prevent his side sliding to a 24-28 defeat to Catalan Dragons.
The winger will head to Warrington for the 2016 season and showed exactly why he’s hot property by grabbing four tries in his last Hull appearance.