Ma­jes­tic McGuire de­stroys Tigers’ dreams

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - GRAND FINAL - Dave Craven AT OLD TRAF­FORD Email: Twit­ter: @DCravenYPS­port


DANNY McGUIRE will wake this morn­ing and surely feel like Danny, the Cham­pion of the World, not just Su­per League.

Ad­mit­tedly, he will prob­a­bly rise with a sore head, too, and could do for the rest of the week as Leeds Rhi­nos’ cel­e­bra­tions con­tinue, but you get the gist.

The heroic cap­tain hardly put a foot wrong in his 424th and fi­nal game for his beloved Leeds on Saturday.

It proved one of the prin­ci­pal rea­sons why his home­town club are Su­per League kings yet again, an eighth time in just 14 sea­sons.

Roald Dahl loved weird and won­der­ful tales, but vet­eran Leeds half-back McGuire could hardly have scripted a finer way to sign off be­fore join­ing Hull KR.

There was no poach­ing pheas­ants to be seen here, but Castle­ford cer­tainly looked like sit­ting ducks, flap­ping around in the wet at Old Traf­ford, a com­bi­na­tion of their own in­ep­ti­tude and Rhi­nos’ mas­ter­ful con­trol mean­ing their first ap­pear­ance in a Grand Fi­nal will be re­mem­bered mainly for em­bar­rass­ment.

McGuire scored two tries, set up the first of Tom Briscoe’s brace, added a drop goal in ei­ther half, but mainly just turned the screw on the favourites with his bril­liant pin­point kick­ing.

It was no sur­prise; the 34-yearold knows ev­ery inch of that Old Traf­ford turf, be­ing present in all seven of their pre­vi­ous wins, too, and when it is rain­ing in Manch­ester in October there is no­body bet­ter at mak­ing op­po­nents pay for their way­ward­ness.

This is tes­ti­mony to how McGuire has evolved his game since first ap­pear­ing there and scor­ing an iconic try that sealed the West York­shire club’s first title in 32 years in 2004.

Back then, the Leeds tyro was known for his light­ning speed and try-poach­ing abil­ity, at­tributes that would serve him well as he went on to be­come Su­per League’s record try-scorer.

But he has de­vel­oped his game fur­ther as he has got older to be- come a mas­ter crafts­man at guid­ing his side around the field, cru­cially cre­at­ing and main­tain­ing pres­sure, and Hull KR will be elated that he is join­ing them for their top-flight re­turn in 2018.

This said, McGuire still looked as lively as he did 13 years ago as all the old traits were ev­i­dent when pop­ping up to dive over ju­bi­lantly in the 52nd minute af­ter Greg Eden spilled a high kick.

Even with still so long to play, trail­ing 11-0, you feared for Castle­ford, the League Lead­ers’ Shield win­ners who, for all their elan and el­e­gance in storm­ing top for the first time, op­er­ated like “am­a­teurs” in the words of their Man of Steel Luke Gale.

The Eng­land scrum-half – who or­di­nar­ily has such fun against his home­town club that dis­carded him as a teenager – was not ex­ag­ger­at­ing; they were abysmal bysmal.

Head coach Daryl Pow­ell con­ceded after­wards that 11 or 12 of his play­ers saved their worst dis­play of the sea­son for the night that mat­tered most. Again n, this was no hy­per­bole e; he was dead right.

It must have been so o dis­heart­en­ing for Pow well see­ing his side – with hout Zak Har­daker afte er he was con­tro­ver­siall ly dropped – un­ravel s o spec­tac­u­larly, es­pe­ciall ly as they had looked soli id enough in the openin ng ex­changes.

How­ever, as soon a as Adam Mil­ner spilled wit th no one near him in th he sev­enth minute and a nother in­ex­pli­ca­ble ha an­dling er­ror fol­lowed soo on af­ter, it all sim­ply playe ed into Leeds’s hands.

When the rain got hea avier, it soon be­came cle ear that the side with 42 Grand Fi­nal win­ners’ rings between them – Castle­ford had none – would tap into all that ex­pe­ri­ence and edge their way home.

The more a des­per­ate Tigers side tried, the more er­ratic they be­came while in con­trast, McGuire and the in­creas­ingly in­flu­en­tial Joel Moon sim­ply set­tled in to do the all-im­por­tant es­sen­tials.

McGuire had teed up Briscoe’s opener in the 12th minute and, with typ­i­cal min­i­mum fuss, slot­ted a drop goal with the last play of the first half for a 7-0 in­ter­val lead. Castle­fordf had held onto the ball long enough to cre­ate a cou­ple of op­por­tu­ni­ties. But, typ­i­cally, McGuire got a hand to dis­lodge pos­ses­sion from Eden just as the Tigers full-back was about to start celebrating and another Jy Hitch­cox ef­fort was ruled out as Gale had run be­hind his own man in the build-up.

There was a sense Castle­ford – who had an­ni­hi­lated Leeds 66-10 in March and won all of the pre­vi­ous eight meet­ings between the sides – could not mess up as much again in the sec­ond pe­riod, but some­how they did.

They have been a won­der­ful ad­vert for rugby league in 2017 and brought so much pos­i­tiv­ity to the sport with the man­ner in which they swept aside so many op­po­nents.

How­ever, rather than Dahl’s mag­i­cal make-be­lief, this 80 min­utes will go down as pure Stephen King hor­ror.

Granted, Briscoe’s sec­ond did come from a for­ward pass, but Jack Walker – at 18 years and 60 days the youngest Grand Fi­nal win­ner – had cut a swathe through them quite bril­liantly to cre­ate that third Leeds try.

McGuire added his sec­ond try and slot­ted another drop goal as he soaked up his last mo­ments as a Leeds player.

Thank­fully, Castle­ford avoid- ed the ig­nominy of be­com­ing the first side to be kept point­less in a Grand Fi­nal when Alex Fos­ter got over in the fi­nal minute, Gale con­vert­ing, but it was no con­so­la­tion.

McGuire col­lected the Harry Sunderland Tro­phy as man of the match, just as he did when they won in 2015, but this time it was a unan­i­mous vote.

The only other player to do that in Grand Fi­nal his­tory was col­league Rob Bur­row six years ago.

He re­tired on Saturday. They hoisted the tro­phy to­gether. Two Leeds leg­ends as one.


TH HEATRE OF DREAMS: Danny McGuire dives in for a spec­tac­u­lar try as he crowned his last ga ame in a Leeds Rhi­nos shirt with a man-of-the-match dis­play, which in­cluded a try-sav­ing tackle on Ca astle­ford’s Greg Eden, above.

FI­NAL AGONY: One young Castle­ford Tigers fan won­ders where it all went wrong as the League Lead­ers’Lead­ers Shield win­ners slumped to a 24 24-66 de­feat to Leeds, much to the de­light of Rhi­nos sup­port­ers.

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