19th August: Senior injury clouds Rhinos’ Wembley hopes
Richard de la Riviere looks back at what happened in Rugby League over the years on this day: 19th August
Leeds’ season was thrown into chaos on this day in 2005 when Keith Senior injured his ankle in a crushing 42-10 home defeat to Bradford.
The result was particularly surprising as the Rhinos had won 26 of their 29 games that season and had booked their place in the Challenge Cup Final against Hull, which was to take place eight days later.
But the bubble burst spectacularly against their biggest rivals, who were gaining momentum of their own on their way to a successful assault on the end-of-season play-offs.
Lee Smith gave the hosts a fifth-minute lead, but Shontayne Hape and Andy Lynch notched tries for Bradford. Kevin Sinfield’s try brought the score to 10-12 at half-time to the Bulls.
And the in-form visitors racked up 30 unanswered points in the second half, with two more tries from Hape and others from Jamie Langley, Paul Deacon, Robbie Paul and Iestyn Harris.
Over 20,000 supporters were in attendance, most of whom went home worried over the injuries suffered by Senior and Danny McGuire, although McGuire’s was less serious.
But, according to John Kear, the coach of Hull, the soap opera involving the centre whom he had coached with Sheffield and England was only just beginning.
“One of the first things I did … on Monday morning was sit down with our physio Simon Pope and watch the Senior incident again,” he said in his autobiography, ‘Coaching is Chaos’, which was published last year.
“He said to me: ‘There isn’t a hope in hell of Keith playing in the final, or if he does play, he’ll be a passenger.’
“From the moment Simon said that, I wanted Keith to play. Obviously I couldn’t pick the Leeds team, but I did try to manipulate the opposition camp.
“I made a point of saying: ‘If Keith Senior plays in the final, I’ll put my boots on and play against him.’
“[Tony Smith] is a superb coach but he is very bloody minded. If you tell him something isn’t going to happen, he will do everything he possibly can to make sure it does.
“That’s why I made such a big issue in the pre-game build-up about Keith having no chance of playing.”
Senior did play in the final, as did McGuire, but was badly off the pace and was withdrawn at half-time and Leeds went to lose the game in the dying minutes after a Paul Cooke try and Danny Brough goal.
Smith saw things slightly differently to Kear, commenting later: “He trained very well the day before which gave us plenty of indications that he would be OK but in the end it wasn’t the right decision.”
And Smith was left to further rue the Bulls game as the season’s turning point as his side’s Super League form failed to recover. With Senior not figuring again, Leeds lost two of their next three and, although they made the Grand Final, they lost to the Bulls, who regarded that hugely impressive win at Headingley as a catalyst for their own remarkable recovery that year.
Tigers gear up for NRL title
Earlier that day, Wests Tigers had established their biggest margin of victory by hammering the hapless Canterbury Bulldogs 54-2 en route to NRL Premiership success.
Their win was even more impressive when you consider that their opponents were on the verge of the top eight themselves, having won nine out of 21 matches.
But inspired by Brett Hodgson, Benji Marshall and Scott Prince, the Tigers, coached by Australia’s current coach Tim Sheens, cut loose, notching nine tries, each of them goaled by Hodgson.
Future Super League players Paul Whatuira and Pat Richards scored five of them, with the Kiwi centre grabbing a hat-trick, while Ben Galea, Chris Heighington, Hodgson and Prince also crossed.
The Dogs could only boast a penalty goal from fullback Luke Young.
At the end of the round, the Tigers were fourth level on 32 points with Parramatta and St George-Illawarra, who occupied spots two and three. The trio were two points behind Brisbane.
The Tigers ended the campaign in fourth but, one by one, the three sides above them were knocked out of the play-offs, setting up a Grand Final against fifth-placed North Queensland, who were coached by former Leeds boss Graham Murray.
And the Tigers won the Premiership by beating the Cowboys 30-16, with Prince winning the Clive Churchill Medal as man of the match.
Davies scores three in Charity Shield win
Two interesting games took place on this day in 1990, as the new campaign was launched.
Widnes won the Charity Shield in Swansea in front of 11,178 supporters, beating Wigan 24-8, with Jonathan Davies scoring a hat-trick, which helped him win the Jack Bentley Trophy as man of the match.
John Devereux and Martin Offiah also scored for the Chemics, with Frano Botica scoring Wigan’s only try.
Hull Kingston Rovers, meanwhile, ran up a century in defeating Nottingham City in a Yorkshire Cup preliminary match. Not bad for their first hit out of the season!
Greg Austin and Anthony Sullivan scored eleven tries between them, with the former getting six. Cumbrian forward Colin ‘Buck’ Armstrong kicked a club-record equalling 14 goals.