To win a Grand Final often takes a team’s best performance of the season. The raised stakes, the quality of the opposition and the occasion demands superb team performances in order to take home the trophy. Over the years, we’ve been blessed with some great Grand Final performances as teams have defied the odds to dominate the grandest stage and come away with the trophy. So, today we’re ranking the five best team performances the Grand Final has seen.
5. St Helens 26-4 Hull FC 2006
Everyone always says it’s hard for underdogs to win the biggest games, but the presence of an underdog also makes things that bit harder for the favourites and that was true of St Helens in 2006. As they went in search of a treble-securing win, they took on a Hull FC side supported by the entire rugby league world outside of Knowsley Road. Add to that the inspiring story of Steve Prescott and it was written in the stars for Hull FC. So, St Helens’ eventually dominant win is all the more impressive. They subdued the initial Hull FC energy before picking the Black and Whites apart with Leon Pryce scoring a lovely try.
4. Leeds 16-8 Bradford 2004
Everyone overlooks this particular performance and I don’t understand why. The narrative was written for the Rhinos to choke. After dominating all year, Bradford had shown play-off smarts to beat Leeds in the Grand Final qualifier. People questioned whether Leeds’ attacking style could re-write that wrong at Old Trafford and many believed the inexperience of the Leeds squad would see them lose against the reigning Champions. Smartly, Leeds were restrained. Kevin Sinfield executed a perfect game plan to tire strike weapon Lesley Vainikolo out as he kicked to the corner allowing Mark Calderwood to pin him down. Eventually, this culminated in a stranglehold which led to Robbie Paul’s infamous error and Danny McGuire’s decisive try.
3. Wigan 30-16 Warrington 2013
If I was ranking the best 40 minutes of rugby seen from teams in a Grand Final, Wigan’s second half against Warrington in 2013 would be knocking on the door for top spot. They trailed 16-2 heading towards halftime before Wigan struck back. The second half then saw the Warriors pick apart the struggling Wolves as they came up with the greatest comeback in Grand Final history as four second half tries led them to victory and the double.
2. Bradford 37-6 Wigan 2001
But no such success befell the Warriors in 2001 as they were devastated by the Bulls. No side has ever scored as many points at Old Trafford as the Bulls did that evening. Michael Withers created history scoring the only hattrick in Grand Final history as a blistering Bulls performance left Wigan in the dust.
1. Leeds 33-6 St Helens 2007
Leeds might not have scored quite as many points as the Bulls did in 2001, but to me their triumph over St Helens in 2007 is the best team performance the Grand Final has ever seen. Taking on the favourites in the shape of treble chasing and treble holding St Helens, Leeds’ fast paced and physical first half sapped the Champions of energy. The story of the second half was told when Leeds ran in at the break full of energy and Saints walked off. The second half saw Leeds hit Saints with 11 points in three sets as they took a 19-6 lead before a Lee Smith try sealed the deal. Leeds’ dominance was eventually reflected in the score line after Kevin Sinfield added another two points before Jamie Jones-Buchanan scored on the back of a series of offloads.