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Super League’s five best teams of all time

The next in our ‘top five’ series has seen us analyse every season since the start of Super League in 1996 and ranked the five best individual teams to have featured, based on their performance in the league, playoffs and Challenge Cup.

5. Wigan Warriors 2013

Many Wigan fans will argue their class of 1998 and 2010 was far more consistent than this team, which is probably true. The difference in 2013 was they played both major competitions to perfection, timing their run and saving their best for when it mattered most. After winning the Challenge Cup with a 16-0 win over Hull FC at Wembley, Shaun Wane’s side eventually finished fourth in the league, a standing that would have hardly left fans satisfied. But their three dominant wins in the playoffs, culminating in the greatest Grand Final comeback in Super League history, changed opinions quickly. With a devastating back three of Sam Tomkins, Josh Charnley and Pat Richards, the guile of Michael McIlorum and the leadership of Sean O’Loughlin, the Cherry and Whites used all their big-game experience to overcome a 16-2 first-half deficit to score 28 unanswered points against Warrington at Old Trafford. It secured a league and cup double for Wigan, with their never-say-die attitude epitomised by stand-off Blake Green who picked himself up from a knockout blow from Ben Westwood to win the Harry Sunderland Trophy.

4. St Helens 2019

It’s crazy to think that this Saints team were actually only one win away from being the greatest team of not just the Super League era, but ever! Having dominated the league in 2018 before losing both major semi-finals, Justin Holbrook’s team came back in 2019 and won the league at a canter again, this time by a record-breaking 16 points – the biggest margin in rugby league history! Having lost the Challenge Cup Final to Warrington, there were doubts as to whether they could finish off the job in Super League again, however, this time Lomax, Roby, Walmsley and company weren’t to be denied. A resounding semi-final win over arch-rivals Wigan was backed up by a dominant performance against surprise Grand Final opponents Salford, prevailing 23-6 at the Theatre of Dreams. This meant Saints ended the whole calendar year having lost just four matches in all competitions, with their no-show at Wembley the only blot on the copybook. The 2019 season was also the first of four consecutive Super League titles, a run which included a League and Cup double in 2021, but in terms of individual seasons the 2019 campaign under Holbrook just edged out the three that followed under Kristian Woolf.

3. Leeds Rhinos 2015

Of the many years to remember through the club’s golden generation, the 2015 season is the one Leeds fans will cherish the most. Statistically speaking, the Rhinos class of 2004 was much more consistent in the league, but this team created history by securing the treble in the final seasons of club legends Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai. Complimented by the likes of Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow and Zak Hardaker, Leeds eased to the Challenge Cup with a record-breaking 50-0 beating of Hull KR at Wembley. They didn’t do things the easy way in the league though and needed a last-gasp Ryan Hall try to win the League Leaders’ Shield at Huddersfield. This left Brian McDermott’s side with one final hurdle to overcome and despite their previous successes in the year, they went into the Grand Final against Wigan as underdogs. These players were made for the big occasion though and, after an end-to-end contest, they held on to win a classic 22-20 with the boot of Kevin Sinfield fittingly proving to be the difference. The full-time hooter sparked scenes of jubilation among the Rhinos players as they proved the doubters wrong yet again to secure a seventh Super League title in 12 years.

2. Bradford Bulls 2003

In 2003, Bradford were at the peak of their powers. It was the height of what was dubbed ‘Bullmania’, with Odsal packed every week to see their superstar team dominate with a mixture of speed, skill and power. Wingers Lesley Vainikolo and Tevita Vaikona were bigger than most forwards, the pack included stalwarts Stuart Fielden, Joe Vagana and Jamie Peacock, while Jimmy Lowes caused havoc around the ruck and Paul Deacon controlled from the halves. There was also the mesmeric skill of Shontayne Hape in the centres, with the Bulls interchange bench for the Grand Final consisting of Leon Pryce, Robbie Paul, Lee Radford and Paul Anderson; need I say more about the quality at their disposal? They weren’t just about flair though, they could win the tough games, emphasised by their dramatic 22-20 win in the Challenge Cup Final against Leeds. They went on to win the league by three points before a superb second-half display at Old Trafford saw them overcome Wigan to win the treble. In early 2004, Brian Noble’s men added the World Club Challenge to the collection, meaning they held every major honour at one time.

1. St Helens 2006

This team was almost unbeatable, losing only four times all season. Daniel Anderson led Saints to the League Leaders’ Shield in his first season, but it was a year later in 2006 that he would build the team he really wanted. Knowsley Road had seen some great sides down the years and this one was certainly up there. Man of Steel Paul Wellens was setting the example from the back and there was international class right the way through, with Jamie Lyon the standout name of a star-studded squad. Great Britain half-back partners Sean Long and Leon Pryce were in the form of their careers, not to mention Keiron Cunningham at hooker and Lee Gilmour in the second-row. There was also two of the countries brightest young talents in James Roby and James Graham on the bench. After hammering Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup Final, Saints topped the Super League table by a considerable margin and conceded only 439 points in 28 regular-season rounds. Their closest challengers, Hull FC, were no match for them in the Grand Final as Anderson’s men sealed a well-deserved treble and like Bradford, they went on to win the World Club Challenge the following season to hold all four honours at once. Saints class of 2006 just edges out the Bulls of 2003, based on the fact they won more games through the season, scored more points, conceded less and won their finals more convincingly.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Fumper27

    December 26, 2022 at 6:19 pm

    Without Castleford 2017, your reputation is tarnished. That team broke records yet didn’t make your poxy 5 team list

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