At the start of any season, the fixture everyone immediately looks out for is the Grand Final rematch. Expectantly fans of both teams wait for the game to come around, even neutrals eagerly anticipate what may unfold in the contest as the competition’s two best teams the year before renew their rivalry.
Will there be revenge for the runners-up or will the holders compound their opponent’s misery?
Well, as we look forward to today’s Grand Final rematch between St Helens and Wigan, we’re giving you the five best Grand Final rematches ever. To qualify for this list the game must be the first meeting between the two teams following the previous year’s Grand Final.
5. St Helens 26-18 Leeds Rhinos 2009
If ever a game summed up the bitter rivalry between these two teams, this was it. After losing to Leeds in consecutive Grand Finals, St Helens had something to prove against the table-topping Rhinos at Knowsley Road. A hostile atmosphere awaited an unbeaten Leeds side and the Saints turned on the style. Some huge hits laid down the ground work for a vicious night and things reached boiling after a punch-up in the middle before Ryan Bailey’s huge hit bust Maurie Fa’asavalu’s nose. Ryan Hall’s try in the second half gave Leeds hope but scores from Gary Wheeler and Matt Gidley secured St Helens’ revenge after a brilliant brutal contest.
4. St Helens 10-14 Leeds Rhinos 2008
A year earlier, the same game was just as feisty. In horrendous conditions, Leeds and Saints produced a war of attrition in the wet as the two teams slugged it out for supremacy. Points were at a premium leading to a brilliant kicking dual between Sean Long and Kevin Sinfield as the pair looked to nudge their side in front whilst also leading their team around a rain-sodden pitch. Amongst the grit and toughness on show, a moment of class saw Ali Lauitiiti put Leeds ahead 8-4 after 30 minutes before a Luke Burgess try 16 minutes from time gave Leeds the lead again. Then a fantastic defensive effort from the Champions saw them cling onto the two points despite a barrage of St Helens pressure.
3. Leeds Rhinos 28-18 Wigan Warriors 1999
This is a weird one. This game took place in the Challenge Cup as both sides began their season with a knockout game on the road to Wembley. It was a scintillating end-to-end contest in the first half. A try from Brad Godden after a neat passing play from the Rhinos opened the scoring before Andy Farrell opted to take the two to keep Wigan in touch with the side they beat at Old Trafford. Bizarrely, Leeds then opted to nick a drop goal through Iestyn Harris to give themselves a 7-2 lead. It would prove to be a very smart play from the Welshman because, despite Leroy Rivett’s try which granted the Rhinos a 13-2 lead, Wigan hit back leaving the Rhinos one point ahead at the break. Leeds continued to show their smarts in the second half taking anything they could get to slowly pull away from the Warriors. A second drop-goal, this time from Ryan Sheridan, gave Leeds a 14-12 lead before a penalty saw the Rhinos pull four points ahead. Leeds then scrambled over for a decisive score from Marcus St Hilaire and the game was eventually won by Leeds’ fourth try of the night. This one came from Sheridan as the Rhinos exacted the perfect revenge by dumping Wigan out of the cup.
2. Wigan Warriors 16-16 St Helens 2011
Just like in 1999, Wigan started the new season with a blockbuster game against the side they beat at Old Trafford. The Warriors took on their biggest rivals St Helens at the Magic Weekend in a close encounter. Like in the Grand Final, Wigan hit St Helens with an early blitz and led 16-0 after 50 minutes. Then, with 20 minutes left, a James Roby break supported by Jon Wilkin gave the Saints hope. Eventually, Francis Meli snuck in at the corner to tie the game at 16-16 after 75 minutes. However, a failed Jamie Foster conversion left the game level and it would stay that way as the two teams shared the points.
1. Leeds Rhinos 24-25 Castleford Tigers 2018
This game was moved to Elland Road owing to the reconstruction at Headingley and it proved to be a grand stage for a grand occasion as a record crowd crammed into the stadium. Castleford clearly arrived with a point to prove having lost 24-6 in the Grand Final despite going into the game as favourites. A Luke Gale masterclass saw the Tigers power 24-0 ahead leaving many expecting a similar score line to the Tigers’ 66-10 win over Leeds the previous season. But tries from Kallum Watkins and Ash Handley got the comeback show on the road for Leeds before Gale nudged Castleford further clear with a drop goal. The game got fiery in the second half before Handley scored a spectacular solo try. Leeds got within a converted score of the Tigers thanks to a second from Watkins before a brilliant passing move and a world class finish from Ryan Hall gave Watkins the chance to snatch it with the conversion. His attempt failed to hit the mark and an error from Mikolaj Oledzki as Leeds probed saw Castleford take the spoils and claim their revenge.