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Captain courageous

Sky Sports experts praise big-name performances from Leeds

Stevo Posted 7th October 2012 view comments

Stevo hailed the courageous performance of Kevin Sinfield as one of the key factors behind Leeds' Grand Final victory.

The Rhinos skipper scored a try and kicked five goals as he contributed 14 points to a 26-18 triumph over Warrington at Old Trafford on Saturday.

His efforts saw him rewarded with the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match and while Sky Sports expert Stevo could also make a case for the influential Carl Ablett, he said Sinfield's bravery was crucial to Leeds' success.

Sinfield: star man for Leeds

Sinfield: star man for Leeds

"I don't have any objection to the fact that Kevin Sinfield has won the award," he said.

"Ablett really played outstanding rugby league football, both in attack and in defence, but when it came to the kicking game Kevin Sinfield - or Sir Kevin Sinfield as they like to refer to him these days - just takes control.

"When you've got a man of that much stature on the field of play he is so strong. When he got a knock after a clash of heads, a lot of players would have gone off to have a bit of a break.

"He wasn't at the races for five or 10 minutes, but he stood out as Captain Courageous on that field of play and all the players around him responded."

Rise

This was a fifth Grand Final victory in six seasons and fellow Sky Sports pundit Brian Carney said it was no surprise to see star performers, such as Sinfield, rise to the occasion.

But he said their influence has spread to the rest of their squad and they now have a wide group of big-game players to call upon.

Carney said: "We talk about players like Danny McGuire, Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow and Danny Peacock; they are four superstars.

"But players like Carl Ablett, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Brett Delaney and Zak Hardaker barely warrant a mention sometimes. Kylie Leuluai has been an absolute colossus for them and Ryan Hall is one of the best wingers in the world.

"They have now extended beyond the holy three of Sinfield, Burrow and McGuire - and you can add Peacock into that - and they've now got 10 or 12 genuine superstars in that side.

"They go from being squad players to superstars because they're surrounded by superstars."

Leeds only finished fifth in the regular Super League season after a disappointing campaign and were even "Club Called" by Wigan in the play-offs.

But Phil Clarke paid tribute to coach Brian McDermott for giving his players belief in their ability to win on the biggest stages.

"They're absolutely remarkable," he added.

"If you go back to the end of March through to June they lost seven out of 10 games. We were there when they lost and conceded 50 points to Wigan. You'd never have given them a chance of being here tonight.

"I think if there's one thing that being coached by Brian McDermott instils in you - and I don't know if he says it - but being around him tells you that you never give in.

"That message has really resonated since he got there and in the last two years, to win it from fifth, surely comes from his leadership and his personality.

"They haven't been at their best. In fact, they've conceded more points this season than in the last 10 years. Throughout the season the defence hasn't been good.

"But when we get to the last month, they can turn it on."

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