Ahead of Magic Weekend in Manchester, we take a look back at some previous highs... and lows
By Rob Lancaster
Last Updated: 23/05/13 6:10pm
2007: Bradford 38-42 Leeds - Trouble at the bar...
It seemed Bradford were set to round out the first edition of 'Millennium Magic' (as it was then known) with a hard-fought victory over arch-rivals Leeds when they led a topsy-turvy contest 38-36 with literally seconds remaining.
Even when a penalty was awarded - much to the chagrin of then Bradford boss Steve McNamara - by referee Steve Ganson, it seemed the worst possible outcome for the Bulls would be a share of the spoils.
Everything changed, though, when Kevin Sinfield's attempt at the posts rebounded off the bar and back out into play, allowing the charging Jordan Tansey to scoop up the loose ball and score the game-winning try right as the hooter sounded.
While the Rhinos celebrated the most unlikely of victories, the Bulls were fuming. Not only had they felt the initial penalty was harsh, they were incensed that Tansey should have been punished for being offside once he touched the ball after it had struck the woodwork. Television replays proved as much, and Ganson - who was heavily criticised by McNamara in a 'lively' post-match presser, would go on to offer an apology to the players, officials and supporters of Bradford.
2009: Magic on the move
After two years in the Welsh capital the Rugby Football League decided to take the show on the road to Scotland, dropping 'Millennium' from the title as it the concept became known in its current form as Magic Weekend.
The venue wasn't the only change - instead of the matches being derby clashes, it was decided to set the fixtures for the weekend via a seeded draw using the finishing positions from the previous regular season. Wigan still played St Helens, triumphing 38-18 having suffered two heavy defeats to their neighbours in Wales, but the pick of the games in 2009 was the last on the schedule, Ben Galea inspiring Hull KR to a 36-28 win over Warrington. The result moved Rovers into second place in the Super League table.
Despite the seeded draw not proving particularly popular, the system continued for the following year. In 2010 the results proved to be one-sided, including Warrington putting 68 on Salford and St Helens thumping the Robins 54-0. The one close contest saw Leeds rally from a remarkable 28-10 deficit to get the better of Wakefield 34-30, winger Ryan Hall running in a hat-trick of tries. Edinburgh was a delightful setting, but changes were afoot again...
2011: Crusaders 42-12 Salford - A Hollywood script...
After two years in Scotland the RFL not only went back to Wales but also reverted to the derby fixture list. The only change, though, was that Magic Weekend provided the curtain-raiser to the campaign.
Bradford and Leeds once again didn't disappoint, with the Rhinos squeezing their way home to a 32-28 victory on the Sunday afternoon. Yet the focus on that day had already been on two men from rather contrasting backgrounds - Gareth Thomas and Mickey Rourke.
Former Wales rugby union international Thomas marked his return to the Millennium Stadium, a venue which had provided many career highlights for him during his time in the 15-man code, by helping the then Celtic Crusaders see off Salford 42-12. Michael Witt was the star of the game with a hat-trick of tries to help Brian Noble's troops get off to a winning start after a difficult off-season that had seen them hit by financial prpblems and end up with players stuck back in Australia due to visa complications. Yet the real star turn wasn't even on the field - actor Rourke watched on from a seat in the stands alongside boxer Joe Calzaghe, the Hollywood star taking in the game as part of his preparations to play Thomas in a biopic on the ex-British and Irish Lion.
2012: Moving to Manchester
Another shift in location, this time the Etihad Stadium being selected to host a weekend that while continuing with the derby theme, was shifted to the back portion of May to make sure it didn't clash with the end of the football season. Widnes marked their Magic Weekend debut with a heavy defeat on the pitch to Warrington but did make an impact of sorts, announcing the surprise signing of Huddersfield stand-off Kevin Brown for the following season and beyond.
Both days finished with cracking matches for differing reasons; on Saturday Hull seemed set to gain bragging rights in their city when they led 30-16 with 13 minutes to play. The Robins, however, weren't cooked. The referees missed a dubious-looking pass in the build-up to a try for Sam Latus before David Hodgson went 60 metres to the line to score the match winner in front of Rovers' red and white army, KR coming out on top 32-30 against a rather stunned set of Airlie Birds.
Wigan v St Helens may not have had quite such a dramatic ending on the Sunday, but it was still action packed. The Warriors ran riot in the first-half with Sam Tomkins at his brilliant best in particular; they scored six tries to make sure of the two points by the time they went in at the break. But their display for the first 40 minutes was to be overshadowed by what went on early in the second half. A seemingly innocuous scrum near St Helens' line sparked into life when Gareth Hock and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook went head-to-head. Soon after Chris Tuson and Shaun Magennis started exchanging blows and all hell was threatening to break loose in the Manchester sunshine (yes, the sun does sometimes come out there). The two were red-carded for their fisticuffs, while Hock was given his marching orders as well. Wigan's 11-men ended up winning 42-16.