Leeds’ aggressive start paid off as they ran in the first two tries through Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall, before the NRL champs, Manly, pulled a try back with Brett Stewart latching onto an inside pass.
Leeds regained the impetus going into halftime as Ryan Hall picked up his second try of the game, claiming Kevin Sinfield’s cross field kick under pressure before touching down.
Manly dominated in the early stages of the second half, and were duly rewarded when Daly Cherry-Evans showed great strength to force his way over the line.
Leeds then showed their clinical side, with Ben Jones-Bishop touching down in the corner before Carl Abblett put the cherry on the cake, latching on to a fortuitous Sinfield grubber in the in-goal area.
Their victory saw Leeds join Bradford and Wigan, as the third English club to be crowned world champions on three occasions.
“It was an old-fashioned game of rugby league,” said Leeds coach Brian McDermott. “We did it the tough way and I don’t think we’d want it any other way.
“We looked scruffy at times but we were brave and courageous. There was a period in the second half when we were gone.
“I wouldn’t say we were at our most vintage offensively, but you deserve to win World Club Challenges when you defend like that. It came down to how much the fellas were prepared to bend their backs.”
Manly coach Geoff Toovey refused to make excuses for his team: “We prepared very well for this game. We had several months of pre-season training and played a trial match so there are no excuses,” he said.
Leeds started the brighter, penning Manly in their half, and it wasn’t long before their pressure was rewarded: Running from deep, Kallum Watkins hit the crash ball, and thundered between two would-be tacklers for the first try of the game.
Ryan Hall then juggled an interception 10 metres out from the Leeds try line, before gathering and running the length of the pitch to double Leeds’ advantage.
Then a training ground move from Manly saw Brett Stewart running a great line to accept the inside pass and touch down under the sticks untouched.
Leeds reestablished their lead before the half, Ryan Hall superbly plucking a perfectly flighted cross field kick out of the Headingley air, before diving over the line.
Manly dominated in the second half, but came up against a belligerent Leeds defence. Eventually however, their pressure told as Manly poster boy Daly Cherry-Evans forced his way over after spotting a mismatch.
Manly continued to pile on the pressure, but couldn’t turn their dominance into points, and they were made to pay.
Leeds’ Super League Final hero, Rob Burrow, running the loop, created an overlap, before releasing to Watkins whose quick hands put in Ben Jones-Bishop to touch down in the corner. Surely a sweet tasting moment for Burrow, who was knocked-out cold in the 2009 fixture against Manly.
And Leeds’ victory was made even sweeter after back row Carl Ablett snaffled a Sinfield grubber which seemed to deceive everyone but the Yorkshireman who touched down for the Rhinos’ fifth try of the night.
Image via Getty