Bygones: When unlikely lads Sinfield and McGuire stepped up to plate and earned Leeds a dramatic Challenge Cup semi-final success

Danny McGuire scores against St Helens
Danny McGuire scores against St Helens
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THE odds will be stacked against Leeds Rhinos this week as they look to reach Wembley for the sixth time in nine years.

Out of form and knowing they are threatened by relegation with the dangerous Qualifiers looming, Kevin Sinfield’s side are certainly big underdogs when it comes to Sunday’s Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington Wolves.

Kevin Sinfield

Kevin Sinfield

But, given that aforementioned record in the famous competition, the club clearly have pedigree when it comes to these matters.

Indeed, as their decorated captain, Sinfield was at the heart of many of those triumphs, if not always winning at Wembley (he did twice in 2014 and 2015 after five previous defeats) at least getting them to the final stage.

Perhaps most famous of all was Leeds’ stunning 2003 semi-final victory over St Helens, still rated as one of the greatest-ever last-four affairs in the Cup’s 122-year history.

It will be always remembered as the Danny McGuire show, given the prodigious 20-year-old came off the bench to rescue the game for Daryl Powell’s side.

Not only did he dummy over to score with the very last play and set it up for extra-time, but the gifted half-back then added his second in extra-time to send his hometown club to the final which was, at that time, played in Cardiff due to Wembley’s re-build.

Still, it is often forgotten how significant the role of Sinfield – now back at Leeds as director of rugby – was in guiding them home.

In his first year as captain, and still aged just 23 himself, he showed remarkable nerve and poise to slot the brilliant touchline conversion of McGuire’s try to actually send the thrilling game into extra-time.

Of course, it would become one of his trademarks, that metronomic kicking style that served club and country so well, and this was surely one of its finest examples.

However, Sinfield also went on to nudge his side ahead with a drop-goal and then, as well, it was his pass that sent McGuire in for the clincher.

How Leeds, who lost the final to Bradford Bulls, could do with someone of his ilk to take control at Bolton on Sunday.

They have candidates, of course, but Sinfield’s own role now is limited to off the field and putting together a gameplan to unhinge a top-four Warrington side who ran runaway leaders St Helens so close last week.

They won’t mind the underdog status but if Steve Price’s Wolves side do eventually prosper it will be the first time since 2007 – when St Helens beat Catalans Dragons – that there has been no Yorkshire side contesting the showpiece.