Leeds Rhinos

Ground No. 9
Visited - Sunday 7th October 2007
Result(s) - Featherstone Rovers 24-6 Oldham Roughyeds, Castleford Tigers 42-10 Widnes Vikings
Competition - National League Play-Off Finals
Attendance - 20,814

For those readers of the site unfamiliar with Rugby League, then Headingley, home to Leeds Rhinos, has a legendary reputation within the game. Whilst perhaps not being the Old Trafford of Rugby (that title probably belongs to the JJB in Wigan), it’s very much in the Villa Park/Highbury league of grounds, spoken highly of by most, with the history to back up its reputation, having been the location of the first Challenge Cup Final, as well as having had over 40 international games played on its turf.

Opened in 1889, the layout of the site was not uncommon in Yorkshire at one time with a cricket ground sharing next to the adjacent Football/Rugby stadium, but whereas the likes of Bramall Lane in Sheffield, or Park Avenue in Bradford have now become single sport venues, in contrast, Headingley still has both sports played side by side, with a combined capacity of just short of 40,000.

I’d wanted to visit for quite a while, but with Leeds playing most games on a Friday evening, then it wasn’t easy with having to use public transport, so when the 2007 National League play-off Finals were announced as being held at the ground, then I jumped at the chance and booked tickets to be there.

Setting off just after 9am, the journey up to Leeds went well, arriving on time. There was three games due to be played, but with the NL Conference Final kicking off at 12pm, then I didn’t really want to rush too much, so briefly spent some time in the city centre before catching another train to the ground, arriving just after Featherstone Lions had recorded a 42-30 victory over Bramley Buffaloes.

I’d got tickets for the West terrace at the one end of the ground. This was a fair sized, uncovered terrace, usually home to away fans for Leeds games, but already filling up with Oldham supporters here to see their side take on Featherstone Rovers. With the terracing running around the corner, it led onto the famous South Stand, a large terrace covered by an interesting roof which today was home to Castleford fans who were there for the final game of the day. Opposite that was the North Stand, which is another interesting structure, due to be replaced soon if plans go ahead, but it is the main stand at the ground, fully seated with two tiers and a pitched roof that restricts views thanks to two rows of pillars supporting it. It’s main point of interest is that it is actually double sided, sharing facilities with the Cricket ground next door, with seats on the other side (more to come on that later!). These three stands all date back to the 1930’s, but the newest structure at the ground is at the far end. Formerly an uncovered terrace, much like the West Stand, it was replaced in 2006 with the Carnegie Stand, which has a lower tier of terracing, with seating above that, which slightly overhangs the lower tier towards the rear. With the road next to it running at an angle, then it does look a little odd. The southern side runs up at an angle as opposed straight, whilst the upper tier is slightly offset, exemplified by the clock that sits directly behind the posts, yet only about a third of the way in from the southern end of the roof!

After having taken a few pictures and grabbed a beer, then the Featherstone-Oldham game got underway. Featherstone had finished above Oldham in National League 2, but with the ‘Roughyeds’ having won 11 of their previous 12 games, then form was on their side, and they took it into this match, looking the better side in the first half, leading 6-4 up until just before the break when Featherstone scored a vital try to go in at half time winning 10-6. That was the start they needed, and in the second half they were too much for Oldham to handle, with Paul Handforth scoring shortly after the restart, and Wayne McHugh scoring his second just three minutes later in a blitz that sealed Oldham's fate, with their Yorkshire opponents going on to win 24-6, much to the delight of their fans at the far end of the ground in the Carnegie Stand.

With that game over, there was a break which allowed me to go next door and have a look at the cricket ground, before changing ends and standing in the Carnegie Stand which Featherstone fans had vacated, with most not seemingly wanting to stay on and watch/jeer their rivals Castleford, as they prepared for their game against Widnes, whose fans had taken over the West Terrace from the departing Oldham supporters.

This was the big game of the day, with both sides feeling that their natural position was in Super League as opposed NL1, so it was expected to be a battle that both were desperate to win. Castleford had won the league and beaten Widnes in the Semi-Final of the play-offs, so they were full of confidence going into the match, and it really showed, with them dominating the first half, going into the break 13-4 in the lead, having had several tries disallowed. In the second half, they turned their dominance into points, and it was as good as over when they extended the lead to 20 points ten minutes after the restart. Widnes had no reply, and Tigers cruised to a 42-10 victory, with the result never having been in doubt.

After the game had finished, I didn’t stay around too long, going back to the station before getting a train back to Leeds, and onwards home.

Overall, it had been a good day. The games themselves were both a little one sided, which didn’t give the neutral the best experience for excitement, but Headingley is a great stadium, deserving of its legendary status, and I’d personally argue much the better venue to visit in Leeds compared to Elland Road on the other side of the city. It’s sad to say, but grounds like this are disappearing fast. They virtually have in football, and with moves or rebuilds planned for the new franchise system in Super League, then the time to visit them is certainly now. Whilst it was good to visit for this game(s), I still do aim to go back, with a return visit to experience it for a Leeds game still high on my list of trips to do.

Headingley this way!

The Headingley Lodge Hotel

Rear of the East Stand

The East Stand

Rear of the South Stand

Rear of the West Terrace

Rear of the North Stand

The West Terrace

The North Stand

The East Stand

The South Stand

Looking across the South Stand

The North Stand

The West Terrace

The South Stand

Headingley Panoramic 1

Headingley Panoramic 2

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