Skipper Sinfield sets the standards
At Old Trafford.
Leeds skipper Kevin Sinfield was a man in demand on Saturday night.
Signing autographs, giving interviews, collecting trophies - it took him a long time before he finally reached the Leeds Rhinos dressing room after their third successive Grand Final victory over St Helens.
Most of his team-mates had already changed (England captain Jamie Peacock was in the shower area apparently applying false tan), but Sinfield did not appear to be in a rush.
After exchanging some banter with a few of his team-mates, the 29-year-old took a moment to look at the Harry Sunderland Trophy he had won as the Man of the Match and then took his boots off. As he did so he lifted one up and kissed it.
Not only was it an unusually expressive gesture for a player who keeps a tight rein on his emotions, it was also extraordinarily symbolic.
Sinfield poses with the Super League trophy at Old Trafford
It was the Leeds kicking game that was the foundation of their 18-10 victory. The damage had been done with the boot, not out of the hand.
Time and time again at an atmospheric Old Trafford, St Helens had been turned around by Leeds' devastating kicking game - and Sinfield was at its very heart.
Saints trailed by just one point when another Leeds kick was aimed deep into their territory with 10 minutes left.
It was a moment for St Helens to show all the urgency and desire they had left to offer but it was clear for all to see that they were out on their feet.
Fatigue induces errors. Moments later Matt Gidley threw a forward pass from the play-the-ball. Within minutes Lee Smith, aided, it has to be said, by yet another error from Saints winger Francis Meli, had scored the game-winning try for Leeds.
Saints had been kicked into submission - and Sinfield, along with Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow had done the damage.
St Helens second-rower Jon Wilkin was candid enough to admit that it was not the first time his team had failed to counter the kicking game of Leeds - of the Rhinos' ability to complete an otherwise unspectacular set with a long kick that boomed downfield or a grubber that asked serious questions of the Saints' defensive line.
Some people will point to the decision of video referee Phil Bentham to award Smith his decisive second score on what was his final appearance for the Rhinos before his move to union side Wasps.
I thought Smith was offside when McGuire kicked the ball through - but to suggest that is the reason St Helens lost is to miss the point. The damage done by the Leeds kicking game had made it a question of when, not if.
Wilkin paid rich tribute to the professionalism of Sinfield. The Leeds captain can sometimes come across as a touch dull. He doesn't deliver sound-bites that make headlines and wouldn't be top of the list of players you'd like to have a few beers with.
But he is a dedicated player whose ability to manoeuvre a team around the paddock is something that England would do well to utilise in the forthcoming Four Nations.
He has a cool head and an even temperament. You never get the impression he is going to buckle under pressure; fail to deliver a precious conversion when it really matters.
Sinfield is a player who has learnt from his experiences. In the latter stages of the 2003 Challenge Cup final, Leeds trailed 22-20 against local rivals Bradford. The Rhinos were awarded a penalty in a very kickable position but Sinfield opted to run the ball. Bradford toughed it out and the match finished 22-20. Fast forward to this year's Grand Final and Sinfield kicked a drop-goal in the opening minutes of the second half to put the Rhinos 9-8 in front. It was the first time Saints trailed in the match and the drop-goal spoke of a man who understands the when and why of decision-making in rugby league.
The Leeds skipper is also a decent and honourable man.
Sinfield tries to burst through Leon Pryce's tackle
Much was made prior to the Grand Final of the mutual antipathy between the two teams. In the final minutes - with the match both won and lost - it looked as though that animosity would rear its head.
A couple of unsightly scuffles broke out, pushing and shoving, while Leeds full-back Brent Webb made gestures with his hands in the direction of the Saints players in the closing seconds. It was nothing that would land you in trouble with the authorities, just the type of movements that indicate somebody talking, perhaps saying too much.
There is clearly a bit of needle between Leeds and Saints. I don't think it is entirely a bad thing. It gives Super League a narrative and is something the fans can enjoy. Not surprisingly the Leeds players all embraced each other in celebration as the final hooter sounded - with just about one exception.
Sinfield walked straight over to Kieron Cunningham and embraced the St Helens hooker. Cunningham and Sinfield - two warriors on the field, men you can respect. Their momentary acknowledgement of the efforts of the other was one of my highlights of the final.
Fast forward an hour or so and Sinfield was walking down the changing room corridor to conduct another round of interviews. St Helens duo Sean Long and Lee Gilmour were both talking to reporters. They had played their final games for St Helens after years of loyal and successful service to the Lancashire club.
Sinfield made a point of shaking the hand of each of them and wishing them well.
Kevin Sinfield is not just a very good rugby player but also a stand-up, decent person.
He is a role model.
The loose forward spoke after his team's victory of the memories Leeds had created by winning the Grand Final yet again. Nobody deserves them more than him.