THE determination Leeds showed to snatch victory in the dying seconds at Huddersfield closely followed by the sound of wailing at Wigan underlined one thing – this year finishing top of the table really mattered.

No more can winning the League Leaders Shield be cast aside with derogatory slur about it only being the ‘hub cap’.

To be fair this process of re-evaluating the importance of the shield was building last year when Saints really wanted it.

That was possibly because Saints, prior to last term, had not won anything since 2008 and looked real outsiders to win the Grand Final.

This year the motivation is different.

After all it is is not five weeks since Leeds Rhinos were running around Wembley with the game’s most historic and prestigious trophy.

Of course there is also the money – double the £50,000 Saints pocketed for coming out on top.

And, not that this affects Leeds as they have already secured it through their cup win, the top team goes through to the World Club Challenge.

But I don’t think any of that contributed to the determined way Leeds, still a bit bedraggled from their Wembley campaign, pulled themselves off the canvas after their wobble to snatch this one.

Ryan Hall’s delight as he powered in for his last gasp try – caught full frontal by the camera crew and photographers – was exactly the sort of image rugby league needs at the minute.

It was not as chaotic, inventive or artistic as Wide to West, but it was a great piece of sporting theatre.

Sure a lot has been made of the helicopter flitting back and to across the Pennines with the League Leaders Shield, but games like this did not really need an extra gimmick.

That said, it did beat that pathetic stunt pulled at Langtree Park last year when the shield was filmed being packed up in a box and taken down the corridor.

Leeds wanted to finish top because as the team that had dominated the league this year they wanted to make sure that they got that recognition.

It is yet another major plus from this year’s system.

The league table matters again.

Gone are the days when teams could amble through the season and build to peak for the play offs.

No more do we have meaningless rounds, playing simply for a starting grid spot in an entirely new competition.

The format has brought the drama and prestige back and for that someone deserves a pat on the back.