The Challenge Cup final will be contested by Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers after both sides produced strong performances to progress from their semi-final ties over the weekend.
The Rhinos held off a courageous comeback from Warrington Wolves to emerge 24-16 victors on Saturday at Langtree Park, while on Sunday Castleford ran out 28-6 winners against Widnes Vikings in Leigh to set up an eye-watering all-Yorkshire final at Wembley on 23rd August.
Leeds started strongly against their Lancashire opponents and, after some resilient defending, their pressure finally told. Brilliant as ever, Ryan Hall finished off two moves in style; the second try coming after a fantastic take and run by fullback Zak Hardaker. The Rhinos went into the interval with a 14-0 lead; however Warrington wouldn’t lie down and improved in the second period. Chris Bridge got the Wolves on the scoreboard, however Leeds replied through Joel Moon after good work by Rob Burrow. Tom Briscoe latched onto a mistake to go over for the Rhinos in between two Warrington tries which ultimately left the Wolves with too much to do.
Castleford dominated their game against Widnes from start to finish and – like Leeds – were 14-0 up at half-time after Liam Finn, Daryl Clark and Kirk Dixon tries. The Tigers continued where they left off after the break and played some silky rugby as scores from Jamie Ellis and Jake Webster left the result in no doubt. Jack Owens scored a late consolation try for Widnes, but it was simply a case of too little, too late. A small section of Vikings’ fans somewhat marred the occasion by breaking onto the pitch and confronting Castleford’s supporters and mascots. Club representatives have since declared that anyone found guilty will be banned.
Leeds and Castleford will meet at Wembley in the first all-Yorkshire final since 1986 when the Tigers beat Hull FC – the last time they were victorious in the competition. It will be Castleford’s first visit to the stadium for 22 years and they will be hoping that that they can stretch the Rhinos’ woeful run in Challenge Cup finals to seven consecutive defeats. Despite having appeared in three of the last four finals, Leeds were last victorious in the competition back in 1999. Both sides will be keen to get their hands on the trophy after so many years and the stage is certainly set for a great final.
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