Leeds Rhinos finally eclipsed their dismal record in Challenge Cup finals by overcoming Castleford Tigers 23-10 in a breath taking all-Yorkshire final at Wembley on Saturday.
Ryan Hall produced a sterling display to once again demonstrate why he is regarded by many as being the best winger on the planet. The Lance Todd Trophy winner scored two tries as he helped inspire the Rhinos to their first Challenge Cup title since the last final was played at the old Wembley in 1999.
Leeds started off the brighter of the two sides and were quickly in front when Tom Briscoe went over in the corner after five minutes. However, it wasn’t long before the Tigers bridged the gap, as Daryl Clark collected a good kick from Marc Sneyd and twisted his way through the Leeds defence before going over for four points. Leeds responded with two first-class tries before half-time to go into the break 16-4 ahead. First, a searching kick from Rob Burrow was met by the hungry Danny McGuire who evaded the Cas defence to score. Then, Hall used all of his strength to force his way through the Tigers back line and stretch the Rhino’s lead.
Castleford proved they weren’t ready to lie down after the interval and reignited the tie with an Oliver Holmes try, following good work by Michael Shenton. Liam Finn added the extras to leave the Tigers trailing by just six points. However, their hopes were soon dashed as Ryan Hall again used his power to beat five Castleford players to score a try from almost nothing. Danny McGuire’s late drop goal left Castleford with too much to do and ensured that the Challenge Cup trophy was finally heading back to Headingley after six consecutive final losses.
At the final whistle, there was almost a sense of relief that this generation of Leeds players had finally managed a Challenge Cup triumph. Certainly, Kevin Sinfield seemed to enjoy lifting the cup after five previous failures as captain. Leeds must now turn their attention back to the Super League, where they sit third with three games to go before the Grand Final play-offs begin, with the Rhinos hoping to add more silverware to their trophy cabinet this year.