Formidable Iro powers Leeds

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Rugby League

Halifax 24 Leeds 35

The well-honed Wembley homing instincts of Kevin Iro navigated Leeds to within one match of a third successive Silk Cut Challenge Cup final yesterday. In his first game back after a nine-match absence with a chest injury, Iro showed immaculate timing as he scored the try that set the seal on a convincing Leeds win.

More significant, however, was the way that Iro, the veteran of six finals with Wigan and Leeds, used his formidable strength to carve Halifax apart down their right flank, supplying the final pass for three of their first four tries.

It was a win that had a price for Leeds, who lost Tony Kemp with a broken arm and Harvey Howard with a suspected cracked rib. Kemp's involvement in this year's Cup is over, which means that the announcement, expected today, that Garry Schofield is to join Huddersfield as player-coach, leaves Leeds worryingly thin at stand-off.

They had to improvise in the position yesterday, moving Francis Cummins from full-back, but still proved far too good for Halifax in the second half.

The Leeds coach, Dean Bell, had berated his team at half-time for surrendering a 12-2 lead. "I was fuming, because we had built a healthy lead and had let them back into the game," he said.

The match remained evenly balanced for another 10 minutes, but then Leeds cut loose. Their substitute Anthony Gibbons scooped up a loose ball for a third try to add to the first-half efforts from Cummins and George Mann, and then Iro sent Phil Hassan on a 40-yard gallop to the line.

Mann powered over from close range and Graham Holroyd was allowed to stand amid the defence and pick out Adrian Morley to set up yet another Leeds try.

Halifax, who had stayed in touch in the first half thanks to Craig Dean's try, struck again through Asa Amone, but Iro soon wiped out that score with a touchdown after good lead up work from Mike Forshaw, Mann and Gibbons.

A last-minute try from Paul Highton was little consolation for Halifax, who were disrupted by injuries as well as having two players suspended this week.

Their coach, Steve Simms, was not in the mood for making excuses. "We weren't good enough," he declared. "We knew Kevin Iro was going to be a danger. He found a weakness, kept attacking that side and cut us to pieces."

Halifax: Dean (Baldwin, 71); Bentley, Schuster, Moana (Preston, 29), Tuilagi; Chester, Parker; Harrison, Rowley, Anderson, Amone (Highton, 28), Gillespie, Baldwin (Amone, 63).

Leeds: Cummins; Fallon, Iro, Hall, Hassan; Kemp (Schultz, 25), Holroyd; Harmon, Shaw, Howard (Gibbons, h-t), Mann, Morley, Forshaw.

Referee: S Cummins (Widnes).