Leeds triumph tainted as fans riot

Scintillating Challenge Cup semi-final is marred as unruly Hull supporters engage in pitch battle
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The Independent Online

It is a severe set-back for the image of the code that a match that encompassed so much that is good about rugby league will be remembered for the violence after the final hooter. Hull might have lost this Silk Cut Challenge Cup semi-final, but they had performed with considerable honour, something which was mocked by the way their fans ran riot. There was nothing in what was in many ways a classic contest to explain or remotely justify it.

Although their coach, Shaun McRae, argued that they had been outplayed for much of the game, Hull refused to lie down. It was not until six minutes from the end of scheduled time that they were beaten, Anthony Farrell stepping through some tired defence for the decisive try.

Even then, Wayne McDonald scored a try in injury time to bring the margin back to a modest six points - equivalent to the extra goals kicked by Iestyn Harris. It was a gap that was just about a fair reflection of the balance of play, even if such considerations were put in the shade by what happened next.

Hull had started well, capitalising on David Barnhill's mistake at the game's first play-the-ball by winning an offside penalty, converted by Ben Sammut. Within the first five minutes, though, the Cup holders had shown several of the facets of their play that would bring about their eventual victory.

A brilliant rescuing run by Harris got them out of trouble and Richie Blackmore shook off Deon Bird for the first try, although the question of whether Keith Senior had been offside in the build up was the first of several debatable decisions for an over-worked video referee to mull over. Harris converted from wide out and his penalty after Will Robinson had ripped the ball from Senior established another area of Leeds' superiority.

However, on the day the clocks went forward, Hull benefited from extra Daylight. Their winger, Matt Daylight, kept them in the game with a hat-trick of tries, earning him the man of the match award, the first of them after Craig Wilson had stolen the ball from the accident-prone Barnhill.

There was a question mark about Barrie McDermott's pass to Francis Cummins that set up the position for Ryan Sheridan to score, but, after Paul King's 40/20 kick, Wilson's elegantly precise long pass sent Daylight in once more.

Sammut could not match Harris's accurate goal-kicking and Hull remained four points behind until six minutes into the second half, when Paul Cooke's towering kick was plucked out of the air by the inspired Daylight to complete his haul.

That was the testing time for Leeds, but they responded with Cummins' try, when he outleapt Brian Carney to take Sheridan's bomb.

This time, they were to hang on to their lead, although Hull thought they had their chance to equalise when the hero of last year's final, Leroy Rivett, stumbled in pursuit of Stanley Gene's low kick and recovered in time to reach it fractionally before Bird could touch down.

Hull's downfall came when Paul Broadbent knocked on behind his own try-line straight from a kick-off following a Sammut penalty. Leeds seized their chance through Farrell; there was no indication at the time that this was merely a preliminary skirmish.

Dean Lance, the Rhinos coach, was delighted with his team's performance but said a decision by the video referee, David Campbell, to disallow a late Hull try by Bird had been vital to the outcome in Leeds' favour. "It was a crucial moment," he said. "The video ref was kind to us."

McRae, meanwhile, had no complaints about the result, saying: "I thought we were outplayed. I congratulate Leeds. I am sure it is set up well for a really good final."

Hull: Sammut; Daylight, Bird, Collins, Carney; Cooke, Robinson; Broadbent, King, Felsch, Wilson, Grimaldi, Maiden. Substitutes used: Simon, Gene, McDonald, Hick.

Leeds Rhinos: Harris; Rivett, Blackmore, Senior; Cummins, Powell; Sheridan, Fleary, Speak, McDermott, Barnhill, Farrell, Sinfield. Substitutes used: St Hilaire, Jackson, Hay, Mathiou.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).