Hicks hat-trick as Warrington take challenge cup

Leeds 6 Warrington 30

Australian Chris Hicks became only the sixth player to score a hat-trick of tries in a Challenge Cup final as Warrington produced a masterclass in today's showpiece at Wembley to retain the trophy in clinical fashion.

In front of a sell-out crowd of 85,217, the Wolves combined magnificent defence and enterprising attacking rugby that brought them three tries in each half of the most one-sided final since Leeds hammered London Broncos 52-16 on their last Wembley appearance in 1999.

The Rhinos have dominated Super League's Grand Final, with four Old Trafford triumphs in the last six years, but their failure to make their mark on the famous Challenge Cup continues to hang around their necks like a millstone.

They have now lost four finals in 10 years and their misery was compounded by the fact that Wolves centre Ryan Atkins, who slipped through Leeds' fingers as a youngster, set the platform with two first-half tries.

Today's victory was another tactical triumph for Warrington's former Leeds coach Tony Smith, whose surprise decision to drop England scrum-half Richie Myler paid off handsomely with the Wolves playmakers all making telling contributions.

While Atkins and Hicks supplied the finishing touches, the architect was veteran stand-off Lee Briers, who had a hand or foot in three of his side's first four tries which broke the resistence of the Super League champions and earned him the prestigious Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match.

Already without Jamie Peacock and Luke Burgess, the Rhinos lost a third prop, Kylie Leuluai, with a knock inside the first quarter, although he was able to return, unlike second-rower Jamie Jones-Buchanan after he hobbled off 15 minutes into the second half.

The Rhinos also had to carry out running repairs to keep half-backs Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow on the field but there was no doubting the superiority of Smith's men, who strangled the life out of the Leeds attack with some brilliant defence.

Yet had Leeds displayed most of the early enterprise, using the full width of the pitch even on the last tackle from deep inside their own half, and they created the first try-scoring opportunity.

Kevin Sinfield and McGuire combined to get prop forward Ryan Bailey through a gap but he was unable to ground the ball and Warrington made the most of the let-off with two tries in a four-minute spell.

Atkins, who was rejected by his home-town club because he was too small, leapt high to gather Briers' kick to touch down for his first try after defender Brett Delaney crucially lost his footing and then Hicks took Matt King's inside pass to finish decisively for his first.

The Wolves then defended superbly to keep their lead intact before striking again on the counter-attack six minutes before half-time.

Left winger Chris Riley appeared to be offside when he collected the ball from McGuire's towering kick but there was no whistle and he raced away to halfway to set up the position for Atkins to sprint clear from dummy half to score his second try.

Leeds did enough at the start of the second half to suggest they could come back but the thin blue line of Warrington's defence stood firm despite the best efforts of Delaney.

He was pushed back at the line on one occasion and when he eventually got over was to be denied by outstanding full-back Richard Mathers, who got his body under the ball.

The Wolves had no problem finishing off their chances and they put the game to bed after 61 minutes when Hicks leapt above Ryan Hall to gather another accurate kick from Briers and grab his second try.

Westwood's touchline conversion made it 20-0 and, although Leeds briefly threatened a fightback when winger Lee Smith went over for a 67th-minute try, Warrington were simply irresistible.

Mathers was denied a try by video referee Ian Smith because of an obstruction, but Hicks was not to be denied a hat-trick as he took Ben Westwood's pass to cross at the corner and second-rower Louis Anderson completed the rout by powering through a tiring defence for his side's sixth try.


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