Leeds Rhinos vs Warrington Wolves Challenge Cup match report: Ryan Hall leads the charge as Rhinos maul Cup nemesis to reach final
Leeds Rhinos 24 Warrington Wolves 16: England winger scores twice despite some stubborn resistance
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Sunday 10 August 2014
The one blot on the collective record of Leeds' "amber generation" of home-produced stars is that they have not won the Challenge Cup this millennium.
They effectively removed the side that has been their major barrier in recent years with surgical skill in the first half of this year's first semi-final, spearheaded by two well-taken tries from the England winger, Ryan Hall.
It was a more even game after the interval and Warrington deserve credit for some stubborn resistance on a day when they often had trouble holding the ball, but Leeds had more than earned a chance to make up for their six Cup final defeats since they last won the trophy in 1999.
"I thought we were very, very good in the first half," said the Rhinos' coach, Brian McDermott. "It was never going to be like that in the second, when they had to chance their arm and it came off to a degree. I feel immensely proud and privileged."
Leeds had their talismanic captain, Kevin Sinfield, back after the unaccustomed frustration of sitting out the last two matches suspended for a head-butt – and he made an obvious difference to their organisation.
It was Sinfield who put the Rhinos ahead with a penalty after Matty Russell was pulled up for offside when he ran into his team-mate, Anthony England. Stefan Ratchford gave further evidence of Warrington's nerves by putting his restart dead and his side under extra pressure.
A couple more penalties turned the screw on the Wolves, with Jamie Jones-Buchanan held up over the try-line with men available in support. It was a completely dominant first 15 minutes from Leeds, which should have brought them more than a mere two points.
When Warrington did get some scraps of possession, they squandered them with some faulty handling. This was not the team that has won three of the last five Challenge Cups.
Leeds got some more tangible reward for their superiority after 25 minutes, when another cheap turnover of the ball gave the Rhinos an invitation to attack on their potent left flank. Joel Moon must be a delight for the winger outside him and it was his lightning quick hands that gave Hall a glimpse of the corner.
Warrington thought they had done enough to stop him grounding the ball clearly. The video evidence was inconclusive, but the video referee, Ben Thaler, gave the left winger the benefit of the doubt and Sinfield added an excellent conversion from the touchline.
The Wolves threatened to make inroads into Leeds' lead, but Richie Myler was brought back for a forward pass from Matty Russell. Almost immediately, Leeds showed them how it was done with Hall's second, set up by Zak Hardaker's marvellous run from deep and Danny McGuire's floated cut-out pass. Sinfield's third goal, in off the post, confirmed the impression that the Rhinos could do little wrong.
Warrington finally did something right four minutes into the second half with Myler kicking for the corner, Joel Monaghan leaping like a line-out jumper and Chris Bridge taking his short pass to go over. Any discomfort for Leeds lasted just a handful of minutes, until the tireless, ageless Jamie Peacock's offload and darting runs from Rob Burrow and Sinfield set up the excellent Moon for their third try.
It would take a miracle from this point to rescue the Wolves and it was a miracle pass from Ben Westwood, back-flipped one-handed as he went to ground to put Ratchford over, that brought them back into it.
That lasted until the 67th minute, when Myler's pass went astray and Tom Briscoe ran in the clinching try, handing off the chasing Rhys Evans. A late try gifted to Westwood did little but slightly spoil the look of the scoreboard for Leeds.
"We gave ourselves way too much to do," said Warrington's Tony Smith, who conceded that it was Leeds who deserved to be in the final.
They know where Wembley is. Now they have to work out what to do when they get there to play Castleford or Widnes on 23 August.
Leeds Hardaker; Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall; McGuire, Sinfield; Leuluai, Burrow, Peacock, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney. Substitutes used Bailey, Aiton, Kirke, Sutcliffe.
Warrington Russell; J Monaghan, Bridge, Atkins, Evans; Ratchford, Myler; Hill, M Monaghan, England, Waterhouse, Harrison, Westwood. Substitutes used Higham, Asotasi, Wood, Grix.
Referee P Bentham.
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