Mathers bows out on high as Rhinos routed

Tony Smith has made a habit of disappointing players in his Warrington squad named Richard, but he had nothing but appreciation for Messrs Mathers and Myler at Wembley yesterday.

Richie Mathers had his tenure at full-back effectively terminated by Smith's decision to sign Huddersfield's Brett Hodgson for next season and he is to pursue his career at Castleford.

Lee Briers won the Lance Todd Trophy by a distance, but both he and Smith picked out Mathers as an outstanding contributor. "He made not only try-saving but game-saving tackles," said Smith.

"He's a terrific young man and he's shown up and done a fantastic job for us."

Briers' calculation was that Mathers had made three try-saving tackles behind his own line. He also had a try debatably disallowed and set up the last for Louis Anderson with a clever one-handed pass.

"It's no secret that I think a lot of these guys and this club," Mathers said. "I really wanted to go out on the right note." He certainly did that – and another one to strike the right tone was Richie Myler.

Smith left him out of his Cup final team but the young half-back swallowed his bitter disappointment on the day and, at full-time, could be seen in an embrace and a heart-to-heart with Briers.

"Any rugby player would be gutted to be dropped for a Cup final and a few tears were shed, but I had to put on a brave face for the lads," he said. "My day will come."

"For a 20-year-old," said Briers, "he has shown massive maturity and professionalism."

Those were commodities which Briers himself was popularly supposed to lack earlier in his career, but his man-of-the-match performance at Wembley was a mark of how far he has come. He said: "It was a bit of a goal for myself but I didn't tell anyone about it. I'm a team player, not an individual player and that was the importance of it."

For Leeds, the disappointment was intense. "We were floored," said their coach, Brian McClennan.

"You just won't get any more disappointed in sporting terms than this. I don't think there was any freezing, but as the game went on they got more and more possession. I think Warrington were very, very good. They were very strong and very powerful."

The Leeds captain, Kevin Sinfield, described himself as "embarrassed" by his team's performance.

"But I thought they were outstanding," he said of the victors. "They played some great stuff."

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