Wolves' wise old heads benefit from Leeds' loss of momentum

Warrington 35 Leeds 18


Tony Smith doesn't mind having the odd friendly dig at his more senior players. "The only reason I bring these two in," the Warrington coach said, nodding towards Brett Hodgson and Adrian Morley after the match, "is that they make me look young".

Sadly for Leeds, the two mid-thirty-somethings looked very much in the prime of life during the Challenge Cup final as the Rhinos failed again to win their "missing" trophy.

Hodgson, a 34-year-old skeleton of a rugby league player, was a deserving man of the match for the durability he showed in getting up from a legal but lethal tackle from Kylie Leuluai to orchestrate the Wolves' dance towards the finishing post.

It was an incident which showcased both the best and worst of the code. There was the extreme physical confrontation of Leuluai's crunching tackle, which was on the borderline of what is permitted in this toughest of team sports. There was also the uncomplaining way that Hodgson accepted it, insisting afterwards that Leuluai – "a champion bloke," he called him – had done nothing wrong. But there was, too, the interminable wait while the impact was shown and scrutinised time after time. It revealed nothing we had not seen the first time and it deprived both the game of much of its momentum and some of the 79,180 crowd, one suspects, of their will to live.

You could argue that Leeds never managed to get their momentum back. After Brett Delaney's no-try from the loose ball in the Hodgson-Leuluai collision, the Rhinos conceded three tries in 10 minutes, effectively scuppering their chances of a first Challenge Cup since 1999. Much of the damage had been done, however, a lot earlier than that.

Morley, the Warrington captain, would have been nettled to start on the bench. When he came on midway through the first half, he focused all the aggression that had been threatening to fly off in all directions. At 35, the man who first emerged as a hot-headed teenager at Leeds can still do the business on the big occasion.

The third of the Wolves' vigorous veterans, Lee Briers, had one of his less obviously eye-catching games, but his stealthy influence was still everywhere. That includes the performance of his half-back partner, Richie Myler, who made a number of Briers-style plays to put his team on top.

Two years ago, Myler was distraught to be left out of the Cup final side, but the heart that is broken at Wembley can be mended at Wembley, as he looked every inch a Test scrum-half. That healing process applied to Hodgson as well, because he was a member of the Huddersfield side beaten by the Wolves in 2009.

Briers paid fulsome tribute to him on Saturday, calling his "probably one of the best performances I've seen.

"He did a few outstanding things, but he was just so safe at the back. He gets whacked and whacked. You've got to be tough to do what he does."

As for Leeds, they were better than they were when they were thrashed by Warrington in the final two years ago, but not by much. They started strongly enough, with Jamie Peacock well to the fore, but once the game settled into a pattern they were always second best. The consensus, even among their own supporters, was that they would have been further behind at half-time had it not been for a monsoon downpour which turned part of the first half into a stalemate.

There is no doubt that they missed the injured Danny McGuire, with his 18-year-old understudy, Stevie Ward, struggling to make his mark on the game.

There were flashes of the potential of Zak Hardaker and, with his two late tries, Kallum Watkins, as well as the appearance of the first German to play in the final in the shaoe of the Leeds Metropolitan University student, Jimmy Keinhorst. But it did not add up to enough to trouble Warrington, which meant that the game never quite amounted to the classic it could have been. Rugby league, with its current climate of financial problems at clubs, could have used a more ringing vindication.

Even some Warrington fans seemed to find a reason to be pessimistic. Their side's challenge now is to regroup in time for a stab at the Grand Final, which they have never reached. Everyone is agreed that to complete that double will require something really special – and the Wolves, exceptional side though they are, might not quite have it. "Ah well," said one supporter, who had been through the celebratory phase and had arrived at the maudlin, glass-half-empty stage, "there goes our chance of winning Super League".

Scorers: Leeds: Tries Kirke, Watkins 2. Goals Sinfield 3. Warrington: Tries J Monaghan, Waterhouse, Riley, Atkins, McCarthy, Hodgson; Goals Hodgson 5; Drop goal Briers.

Leeds Ward, Jones-Bishop, Hall, Delaney, Watkins, Hardaker, Burrow, Sinfield, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan, Bailey, Leuluai, Peacock.

Replacements Keinhorst, Griffin, Kirke, Lunt.

Warrington Hodgson, Riley, J Monaghan, Hill, Atkins, Briers, Myler, Harrison, Ratchford, Waterhouse, Westwood, Higham, Carvell.

Replacements McCarthy, M Monaghan, Morley, Wood.

The final indignity: Leeds' half-dozen horrors

2000 Lost 24-18 to Bradford at Huddersfield

2003 Lost 22-20 to Bradford at Cardiff

2005 Lost 25-24 to Hull at Cardiff

2010 Lost 30-6 to Warrington at Wembley

2011 Lost 28-18 to Wigan at Wembley

2012 Lost 35-18 to Warrington at Wembley

Suggested Topics
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Morrissey pictured in 2013
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's First World War footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during the war. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end