Rugby League: Heroic Hanley

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The Independent Online
Leeds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20

St Helens. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

Ellery Hanley lifted the siege of Central Park to take Leeds to rugby league's Challenge Cup final for the first time in 16 years. Hanley, 33 today and four times a Cup winner with Wigan, struck twice in the last 16 minutes to give Leeds victory and a meeting at Wembley with his former club.

To describe his decisive two tries as against the run of play would be a scandalous understatement. Leeds, traditionally known for their cavalier attacking play rather than for their relish for the hard work of defence, spent much of the match penned deep in their own territory as Saints probed for an opening that seemed certain to come.

'We showed what spirit there is in the side, because you can't defend like that without spirit,' the Leeds stand-off, Garry Schofield, said afterwards. 'Then, with the quality of players we have, you only need a couple of chances and you can win the game.'

Saints had clawed their way back to 8-8 when that quality, suppressed for most of the match by the Lancashire side's territorial dominance, asserted itself. Alan Tait, voted man of the match more for his defensive stint than for his attacking skills, had already made one dangerous break that saw him tackled into touch by Phil Vievers. This time, he got away down the middle and found Hanley in his familiar position in support for the Leeds captain to surge over.

Hanley's second try, five minutes from time, came from an obvious forward pass from Kevin Iro at the end of a complex move. 'It looked forward to me and at that stage I didn't think that we were out of it at just a try and a goal behind,' said the St Helens coach, Eric Hughes.

From the start, it looked as though the fates were smiling on Leeds. Graham Holroyd kicked a difficult penalty from wide out after two minutes; Paul Loughlin missed a simple one for Saints. Then there was an element of good fortune in the try that took Leeds eight points clear, a Saints hand touching Hanley's pass to give them an extra six tackles. Leeds needed only three of them before Richie Eyres, a member of the Widnes side that beat them in the semi-final last season, crashed over from close range.

Saints got a splendid individual try from Tommy Martyn soon after they pitched camp in the Leeds half, but they could not break through again despite half an hour of almost unrelieved pressure. Leeds had to scramble clear behind their try- line on innumerable occasions and should have conceded a try when David Lyon opened the defence but sent his pass too low for Martyn.

Anthony Sullivan finally crossed the Leeds line in the second half but bounced the ball in the act of touching down. Martyn put Saints level with a penalty after Gary Mercer's high tackle, but that was the signal for which Hanley had been waiting.

St Helens: Tries Martyn; Goals Martyn 2. Leeds: Tries Hanley 2, Eyres; Goals Holroyd 4.

Leeds: Tait; Fallon (Donohue, 11; Fallon, 40), Iro, Innes, Cummins; Holroyd, Schofield; Harmon (Rose, 61), Lowes, Howard (Harmon, 74), Mercer, Eyres, Hanley (capt).

St Helens: Lyon; Hunte, Ropati, Loughlin, Sullivan; Martyn, Griffiths; Dannatt (Mann, 60), Dwyer, Mann (Harrison, 26; Pickavance, 66), Joynt, Pickavance (Veivers, 34), Cooper (capt).

Referee: J Holdsworth (Kippax).

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