Warrington. . . . .4
THE Leeds way for much of the 16 frustrating years since they last reached rugby league's Challenge Cup final has been consistently to fail to fulfil their rich individual talents.
A startlingly comprehensive victory over the league leaders that took them into the last eight of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup understandably left the patient Headingley supporters with the strong impression that they now have a side who are capable of ending the long wait.
Some superb attacking rugby from the likes of Alan Tait, Kevin Iro, Craig Innes and Ellery Hanley swept Warrington aside, putting them virtually out of contention in the first 20 minutes. But for those who have watched Leeds acquire their reputation as the great under-achievers of the game, the quality of their defensive work was just as noteworthy and even more surprising.
The urgency of a club who knew they had just one trophy left to play for was apparent from the start. After Warrington had made a mess of a simple pass, Garry Schofield, pressed into service at scrum-half for Leeds, answered the question of whether he would be able to function around the scrums by getting a crisp pass away. Tait's incisive, angled run stripped Warrington's defence bare.
Although he was stopped by Jonathan Davies' tackle just short of the line, he found Jim Fallon in support and Leeds were on their way.
That way was paved with good intentions expertly realised. The richly talented young stand-off, Graham Holroyd, who also kicked five goals, combined with the omnipresent Gary Mercer for Innes to claim his first try and more good work by Mercer sent in Iro, who has been guilty of sleepwalking throughout much of the season for club and country but who was wide awake yesterday.
Warrington's only real chance of making inroads into what was already looking like a winning lead disappeared when Davies was tackled into touch by Tait and then Hanley's freakish strength soon set up Schofield for Leeds' fourth try.
He took a long pass from Schofield and somehow managed to stay on his feet on an arcing run past a series of tackles, Schofield arriving in support to score in the corner.
Holroyd's kick prepared the way for Hanley's try after the break and Warrington's moment of respite, when Greg Mackey and Allan Bateman sent in Rob Myler for their only try, was short-lived. A flowing move ended with the outstanding Mercer supplying Innes with the pass for his second try.
When Fallon went 70 yards from a scrum in the last minute for his second, all Leeds' expensive backs had shown their verve. Equally remarkable was the way Mercer, Hanley and other major contributors like Neil Harmon and Harvey Howard were still knocking Warrington down as though their winning pay depended upon it. Put those two elements together and Leeds' long-awaited year could be here at last.
Leeds: Tries Fallon 2, Innes 2, Iro, Schofield, Hanley; Goals Holroyd 5. Warrington: Tries Myler.
Leeds: Tait; Fallon, Iro, Innes, Cummins; Holroyd, Schofield; Harmon (Rose, 69 min), Lowes, Howard (Harmon, 78 min), Mercer, Eyres, Hanley.
Warrington: Penny; Forster, Bateman, Davies, Myler; Ellis (Gregory, 67 min), Mackey; Teitzel (Hilton, 34 min), Thursfield, Jackson (Teitzel, 67 min), Darbyshire, Gregory (Elliott, 34 min), Shelford.
Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).
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