Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final 2015
Hull KR 0 Leeds Rhinos 50
Jonathan Doidge at Wembley
Tom Briscoe inked his name into the record books with an unprecedented five tries in a Challenge Cup final as the rampant Rhinos retained the trophy. Into the bargain Leeds rewrote their own piece of history by recording a colossal 50-point winning margin, in what was the most one-sided Wembley decider ever.
Those who saw Leroy Rivett’s four tries in Leeds’ 1999 success over London Broncos thought that it was a record that would never be eclipsed. However, in front of Billy Boston and Martin Offiah, two of the greatest wingers in the history of the sport, this was “beyond the wildest dreams” of the man who had spent much of the campaign sidelined due to a shoulder injury.
Twelve months ago it was his left wing partner Ryan Hall who took the plaudits, but this time ‘WBW’ did not manage to get on the end of a single one of his team’s nine tries as it was all ‘eyes right’ to a man who will now be beating down Steve McNamara’s door for an England spot in a few weeks time.
Poor Rovers will be sick of the sight of the 25-year-old flyer, who had also announced his arrival at Headingley last year with four tries against the Robins on his Leeds debut.
Aside from Briscoe there was a sterling effort from Danny McGuire, including a first half try in what was a memorable 400th career appearance. That may have given one or two members of the press at least a little bit to think about as they cast their Lance Todd votes. By then, however, Briscoe had a hat-trick and he celebrated the announcement of his gong with a further two scores in the final five minutes.
The win gave Kevin Sinfield great cause to celebrate the distinction of being the first man to lead a team in seven Challenge Cup finals, while 37-year-old props Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai will have much to remember of their final appearances at a venue that has seen their fortunes improve with age.
On their first visit to Wembley since 1986, Hull KR were outclassed, outmuscled and simply outplayed by a team who drew upon every bit of their previous experiences in this particular decider to completely dominate the contest.
The decision to go with injury doubt Albert Kelly was clearly a sound one by Rovers coach Chris Chester, given that the half-back was one of his team’s more energetic operators, although his kicking game did not always match his enthusiasm.
Perhaps the call that might haunt the coach is the omission of Ben Cockayne, given that fullback Kieran Dixon had a hellish 80 minutes on his return to the capital. The coach was understandably keen to deflect any criticism of the former-London Bronco post-match and shared responsibility for the defeat, though he must have winced once or twice during the match itself as his man made a succession of errors.
Even so, no one would put such a defeat down to one or two players and collectively the Robins – who have not been playing at the intensity of their opponents in the past month – just could not find it within to rise to the occasion.
Leeds were clinical and for all of their dominance, they played a much tighter game than they have in recent Super League matches. Instead of their feverish offloading, here they were at pains to play out their sets and they showed excellent composure at times when on other days they might have pushed the ball out more speculatively.
With no Paul Aiton, Sinfield orchestrated play from dummy-half, overseeing the operation as his team mates carried out what they had planned to do with ruthless efficiency. Upfront, ‘JP’, Mitch Garbutt and Leuluai provided the grunt, Cuthbertson was less spectacular than usual, but he could hardly be described as less effective, while Brett Delaney, Carl Ablett and Stevie Ward all put their hands up.
Rovers, who probably needed to start well to have their best chance of success, just could not make the yards of their opponents and used up far too much juice in their own half – with and without the ball – to have any hope of a first Challenge Cup win in 35 years. That they were nilled, however, says more about the Rhinos desire to keep them out than any lack of opportunity.
Leeds took immediate control, making good yards and defending well enough to make Kelly kick from deep inside his own half at the end of Rovers’ sets. The opening try took just six minutes in coming when, on the back of the game’s first penalty the Rhinos struck.
Peacock took Cuthbertson’s short ball and looked a likely scorer under the posts, but Kevin Larroyer ripped it from his grasp, only for the supporting Delaney to touch it down under the posts.
When McCarthy grassed a routine pass it proved very costly. Rampaging forward, the holders ran it on the last tackle, Sinfield switching play to the flank, before Peacock fed Moon on the inside. The centre then created space and sent McGuire over for a fabulous score. With the Leeds skipper maximising both tries, it already seemed vital that the East Yorkshire club got the next score, but for them worse was to follow.
Taking the restart on the full, Hall shrugged off Kelly and broke clear from deep, handing on to Ablett. Although he was tackled, a quick play-the-ball saw the Rhinos once again shift play to the right before Briscoe stepped inside some flimsy defence to score his first and his team’s second in as many minutes.
A scrappy second quarter at least saw Rovers defend their line well enough to hold up both Hall and Leuluai in the same set, but they went in at the break needing to write their own piece of history in overturning a 16-point deficit if they were to lift the cup. It never looked even a remote possibility as the Rhinos ran riot.
The first of six second-half tries will be remembered as one of the most spectacular ever scored at Wembley. Maurice Blair’s last-tackle floater lacked conviction and ended up in the arms of Briscoe who raced 90-metres, holding off Sio’s late lunge to complete the sort of finish that the club brought him over from Hull for.
Burrow was introduced at that point and was soon sending Brad Singleton over, before Hull KR finally breached the holders’ try line only for Larroyer to be held up. Briscoe then completed his hat-trick – a Wembley rarity in itself – as Watkins initiated the first of his own treble of assists.
The centre was at it again seven minutes from time when his wonderful footwork broke the line and enabled him to send Burrow away under the posts, while he also wriggled free for a third time to send Briscoe over in the corner and equal Rivett’s landmark.
That looked to be that until Dixon’s final faux pas, when he lost the ball in the tackle of Ablett, allowing McGuire to send the beaming Briscoe bounding over and complete his famous five.
There is little time for soul searching among Rovers’ ranks as their quest for Super League survival continues at home to Wakefield on Sunday, with a win likely to be good enough to achieve that goal.
As for Leeds, well whisper it quietly, but a treble that has thus far eluded their ‘golden generation’ – and has not been achieved since St Helens did so in 2006 – looks a more than just a passing fancy.
1 Zak Hardaker
2 Tom Briscoe
3 Kallum Watkins
4 Joel Moon
5 Ryan Hall
13 Kevin Sinfield (Capt)
6 Danny McGuire
30 Mitch Garbutt
17 Adam Cuthbertson
10 Jamie Peacock
14 Stevie Ward
12 Carl Ablett
15 Brett Delaney
7 Rob Burrow
8 Kylie Leuluai
16 Mitch Achurch
19 Brad Singleton
Tries: Delaney (6), McGuire (17), Briscoe (19, 47, 66, 75, 78), Singleton (57), Burrow (73)
Goals: Sinfield 7/9
Hull Kingston Rovers
1 Kieran Dixon
4 Josh Mantellato
19 Kris Welham
18 Liam Salter
5 Ken Sio
6 Maurice Blair
7 Albert Kelly
8 Adam Walker
31 Shaun Lunt
34 Tony Puletua
11 Kevin Larroyer
12 Graeme Horne
13 Tyrone McCarthy (Capt)
Subs (all used)
24 John Boudebza
15 James Donaldson
32 Dane Tilse
14 Mitch Allgood
Referee: Ben Thaler
Video referees: James Child & Richard Silverwood
Man of the Match: Tom Briscoe – Fantastic finishing!
Weather: Mild. Rain in second-half.