Leeds Rhinos won the 2014 Challenge Cup at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, disposing of Yorkshire rivals Castleford Tigers 23-10 on a historic day for the Rhinos.
It’s been a long time coming for Leeds, who, as BBC Sport revealed, have lost six finals since they last lifted the Challenge Cup all the way back in 1999:
While the Tigers put up a fight, Brian McDermott’s side never looked like surrendering their lead once they edged in front and deservedly lifted the trophy in front of thousands of jubilant fans.
The pressure and magnitude of the occasion has made for slow stars in recent Challenge Cup finals, but Leeds showed their nerves of steel by taking the lead in the sixth minute.
Winger Tom Briscoe, who won last year’s trophy with Hull FC, got the scoring started at Wembley, making no mistake after neat work from Kallum Watkins and Zak Hardaker sent him clear, per Leeds Rhinos’ official Twitter account:
It's a happy return for Tom Briscoe after he opens the scoring at Wembley— leedsrhinos (@leedsrhinos) August 23, 2014
Kevin Sinfield did the honours with the conversion, but a matter of moments later, Castleford were on the scoreboard.
Marc Sneyd’s grubber kick brought about a race for the line—one that hooker Daryl Clark won to dot down.
While Sneyd himself missed the resulting kick, the Tigers were well and truly back in the match and continued to press with momentum on their side.
The next five minutes were a serious test of Leeds’ resolve as Cas pushed forward, but the favourites held strong and got their just reward moments later through a moment of brilliance by Danny McGuire.
McGuire caught his own kick forward as he bustled his way through the Tigers’ back line to make the score 12-4, and Cas simply couldn’t find a way back from there.
England’s Ryan Hall then added the Rhinos’ third try of the afternoon with a textbook effort before crossing the line again in the second half to confirm victory for Leeds.
Despite Oliver Holmes bringing the Tigers back into the match soon after the interval, Hall’s try gave Leeds the cushion they needed to see out the remainder of the match with minimal fuss.
The 23-10 scoreline was nothing more than the Rhinos deserved, though McDermott revealed after the match that Castleford’s attitude really impressed him, per BBC Sport:
.@leedsrhinos' Brian McDermott: "That was an epic game. Castleford gave it a real good go. This has been a long time coming for the club"— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 23, 2014
It’s been a long 15 years of hurt for Leeds, but the final whistle brought about an incredible sense of relief, as their Challenge Cup hoodoo was finally broken.
Since the turn of the millennium, the Rhinos have been the nearly men of the English rugby league’s biggest prize, but with their name now back on the trophy, a new era of success may well begin.