For this week’s edition of the Friday Flashback, we’re only going back a few years, as two great Challenge Cup rivals prepare to do battle once again. The last two occasions in which Leeds and Warrington have locked horns in the cup have been in the final – but this year, they’re both playing for a place at Wembley.
Amazingly, two of the last four finals have been contested by the two sides, so we’re getting Rugby League fans in the mood for this weekend’s cup semi-finals by taking a walk down memory lane to the 2012 Challenge Cup final, when Leeds and Warrington did battle for the biggest prize in the game.
Just two years prior to this, the Wolves had destroyed the Rhinos at Wembley, winning by 30 points to 6 in one of the most one-sided finals we’ve seen in recent years. Leeds had returned to the final looking to pick up their first Challenge Cup win since that 1999 success, whilst the Wolves were looking for an amazing third win in just four years, underlining their dominance as Kings of the Challenge Cup.
The Rhinos had overcome Wigan 39-28 in the semi-final, but with their arch-rivals standing in the way of the trophy that had eluded them for so long, it was almost written in the stars that, once again, it would be the Wolves’ day.
The game was very much in the balance at half-time, as tries from Joel Monaghan and Trent Waterhouse put Tony Smith’s men 12-10 up at the break. However, from then on in the Wolves ran riot, as Chris Riley, Ryan Atkins, Tyrone McCarthy and Brett Hodgson gave them what was an eventual comfortable victory to continue their phenomenal Challenge Cup record. Just eight days earlier, Warrington, having rested only a handful of their Wembley line-up, were embarrassingly battered 62-18 by London Broncos at The Stoop.
Leeds became only the second team to lose three Challenge Cup finals in a row (Hull FC were the first in 1908-10) and are the first to lose three consecutive finals at Wembley. They haven’t been back since, and will certainly be hoping 2014 can finally be the year in which the Rhinos end their incredible hoodoo with the Challenge Cup. The big question is, who will make it to Wembley?