A Final to relish!

Can’t wait, can’t wait, can’t wait.

What a cracking couple of days we have coming up, with must-see matches on both sides of the world.

The two NRL play-off ties, between Melbourne and Canberra on Friday, and Penrith and Souths on Saturday, provide the perfect appetisers to the Challenge Cup final.

Saturday’s Wembley showdown has all the makings of a classic, and I just hope we get a decent, rain-free afternoon, and that both Leeds and Salford make it to London without any Covid issues.

Like many people, I’m finding it hard to fathom why both are being made to play Tuesday Super League matches.

Never mind having midweek games ahead of one of the biggest matches on the calendar, which provides a great chance to showcase our sport to a nationwide television audience. What about the risk of either or both sides ending up with positive coronavirus tests which could lead to weakened teams or even put the final itself in jeopardy?

Now that the Super League table is being decided on points percentage, it’s less of an issue to lose league games if they can’t be rearranged for a more suitable date, so there’s really no reason to make both finalists play.

Instead of Hull KR v Salford and Warrington v Leeds, it should be Hull KR v Warrington in order to let Salford and Leeds focus on a meeting that has so many intriguing background stories.

I well remember Allan Agar’s Featherstone beating Hull 14-12 in the 1983 final, and now we have his son Richard aiming to follow in his father’s footsteps by guiding Leeds to a first Wembley win since 2015.

Salford haven’t been to Wembley since 1969, and back in 2016, when they stayed in Super League by the skin of their teeth, what odds would you have got on them making the Grand Final and Challenge Cup Final in successive seasons within four years?

Think about the Salford side, with Tui Lolohea trying to get one over on the club who jettisoned him in favour of Rob Lui, then a Red Devils player, midway through last season, with Lui now teaming up with Luke Gale to try to steer Leeds to glory.

Then there’s Kevin Brown, who has flourished after being given a chance at Salford and who will be aiming to atone for a disappointing performance in the final for Warrington when they lost out to Catalans two years ago.

Meanwhile two of Leeds’ stand-out stars are Richie Myler, who has responded to the arrival of Gale by really upping his own game and making himself a regular on the teamsheet, and Liam Sutcliffe, who might well be set for pastures new next season and who can help earn himself a plum move with another good performance.

We have two talented in-form sides led by go-ahead coaches who promote an entertaining brand of rugby.
After the year we’ve all gone through, wouldn’t it be great if we were treated to a real spectacle on one of sport’s biggest stages.

Here’s hoping!

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