Chris Hicks scored a hat-trick as Warrington Wolves demolished Leeds Rhinos to win the Challenge Cup for the second year in a row.
Ryan Atkins and Louis Anderson also scored for the Wolves, while Lee Smith scored a solitary try for the current Super League champions.
Leeds were without Jamie Peacock for this match as the influential 32-year-old is ruled out for the season. The Rhinos certainly missed the prop as Warrington score the first try in a pulsating start to the match.
Leeds centre Brett Delaney misjudged a smart kick from Warrington stand-off Lee Briers and, with the Leeds defence in disarray, Atkins stole in and caught the ball to enable him to put down for the first try. Leeds-born Atkins gave Warrington the perfect start after only fourteen minutes, although Ben Westwood failed to convert after the try.
It wasn’t long before the Wolves extended their lead. Again, Briers was at the focal-point of the move, spraying a brilliant pass out wide to Matt King on the wing. A clever inside pass to Hicks allowed the number five to put down and double Warrington’s lead. Again, though, Westwood failed to convert after a great try.
The game had been built up to be the most hotly contested Challenge Cup final for many years and both sides ensured that the match was enthralling throughout. With five minutes to go before half-time winger Chris Riley broke away from his own half, only to be stopped on half-way by a strong challenge. Atkins, though, picked the ball up from the challenge and raced clear, breezing past Ian Kirke and putting down under the posts. Westwood did manage to convert this time meaning that Warrington went into half-time leading by fourteen points. Leeds needed to come out after half-time and change this game around.
The second half, though, was much the same as the first, with Warrington battling for every ball and beating Leeds in every position on the pitch. Leeds did have a worry early on in the second half as stand-off Danny McGuire appeared to be knocked out after Briers clipped him on the head with his foot as he ran past, but McGuire soon recovered in time to see Warrington extend their lead further.
Another fine piece of play from Briers created the try after the thirty-two-year-old hit a high ball into the air towards the far side of the try-line. The kick seemed to be out-of-reach for any Warrington player but, with Ryan Hall struggling underneath the ball, Hicks stole in to get his second try of the match. The leap to claim the ball was fantastic, and the celebrations afterwards were something special, as the Wolves knew that they were inching ever closer to the win. Briers was rewarded for his fantastic display in the match as the former St. Helens player was named the Lance Todd Trophy winner.
Leeds, though, were determined to force their way back into the game and, after a clever pass out wide to Smith, the twenty-four-year-old powered through the Warrington defence to put down for a try. Captain Kevin Sinfield converted well for the Rhinos and the try meant that Smith had prevented Leeds from becoming only the second team since 1951 to be nilled in a Challenge Cup final. That, though, was no relief for the Rhinos, as they then seemed to concede another try only two minutes later.
Richie Mathers stormed through the Leeds defence and, after a clever dummy-run from Westwood opened a gap for the fullback, Mathers put down to send the crowd wild. Referee Richard Silverwood, however, spotted an infringement in the build-up, with Westwood’s run being judged to have obstructed, or rather taken out, prop Kirke, who could have stopped Mathers if he was in position. The try did not count, and rightly so.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before the Wolves had extended their lead, with Hicks securing his hat-trick. A fine pass out wide by Westwood found Hicks who, using his immense upper-body strength, forced his way past three defenders and put down to end the match as a contest. Westwood managed to convert from the right-hand touchline to give Warrington an eighteen-point lead.
The game was rounded off nicely with a fine try four minutes from the end, with Anderson going over after Mathers had released him with a fine pass. Westwood again converted, completing the rout.
Leeds (0) 6
Tries: Smith Goals: Sinfield
Tries: Smith Goals: Sinfield
Warrington (14) 30
Tries: Atkins (2), Hicks (3), L Anderson Goals: Westwood (3)