Flashback: Six Top Challenge Cup Semi Finals
As we prepare for our Coral Challenge Cup semi-final tomorrow afternoon, let’s take a look back at a few of our favourite Challenge Cup semi-final matches from years gone past, with plenty of drama from the first minute…
Ellery Hanley had one of his most iconic performances for Leeds to help Doug Laughton’s side to the 1993-94 Cup Final. The legendary loose forward crossed twice in the 20-8 win against St Helens, while Richie Eyres scored Leeds’ other try and Graham Holroyd added four conversions to see Leeds return to the ‘Old Wembley’.
Coming up against one of the League’s giants and local rivals Bradford Bulls in 1999, fans packed into the John Smith’s Stadium to see a Challenge Cup classic. Ryan Sheridan surprised the Bulls by stripping the ball from Danny Peacock to score from close range in the first half and Marcus St Hilaire cut through the heart of the Bulls defence in the second to keep Leeds in the tie. Iestyn Harris capped off a great personal performance with a try and five conversions while Sheridan’s drop goal sent the Rhinos on their way to lifting the trophy.
Leeds’ 2003 matchup against St Helens is one of the most memorable semi final matches in rugby league folklore. Danny McGuire’s two tries wrote the his name into Leeds history; the half back levelling the match with two minutes remaining before going on to seal a 33-26 win in extra time, thanks to a break away from Kevin Sinfield.
It might have been a low scoring semi final but the Rhinos were involved in a nail biting clash against Castleford Tigers in 2011. Rangi Chase and Kallum Watkins scored the only tries of the match as it was left to the goal kickers Kevin Sinfield and Kirk Dixon to lock the scores up after 80 minutes. A high tackle from Ryan McGoldrick on Danny McGuire proved the deciding factor in overtime; Sinfield kicking the proceeding penalty goal to claim a 10-8 win.
In 2012, Brian McDermott’s side put in one of their best semi final performances at Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium. In an epic first half, two tries for both Leeds wingers Ryan Hall and Ben Jones-Bishop led the way for the Rhinos, who took a 30-20 lead into the break thanks to further tries from Zak Hardaker and Ryan Bailey. Hardaker and Wigan’s Sean O’Loughlin recorded the only tries of the second half as a penalty goal and drop goal from Kevin Sinfield ensured Leeds hung on to defeat the defending Cup holders.
Leeds returned to Wembley in 2014 thanks to a 24-16 win over Warrington Wolves. An impressive quick fire double for Ryan Hall took the Rhinos into a 14-0 lead in the first half before Chris Bridge grabbed the Wolves’ first after the break. Joel Moon and Stefan Ratchford exchanged tries before Tom Briscoe’s break away try sealed Leeds’ place back in the Final.