By Cala Millor Rhino|
It’s been a hell of a personal Challenge Cup journey this year. The ash cloud hit as I was about to board a flight to Perpignan to watch the Catalans-Salford game, that meant a 23 hour drive to the South of France, racking up super warp speeds, desperately trying to make it in time to take my place in front of the TV to watch the Leeds v. Hull game. I made it, as did Leeds, and latterly, Catalans, my second love.
Then it was Headingley and Wrexham in the 5th round, again both sides were victorious against Blackpool and Crusaders respectively, and my fears and the chances of a Leeds-Catalans cup tie grew further.
Wigan and Batley paved the way in the quarter finals and as Lee Smith went over in the rain I made my way round to the corner of the South Stand for a swift exit up the road to Batley, nothing beats the feeling of coming from behind to win in the closing seconds, and that was evident on both the supporters and players faces that day, delightedly I headed to Batley to watch the Catalans struggle to overcome a stubborn Batley side.
And on to the Challenge Cup Semi-Final draw at the Worsley Marriott - only the RFL would choose a small hotel room to make a semi-final draw - and imagine my relief at both Leeds and Catalans being kept apart! You beauty Dave Woods!
Apprehensively I made it just in-time for the Leeds - St Helens semi-final after my cricket game had been called off at the last minute. What a game to watch, what a spectacle for the neutrals at home watching on terrestrial television. McGuire’s juggling act from Buderus’ pass was a joy to behold, and I’m not sure anything really beats seeing James Graham’s face after he’s lost yet another big game. His face goes redder than Loz’s on a mild spring day.
The following day it was to the Halton Stadium - the game may as well have been played at the Halliwell Jones for all that it mattered, the Warrington fans packed the place out and were a credit to the club. That was the only joy in a disaster game for the Dragons.
And now on to Wembley after calling at Perpignan, Paris, Calais, Wrexham, Headingley, Batley, Huddersfield and Widnes. The road miles have certainly been clocked up and my carbon footprint is certainly a lot larger than that of the majority, but to Wembley to reminisce about 99, the 1999 side reunion last year only whetted the appetite for this weekend’s game, and hopefully in 10 years time, we’ll all be clambering for tickets to the 2010 side’s reunion. The beauty of this side compared to the legends of ’99 is that in ten years time, Hall, Ablett, Burgess, Clarkson, Delaney and Eastwood could all conceivably be still playing for the Rhinos.
Whatever the result, enjoy the day, collect your souvenirs, because this could be the first time you see a Leeds side hold both major trophies at the same time.