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For me, the 2010 Challenge Cup run was one to saviour for the journey rather than the final destination. It was a slick and skilfully assembled side that was out to obtain a cup which has eluded most of the players in our Leeds Rhinos squad. As fans we haven’t seen Challenge Cup glory since 1999 and the horror of the 2005 Challenge Cup final still makes many of us shudder. I still can’t bring myself to watch the diabolical pass Marcus Bai threw in his own goal area.
So last year’s journey began on 17th April 2010 at the KC stadium. Leeds had just beaten Hull FC 46 - 30 the previous week in front of a 16,896 strong crowd at Headingley Carnegie stadium. Rugby League is less popular in Hull so only 15,109 bothered to turn up for this challenge cup tie which was on the BBC. Even better was the fact that Steve Ganson injured himself in the warm up and Jamie Peacock was back for us despite been declared unfit earlier in that week.
The game sprang into action on the eighth minute mark via a brutal grubber kick put through by Manu which was unrepentantly collected and scored in the corner by the dazzling Hull FC winger Tom Briscoe. It was not a gratifying sight for any Rhinos fan with hopes of a good challenge cup run at this moment in time. But joy soon returned as Danny Tickle wasn’t able to add the conversion. By half time Leeds Rhinos were up 30 - 10 thanks to some spectacular displays. The best Rhinos try from that half came about with a miracle ‘never say die’ offload by Brent Webb who looked to be going into touch. The ball fell gracefully into Keith Seniors hands then Ablett, Burrow, and Webb combined to put Hall over for the second of the four tries he would go onto score in that dreamlike afternoon.
Joy continued in the second half like it had in the first. Leeds Rhinos glided to victory in a nonchalant manner thanks to Hull FC’s inability to compete. All Hull FC had to offer throughout this match was consolation after consolation. They went crashing out of the challenge cup like a drunk staggering out of a nightclub.
Meanwhile the Rhinos were flourishing and in round five of the Challenge Cup. From here you’d like to think that we’d be facing a more competitive team. Instead we ended up having to play Blackpool Panthers at Headingley Carnegie on Friday 7th May 2010. Not much to report from that game apart from the fact that we beat them 70 - 22. Credit to Blackpool Panthers for managing to break the Rhinos defence in that game because we’ve nilled better sides at 70 - 0 before. In fact we went on to face one of those sides in the quarter finals of the 2010 Challenge Cup.
Wigan Warriors were all 'high and mighty' in 2010 thanks to Michael Maguire transforming the side. Unfortunately they weren’t mighty against Leeds Rhinos on Saturday 29th May at Headingley Carnegie. A last minute try by Lee Smith showed Wigan what they were not - an 80 minute rugby league side. It was us who got into the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup in 2010 and not the Wigan Warriors. Leeds Rhinos won that game 12 - 10.
Next up was St Helens at the Galpharm on the 7th August 2010. These two sides have produced the best challenge cup semi-finals of any era. Perhaps the best one of all time was in 2003 when it went into extra time. Just like back then, Danny McGuire was the person to steer us into the challenge cup final. It was a 32 - 28 victory to Leeds. That game was arguably one of Greg Eastwood’s best in Leeds colours. Not that he had many good games in the blue and amber anyhow.
And then the 2010 Challenge Cup final against Warrington? Let’s not even go there!
P.S. Thanks to Paul for the past match reports to help this week’s damo bit be accurate and RLPhoto’s for providing the wonderful pictures.