Hull KR’s dream return to the Wembley cup final after a 29-year absence turned into an embarrassing nightmare as they were simply ripped apart as cup holders Leeds Rhinos retained their trophy.
Records tumbled as winger Tom Briscoe became the first player to ever score five tries in a Challenge Cup final and the Rhinos made it a record biggest winning margin eclipsing their 36 point victory in 1999 against London Broncos.
The Wembley showpiece was started with a heart-rending performance of the traditional Challenge Cup anthem Abide With Me by Lizzie Jones the wife of Keighley Cougars and Wales player Danny Jones who tragically passed away a few months ago playing for the Cougars in London.
Chris Chester named Albert Kelly in his starting side after the half-back recovered sufficiently in time from a knee injury that had kept him out since the semi-final victory against Warrington Wolves ironically at Leeds Headingley ground four weeks previously.
Rhinos coach Brian McDermott brought back Joel Moon and Kallum Watkins in the centers and Danny McGuire returned after missing the Super 8s victory at Hull FC a week ago and Jamie Peacock was restored to the starting line-up having started from the bench in that 36-22 win at the KC Stadium.
Leeds set their stall out early moving menacingly up-field but an organised defence from the robins held them at bay although in both of the Rhinos first two sets the ball was turned over to the men from the KC Lighstream Stadium within 10 meters of their line.
The first points duly came the way of the cup holders after Kevin Larroyer was adjudged to have reefed the ball out of the grasp of Jamie Peacock in front of the Rovers posts and Brett Delaney snapped up the loose ball to to touchdown under the posts, the conversion from Kevin Sinfield inevitably followed to give them a six point advantage in the 6th minute.
The early exchanges were clearly going the way of the holders but a note of caution for them was that Hull KR were not panicking as maybe a lesser team would have and sticking resolutely to their game plan and getting settled in to the contest.
The first bit of luck to go the way of the men in red and blue came when McGuire put a high bomb up and full-back Kieran Dixon came to take the ball and knocked it onto an on-rushing Leeds player but was then able to re-gather the ball without referee Ben Thaler seeing the knock-on.
The first test of the Rhinos defence came when a pass from Peacock was fumbled and knocked-on in the Leeds half giving Rovers possession and territory but the chance was wasted as Tyrone McCarthy dropped the ball in-front of the Rhinos defensive line.
Leeds then moved to the other end of the field all too easily and finally McGuire got on the end of a fast move down their right hand side to score the second try in the right corner, the touchline conversion was successfully added by Sinfield to make it a 12 point advantage.
Disaster struck again as Rovers went for a short kick-off and Leeds winger Ryan Hall gobbled up the ball to make the break and then a fast move from left to right saw Watkins put former Hull FC winger Briscoe in for their third try inside the opening 20 minutes, Sinfield hit the post with the conversion to leave the score 16-0.
Despite the dominant opening from the Rhinos their opposition kept plugging away valiantly no matter how hopeless the situation seemed for them.
Another chance came their way when a ball was batted back by Maurice Blair and Kris Welham kicked the ball forward but it went dead-in-goal, shortly after that a Leeds mistake gave Rovers more possession and territory but a kick to the right side was easily gobbled up by Hall behind the Rhinos line.
Leeds next visit to the Rovers line caused more pressure but a try was not forthcoming this time when a grubber kick by McGuire was snaffled up by former Rhinos player Shaun Lunt.
After Ken Sio dropped a ball Hall was held up over the line and then Kylie Leuluai was also held up and then a fast move to the right saw a chance squandered as Watkins dropped the ball.
Just when the robins needed a shift in momentum Kelly produced what everybody thought was a 40/20 but then referee Thaler reversed the decision to give them head and feed when replays showed his foot was about half an inch over the Rovers 40 meter line to the relief of the cup holders.
Rovers threatened again as John Boudebza made a smart break in the middle of the field giving Kelly a chance to run at the retreating Rhinos defence but after that was stopped the ball went to their left and was lost within 10 meters of the line again.
As the clock ticked down towards the break the game appeared to have slowed down and this was clearly to the benefit of Rovers as particularly James Donaldson and Welham were making impressions on the Rhinos defence.
Another chance came as Welham got to a hail-mary kick before Briscoe and Dixon suddenly had space to work in front of the Rhinos posts but his attempted kick through was stopped by full-back Zak Hardaker to see the Rhinos keep their 16 point advantage as the final reached half-time.
The second half started as the rain started to tip-down as Rovers hoped to make a record-breaking comeback for a Challenge Cup Final against the holders and Super League leaders.
The half started badly for them however as a mistake from Dixon gave Leeds a scrum 20 meters out after a kick by McGuire but they held them out and then a Sinfield grubber gave a glimmer of a chance as the full-back tried to get away down the right but then dropped the ball in the tackle 30 meters out to give the Rhinos another scrum.
Another attack though by Leeds was repelled as a pass by off-load machine Adam Cuthbertson ended up in Rovers hand just in-front of their posts.
The trophy was seemingly wrapped-up for the Rhinos after a spirited attack by Rovers as a kick by Maurice Blair was left by Dixon and Briscoe pounced and never looked back on a 90 meter race to the line despite the brave effort from Sio to try and stop him, the touchline conversion from Sinfield made it 22-0 in the 48th minute.
The more Rovers were panicking the more desperate the situation was becoming as the dream of playing at Wembley was turning quickly into a nightmare particularly for Dixon who was making mistakes with alarming regularity as the affect of playing lower league opposition in recent weeks was seemingly making a big difference against the battle hardened Rhinos.
The next name on the try scoring list was Brad Singleton as the big prop barged his way over despite the attentions of Dixon and video referees James Child and Richard Silverwood were happy to award the try as he managed to get the ball down before it squirmed free, the conversion from Sinfield made it 28-0 to the Rhinos in the 58th minute.
A rare attack by Rovers with an impressive build-up from a break by Graeme Horne promised to bear some fruit but eventually Larroyer was held up over the line.
Another attack shortly after saw a high kick from Kelly invite Josh Mantellato to chase but the bomb was easily defused by Hall again, Leeds then moved far too easily to the other end of the field and Briscoe was on hand to gobble up another pass from Watkins to slide over in the corner for his hat-trick, the touchline conversion attempt by Sinfield was somewhat hooked to leave the score at 32-0 with 15 minutes left to play.
Kelly finally got his 40/20 to give the robins a scrum 10 meters from the Rhinos line but another chance was wasted with a forward pass to Tony Puletua handing the possession back to Leeds.
Another opportunity came to Leeds as Watkins made a majestic break and then handed the ball inside to Rob Burrow for the diminutive number 7 to race in under the posts, the inevitable conversion by Sinfield stretched it it to a 38-0 lead for the treble-chasers with seven minutes left to play.
Within two minutes of that Briscoe was in for his fourth try after another break and pass by Watkins put him away down the right again, a sixth goal from eight attempts by Sinfield made it 44-0.
Dixon’s nightmare then carried on as he scooped up a kick and ran the ball back only to drop it in the first contact, McGuire snapped the ball up and put the ball out to Briscoe for the England winger to set a new record with a first ever five-try-haul eclipsing the four tries scored by Leroy Rivett in the Rhinos 1999 triumph against London Broncos, the conversion from Sinfield brought up the 50 point mark.
Chris Chester speaking afterwards said his team had not performed as well as they have shown for the rest of the season, jubilant Rhinos coach Brian McDermott said there had been a desire to give legends Peacock, Sinfield and Leuluai the perfect Wembley send-off but that they will also still be determined to carry off the league leaders shield and the Grand Final trophy as well.
Penalties- Rovers 2 Leeds 3
40/20- Rovers 1 Leeds 0
Lance Todd Trophy Winner- Tom Briscoe