The YEP jury have their say ahead of London Broncos v Leeds Rhinos.
There’s no doubt that a Wembley appearance and a Challenge Cup final win is amongst the objectives Leeds laid out at the beginning of the season.
For the most senior of players in the group a Cup Final winner’s medal is all that’s missing from their glittering careers.
I know how they feel. A week on Saturday will be my 10th Challenge Cup final with Leeds and I’ve seen them triumph only once, against London in 1999. The like of McGuire, Sinfield, Burrow, Jones-Buchanan and Bailey have as equally bad record as I do.
It comes as no real surprise therefore that, as a team, Leeds were fired up against Warrington at Langtree Park. The performance was real Brian McDermott stuff. Passion, guts, determination and heart. It lacked what Brian McDermott does too in skill, set plays, flowing attacking fast rugby league, but needless to say it got the job done and we are going to Wembley.
It has reached the point of the season we like to call ‘The Business End’. From here on in, your season either sinks or swims. In recent years Leeds have lost the next two fixtures, including the Cup final, and have then built momentum into the play-offs.
Last season, they didn’t reach the final and lost twice in the play-offs, so perhaps the extra Cup final game is the preferred route.
However I believe this season Leeds must do things differently. Brian McDermott will always have a place at Leeds as a double Grand Final-winning coach. But he also has the record of losing two Challenge Cup finals and finishing fifth twice in the league.
For him to be thought of in the same way as Graham Murray, Tony Smith and, dare I say, Brian McClennan, then he needs to prove that with, arguably, the best group of players of all those coaches.
His Grand Final wins were no flukes and were built on more than the desire of his players. So this is the gauntlet I am laying down to Brian McDermott.
This is your fourth season in charge, you have bought and sold the players you want, brought through and released the youngsters you want, imposed and coached the brand of rugby you want.
So go deliver, for the fans, a great performance at Wembley, and end the long run of cup misery.
Then remain focused on a league leaders’ shield, secure a top place finish in Super League, and win another Grand Final.
You have the players to do it, now prove you are the coach that can.
I realise I’m asking for a lot, but it’s achievable, the talent is there. Harness it Brian.
The Rhinos are back at Wembley after ending Warrington’s hopes last weekend.
For the first time in what seems an age the Rhinos managed to field a full-strength team and it showed just how well they can play when everyone is back and they are in the mood. Jamie Peacock, who was given the man-of-the-match award, just continues to roll back the years.
Special mention must also go to Carl Ablett, Rob Burrow and Zak Hardaker who must have run Jamie Peacock close for the man-of-the-match award.
The only changes I would make for the final would be Brad Singleton in for Ian Kirke and Mitch Achurch for Ryan Bailey, if he’s fit. I’m sure that Wembley will be buzzing when 80,000 Yorkshire folk descend on it and I for one cannot wait for this final. I just hope Leeds can end this hoodoo that seems to haunt them in the Challenge Cup final and win it at the seventh attempt after losing the previous six.
This week sees the small matter of a trip to London to face the already-relegated Broncos. The question is will Brian McDermott rest all his big-game players as he did against Bradford or does he risk it and play his full team for a game which Leeds should win without getting out of second gear?
And let’s not forget Leeds are still going for top spot in the league.
What a first 40 minutes we produced at Langtree Park.
We looked back to our best. We dropped off a bit in the second half, but had enough to hold out. Tom Briscoe showed what he can do with a fabulous try from nothing.
One hundred up for Zak, and Delaney was my man of the match. Bring on the Tigers.
We are going to Wembley! All I asked for at the beginning of the season in my first report was for a Challenge Cup victory – and we are one step closer to that.
The team did everything right against Warrington.
I cannot put into words how proud of Leeds Rhinos I was last Saturday in the semi-final.
Every single Leeds Rhinos fan will be counting down the days to Wembley now.
An all-Yorkshire final versus Castleford Tigers will be a grand day out for both teams!
We have a trip to ‘the smoke’ this week to play already-relegated London Broncos. I think we will rest quite a few once again, but hopefully we will get the win!
A great win, masterminded by a very good coach who came up with the better game plan, executed by a wonderful team.
It was very clear at the end of the game the players know this is not job done. Winning at Wembley is what matters.
With that desire and control we have a very good chance. Well done boys.
Wow! What a game the semi-final against Warrington was.
It was a game played at breakneck speed, especially in the first half. Leeds were never behind on the scoreboard and booked their place in the final.
All the players gave 100 per cent; they wanted to win this game. That was obvious from the start.
Leeds will now play Castleford at Wembley on August 23. Before that there is the little matter of a visit to London Broncos this weekend. What a conundrum for Brian McDermott.
Should he rest players to avoid injury or play his best team? We will see. It should be two points in the bag, but after the result against Bradford who knows.