LONG-SERVING FORWARD Jamie Jones-Buchanan has ranked Leeds Rhinos’ Tetley’s Challenge Cup triumph alongside the first of his six Super League title wins.
The England back-rower finally added the missing piece to his silverware jigsaw when he collected a Wembley winner’s medal three days ago.
The 23-10 victory over Castleford Tigers ended almost a decade of hurt for Jones-Buchanan, who was a Challenge Cup runner-up in 2005, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
He is now among an elite group of players who have won every available domestic honour, having been part of a team which has finished top of the table twice, as well as three World Club Challenge successes and his double hat-trick of Grand Final victories.
Despite being one of the most decorated players in the club’s history, Jones-Buchanan admitted his latest honour is “special”.
Said the 33-year-old: “I have won a lot of trophies and this is up alongside winning our first Grand Final in 2004.
“It is strange, it is exactly 10 years since we did that. Who would have thought it, but what a journey we’ve been on.
“If you wrote a book and wrote down the life lessons we’ve taken out of it, the key word would have to be ‘trust’.
“It has been all about trusting in the boys to keep persisting and keep working hard for each other and even after adversity they keep putting their best foot forward and being sacrificial for each other.”
Jones-Buchanan has won trophies under three different coaches with the Headingley club, Tony Smith, Brian McClennan and Brian McDermott, who is now Leeds most successful team boss.
Jones-Buchanan said the players have never lost faith in McDermott’s ability to come up with the right tactics, whatever the circumstances.
He added: “We trust our coach and the game plan he comes up with.
“Brian has been phenomenal and the lads trust in what he has come up with.
“He has had to change it and modify it and keep progressing and evolving as the team changes and different players come in and out and bring different abilities.
“It has come off for us and we’ve got our just desserts.”
Rhinos have always been known as a team who are willing to chance their arm, but Jones-Buchanan admitted a more conservative approach was what saw them home on Saturday.
“When Danny Mags (McGuire) kicked his drop goal we started to think we might be in here,” he recalled.
“We were two and a bit scores in front and you start to think ‘just defend this set and we’ll get a win’.
“But all credit to Cas. They have been fantastic this year and we went to Wembley without any assumptions at all.
“We knew we had to work really hard and be really good, but we went with a game plan, we were ruthless in the first half and we did some really good stuff.
“Whenever we went away from it we got punished and in the second half we knew we had to stick at it and be disciplined, even if that meant being boring – just be boring and get ourselves the win.”
Rhinos celebrated with a private victory party at a central London hotel on Saturday night before travelling to Leeds the following afternoon.
They showed off the Cup to fans at Headingley Carnegie yesterday, but are now getting down to business as they prepare to face St Helens in Leeds’ final regular-season home game in three days’ time.
Rhinos are third in the table, four points behind leaders St Helens, after losing to relegated pair Bradford Bulls and London Broncos in their last two league matches.
“For me, Saturday was about celebrating the Challenge Cup win,” Jones-Buchanan said.
“We had a bit of a rest on Sunday and then we had the homecoming yesterday, but we were starting to think about St Helens as well.
“The difference between one and six in the league is only four points. It’s ridiculous. We don’t want to finish any lower than we are.
“We have got chance to do something special. This is the first part of it, now we want to get to the Grand Final, but there’s a lot of games to be played between now and then.”
Winger Tom Briscoe knows how vulnerable sides can be after a Challenge Cup final win.
“He was a member of the Hull team which lost 16-0 to Wigan Warriors at Wembley last year and then pulled off a 34-33 win at DW Stadium the following week.
Briscoe, who was Rhinos’ first try scorer at Wembley, has won a major trophy in his first season at Leeds and he said: “I am happy to be here and to have done that with this group of players.
“It was one of the main reasons I came to Leeds, because I knew how much silverware comes through this club.
“Having not won anything, I wanted to get my hands on something and I am glad moving here has been justified in my first season, by getting my hands on the Challenge Cup.”