More than two decades of hurt was forgotten in 80 magical minutes, 16 years ago this week.
Leeds Rhinos – coached by the late Graham Murray – went into the 1999 Challenge Cup final, on May 1, seeking to lift the trophy for the first time since 1978.
They were hot favourites against a London Broncos team who had hit a run of injuries and poor form since beating Castleford Tigers in a remarkable semi-final, at Headingley, six weeks earlier.
The night before the game, Leeds winger Leroy Rivett dreamed of scoring a hat-trick and being named Man of the Match. The reality was even better as he became the first – and so far only – player to touch down four times in a Challenge Cup final.
Rivett’s feat earned him the Lance Todd Trophy and a call-up into the train-on squad for that autumn’s Tri-Nations series, though he didn’t make the final cut.
Born in Leicester, Rivett was an unlikely hero in a tie – the last played at the old Wembley – which only followed the script in the final quarter, after London had threatened to pull off a stunning upset.
With former Wigan Cup winners Shaun Edwards and Martin Offiah in their side, London showed no fear and were 10-0 ahead after 11 minutes, through tries by Offiah and Robbie Simpson, plus a Rob Smyth conversion.
Remarkably, Leeds had been 10-0 down at a similar stage of their previous Cup final victory, against St Helens 21 years earlier.
A penalty goal by Iestyn Harris got them off the mark, then Rivett and Brad Godden touched down to edge Rhinos into a 12-10 interval lead.
An estimated 50,000 Leeds fans, in the crowd of 73,242, were rattled when Greg Fleming scored a converted try early in the second half to give London the lead for the second time.
A try by Barrie McDermott turned the contest, the prop stepping and crashing over following a tap penalty close to the line.
McDermott’s young son Billy was Leeds’ mascot on the day and now plays as a winger/centre for the club’s under-19s.
Rivett scored his second soon afterwards, Marcus St Hilaire went over and then Rivett intercepted on his own line and went the length of the field for a spectacular hat-trick try.
Harris and Francis Cummins also crossed before Rivett’s fourth completed a 52-16 record Cup final win. Harris finished with 20 points, from his try and eight goals.
Leeds Rhinos 52
(Tries: Rivett 4, Godden, McDermott, St Hilaire, Harris, Cummins. Goals: Harris 8)
London Broncos 16 (Tries: Offiah, Simpson, Fleming. Goals: Smyth 2)
Challenge Cup Final May 1, 1999
Leeds Rhinos: Harris, Rivett, Blackmore, Godden, Cummins, Powell, Sheridan, McDermott, Newton, Fleary, Morley, Farrell, Glanville. Subs: St Hilaire, Jackson, Hay, Mathiou.
London Broncos: Tollett, Smyth, Fleming, Timu, Offiah, Hammond, Edwards, Retchless, Beazley, Salter, Millard, Simpson, Gill. Subs: Toschack, Callaway, Ryan, Air.
Referee: Russell Smith.