THIS YEAR’S record Challenge Cup final rout was the result of an “exceptional” Leeds Rhinos performance, rather than Hull KR playing badly.
That’s the view of Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington, who feels Rovers were unlucky to run into an “outstanding” Leeds team, playing at the top of their game.
The 50-0 drubbing was the biggest margin in a Challenge Cup final, but – reviewing last Saturday’s event on and off the field – Hetherington insisted: “Hull KR were unfortunate, they did not play as badly as the score suggests.”
The Leeds chief stressed: “It was a tough game, but the result was due to the excellence of the Leeds Rhinos performance.
“That’s something I hope does not get lost.
“I hope people don’t denigrate Hull Kingston Rovers, but rather see the excellence in our performance.
“I think we would have put a big score on against any other team on Saturday and I think any other team would have found us really hard to score against.
“Hull KR were unfortunate in that regard, they caught us on an exceptionally good day and great credit has to go to the coaching staff for the way the team was prepared and the tactics used – and to the players for delivering an outstanding performance, both individually and collectively.”
The 80,140 crowd was the best since 2010 and Hetherington added: “Our fans were great and the Hull KR fans were terrific too, the way they supported their team throughout the whole afternoon and certainly at the end. They were special rugby league fans to do that and our fans made it a great celebration.
“The whole occasion was probably the best we’ve had while I’ve been at the club, from start to finish – with Lizzie Jones, the unveiling of the new statue and the game. It was a great day to be a rugby league fan at Wembley.”
Of the build-up to the final, Hetherington said: “Last year, losing didn’t bear thinking about and there was a real nervousness among fans and no doubt the players, coaching staff and everybody else connected with the club.
“This year it was more of a feeling of excitement and a confidence we could go there and achieve back-to-back successes.
“We sold 25 per cent more tickets than last year, we sold our full allocation of 10,000 and we know a lot of our fans bought their tickets from the RFL.
“There were at least 20,000 Leeds Rhinos supporters in the stadium. In the three finals we lost at Wembley – to Warrington twice and Wigan – we were the underdogs and we went more in hope than expectation.
“This time we were favourites and we went with the team in outstanding form, on the back of some good performances, which in previous years has not been the case.
“There was a very different feel this year and a lot of excitement and we saw the outcome on Saturday, which was a superb performance from Leeds Rhinos, both offensively and especially defensively.”