LANCE TODD Trophy winner Ryan Hall played down his contribution to Leeds Rhinos’ Tetley’s Challenge Cup triumph – describing the 23-10 Wembley victory over Castleford Tigers as a team achievement.
Hall scored a try in each half to become the first winger to be named Cup final man of the match since Leroy Rivett in Leeds’ previous success, 15 years ago, but he insisted: “I am just a cog in the wheel, the guys in the middle managed it really well and the kicking game was good.
“I am just the one who gets over the tryline and I am happy to do that if it gets us the win. We have been striving for this success and finally we’ve done it.”
Front-rower Jamie Peacock was the only Leeds player to have already won a Challenge Cup final, having helped Bradford Bulls to success over Rhinos in 2000 and 2003, but asked if he could retire happy now, he said: “Not yet.
“There’s still a few more mountains to climb. When you finish playing I would imagine it is very difficult to find this kind of feeling anywhere else.
“I am very greedy, I want to make some more feelings like this over the next 15 months. I am going to celebrate, but then it’s back to work again unfortunately, that’s the way it is.”
Of the gap between his first and third medals, Peacock added: “It’s crazy. I was thinking the other day about how I felt in the 2000 final. It was an unbelievable feeling just to play in a Challenge Cup final and I thought about how lucky I was then.
“To have a career that’s lasted 14 more years and to come back and win it again, it is a dream – there’s not many people who invent words who play rugby league, so it’s difficult to describe how you feel!”
Peacock’s father Darryl died last year and the former England captain said: “My mum told me he had a tear in his eye after the first one in 2000. That meant a lot to me and I was thinking about him all week. It was as much a win for him as anything else.”
Leeds’ other 36-year-old prop Kylie Leuluai is now arguably Rhinos’ most successful overseas player, having completed a full set of winner’s medals in his 238th game for the club.
Leuluai, who defied a stomach bug to play, said: “We have got the monkey off the back. I am really happy for myself and my teammates, who have been in finals in the Challenge Cup so many times and haven’t got over the finish line.
“It is good to get it out of the way. The last 10 minutes was pretty stressful. I think we were in control of the game, but we wanted it that much you could feel the pressure out there. The feeling you get after something like that drives you to want to keep on playing. You want to keep winning.”
At the other end of the scale, Zak Hardaker has won Super League, the World Club Challenge and Challenge Cup at the age of just 22.
“It is a great feeling,” he said. “We had a beer together on the pitch afterwards, when everyone had gone home, just trying to soak up the feeling.
“We have got people who have lost it numerous times and that makes it more special. It is only the second one I’ve played in, but I was really eager to get this one as well. I can’t imagine what the other lads have been through, it is pretty gutting when you lose so for the lads, the coaching staff and the fans, it has been a wonderful experience and it is going to stand us in good stead for the rest of the season.”
Hardaker added: “I love the fact it was a Yorkshire final. Cas need to be proud of themselves for getting there and there was a time when we thought we could lose it. We had to fight all the way through to get the victory.”
Centre Kallum Watkins admitted it had got “tense” when Tigers narrowed the gap to six points at the start of the second half. He said: “When they throw the ball about they are really dangerous. We had to handle that, but we were confident in ourselves. We knew if we carried on with our gameplan it would work and it certainly did in the end.”
Watkins described Hall as “phenomenal” and added: “He’s one of the best finishers in the world. I am pleased for him, because he’s an outstanding player – he’s kind of a weird bloke, but we all love him!”
Second-row Carl Ablett said: “It’s surreal, I don’t think it has really sunk it – it has taken a long time to walk up those steps [to receive the Cup].
“I am pleased for everybody involved, that has worked so hard. It’s great to finish off like that.”
Long-serving forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan admitted he wasn’t sure the game was won until Danny McGuire’s late drop goal, while try-scoring winger Tom Briscoe said: “It’s stark contrast to when I was in the final with Hull last year.
“It’s nice to come back and get the win.”