Leeds Rhinos: YEP Jury have their say on the Challenge Cup final

Zak Hardaker.
Zak Hardaker.
Have your say

Our YEP jurors make their Wembley predictions

Name: Matty Wilcock

Age: 28

Rhinos fan for: 
15 years

Lives: Pudsey

Leeds Rhinos versus Castleford Tigers in the Challenge Cup final is less than two days away now and I can’t wait for this all-Yorkshire final.

If the last couple of meetings are anything to go by we are in for a real treat. The Rhinos are making the trip back to Wembley after a two-year absence, while for Cas it’s their first trip to Wembley since losing to Wigan in 1992.

Both teams will head into this game believing they have a chance of winning the trophy which has eluded them both for so long.

Leeds will go into the game as slight favourites which is something that doesn’t always suit them.

For Castleford it will be a case of the underdog spirit that they have shown all season, long over-performing at every turn.

Looking at the two teams and everywhere you look there are key battles all over the field from full-backs Zak Hardaker and Luke Dorn to monster wingmen in Ryan Hall and Justin Carney.

The list is endless, but for me the biggest match-up will not be between the players on the pitch but the two head coaches.

Can Daryl Powell inspire his under-rated ‘over-achievers’ to claim what would go down as one of the biggest accomplishments in the club’s history or on the other side of the coin can Leeds head coach Brian McDermott finally bring home the trophy that Leeds have been craving since their last win back in 1999?

Leeds head into this game on the back of six previous defeats at this stage of the competition and the task for McDermott is to make sure that that statistic doesn’t creep into the players’ minds if things don’t start going their way early on.

If Leeds are going to win this game then they will have to play as they did in the first half of the semi-final against Warrington, controlling the ball, no silly offloads and keep their discipline for the full 80 minutes and not let the occasion get to them, which I think they have done in the past.

Castleford on the other hand will, I think, have to take a few risks at times and not just rely on young hooker Daryl Clark making ground at the ruck area as a side like Leeds will be well aware of the danger he possesses.

So then prediction time now: I’m not just going to say Leeds because I’m a Rhinos fan, but I just think with the experience they have in the big games it will be enough to see them home.

Name: Christine Kidd

Age: 58

Rhinos fan for: 
Over 30 years

Lives: Tadcaster

Will this be Leeds Rhinos’ year? Will they beat their Challenge Cup hoodoo and bring the trophy back to Headingley for the first time in 15 years?

Getting to the final over the years hasn’t been a problem for the Rhinos but winning it has.

It’s great that two Yorkshire sides will be contesting the final. Both teams have some class players and there will be good match-ups all over the field. Justin Carney against Ryan Hall and Daryl Clark against Rob Burrow will be two such tussles. Who will come out on top?

It should be a great atmosphere and possibly a capacity crowd. This trophy means such a lot to all rugby league players and is seen as the missing piece of the jigsaw for some of our players who have numerous Grand Final winner’s rings but only runners-up medals for the Challenge Cup.

Brian McDermott will have to pick the team that he thinks will be capable of winning at Wembley and that means that some players will unfortunately miss out. Every one chosen will need to perform to the best of their ability.

Could this be the year that the Rhinos put in an impressive and dominant performance in the Challenge Cup final?

Yes, please!

Name: Adam Anderson

Age: 24

Rhinos fan for: 
12 years

Lives: Rothwell

Here we are, the one that we all wanted, Wembley and the Challenge Cup final. At the beginning of campaign, I was asked to write my preview of the season and the one thing I asked for was a Challenge Cup final, and we have that now.

What a spectacle we have, two of the top sides this season, Leeds Rhinos vs Castleford Tigers. Castleford are without doubt the Team of the Year – they’ve proved everyone wrong, secured a place in the play-offs, are still in with a chance to win the league leaders’ shield and have reached a Challenge Cup final.

I am hoping that this is the end of our Challenge Cup drought. This bunch of players deserve that medal round their neck.

Castleford could be missing Huby and Millington, two of the top forwards this season, but they have Daryl Clark, who is my vote for Man of Steel.

Danny McGuire, Tom Briscoe, Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and Ryan Hall, to name a few, were superb in the semi-final; play anything like that and the cup hopefully will be coming home.

It’s fair to say that either team deserve this cup win, they’ve both beaten quality sides along the way. I am just hoping it’s seventh heaven for the Rhinos. Come on lads!

Name: Matt Fowler

Age: 37

Rhinos fan for: 
25 years

Lives: Kippax

It’s Wembley week and the butterflies will be underway for fans and players alike.

Living in Kippax I can probably sense the Castleford fans’ excitement just as much as my own.

What wins us the Cup? The start of the game is massively important, playing without fear and enjoying the occasion are all ingredients to success.

We need to harness what has won us six Grand Finals and three world titles. As Babe Ruth said: “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up”.

Leeds could have given up on this Cup by now, but it’s not in their DNA. There is a steely determination to get the job done. We haven’t given up and another chance for success is upon us. Enjoy it.

Name: Ian Sharp

Age: 43

Rhinos fan for: 
36 years

Lives: Garforth

West Yorkshire will be a ghost town on Saturday as we all will be travelling down to Wembley to see two great teams go head to head in London for the final.

With Cas last winning in 1986 it will be a big achievement for them to bring the Cup home. Leeds not winning since 1999 and coming away empty-handed so many times since will also push Sir Kev and the team to bring the Cup home.

Either way the Cup will be back on Yorkshire soil, but needs to be back at Headingley where it belongs.

Tigers have had a great season but I think we have more experience in the pressure cooker of being in a final. I just hope McDermott has used all his experience to put the right team out!

Name: Gavin Miller

Age: 37

Rhinos fan for: 
25 years

Lives: Leeds

It’s nearly here, it’s almost time, it’s so close I can feel it, it is the holy grail, it’s the one we all want to win.

It’s 15 years of hurt, it’s six agonising final defeats, losing trips to Wembley, Murrayfield and the Millennium Stadium, passes that shouldn’t have been made, kicks that should have been taken, tries disallowed, injured players picked and high balls dropped.

I’ve seen it all in Challenge Cup finals, but in the nine times I’ve seen Leeds compete in them, only once have I seen them lift the trophy.

1999-2014 has given me nothing but heartache, but come Saturday all that is forgotten and it’s a chance for redemption.

Leeds Rhinos' Kallum Watkins.' Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe'4th May 2018.

Kallum Watkins’ season over for Leeds Rhinos due to ACL injury