Delaney's day as Leeds make history
Former Eel and Titan Brett Delaney has capped a record-breaking occasion with a try in Leeds' one-sided 50-0 win over Hull Kingston Rovers in the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
On the 120th birthday of rugby league any chance of a fairytale triumph by the underdogs was quickly dispatched when Leeds opened up a 16-point advantage through 20 minutes that would have required Hull KR to make a record comeback in order to win.
Instead it was a record-breaking win for Leeds who surpassed the previous biggest win in a Challenge Cup Final with a ruthless display to claim their 13th win in the iconic knockout competition with winger Tom Briscoe – who came close to joining Cronulla 12 months ago – sccoring a record five tries.
Playing in his fifth Challenge Cup Final, Delaney broke his own record for most appearances by an Australian in English rugby league's showpiece game and celebrated by scoring the first of his team's three first-half tries.
Two poor errors from fullback Kieran Dixon in the first three minutes of the second half put Hull KR under further pressure but the Rhinos were unable to take advantage until the 47th minute when Briscoe snatched a cross kick from Maurice Blair to race 90 metres for the second of his five tries – the most by any player in a Challenge Cup Final at Wembley – and all but secure a second consecutive Challenge Cup triumph.
Further tries followed to Briscoe, Brad Singleton and Rob Burrow in a match that will be remembered not for the contest but for the quality of a Leeds team seeking to complete the Challenge Cup-Super League double for the first time in the club's history.
Both teams were littered with former NRL stars but it was the Leeds contingent of Delaney, Joel Moon, Adam Cuthbertson, Mitch Garbutt, Kylie Leuluai and Mitch Achurch who wrote themselves into the history books with a win at Wembley.
Having been in doubt all week with a knee injury Albert Kelly did his best to spark Hull KR into life but a disrespect for possession was punished time and again and Kelly and the likes of Maurice Blair, Josh Mantellato, Ken Sio, Tony Puletua, Dane Tilse and Mitch Allgood could do little to prevent a Rhinos stampede.
While the emotion and the colour in the stands may have been dominated by those supporting Hull KR it was the big-game experience of Leeds that enabled them to deliver a clinical opening to the final to tale a stranglehold on proceedings.
They tested the right knee that had kept Kelly in doubt by kicking off straight to the Rovers half to start proceedings before another former Titan scored first points.
Playing in the back row, 30-year-old Delaney scored in the sixth minute in rather unusual circumstances and on the back of two important pieces of play by two other former NRL players.
A strong charge from Garbutt put the Rhinos on the attack and two tackles later a deft pass from Cuthbertson attracted two defenders and put Jamie Peacock over under the posts.
Or so it seemed.
Replays showed that Peacock had had the ball stripped from him in trying to score, Delaney picking the loose ball off Peacock's back before planting it down under the posts.
The try is awarded, it was Brett Delaney who crashed through to score the opening try of the 2015 Challenge Cup Final pic.twitter.com/KDVTGieYTs— leedsrhinos (@leedsrhinos) August 29, 2015
Garbutt's charges in the middle of the ruck and Cuthbertson's offloads were prominent early in the Rhinos' dominance where they spent 75 per cent of the first 15 minutes in Rovers territory.
The defending champions began their rampage with two tries in the space of three minutes, the first of which came to Danny McGuire in the 17th minute.
Playing in his 400th game McGuire scored Leeds' second try with a simple blind-side shift that saw former Warrior Joel Moon get in behind the Hull KR defensive line, finding McGuire in support on his left for Leeds to open up a 12-0 lead.
Twelve became 16 in the space of two tackles after winger Ryan Hall caught a short kick-off from Rovers winger Josh Mantellato and busted straight through and charged into Hull KR's half.
A quick spread to the right from the next tackle saw Briscoe on the opposite wing cut back and beat four defenders to score Rhinos' third try in the game's opening quarter.
Despite being unable to wrest back any sustained momentum, Hull's defence at least managed to hold firm for the remainder of the half and Kelly's influence started to grow.
He appeared to have put his team on the attack in the 32nd minute with a judicious 40/20 kick before a quick inspection by the video referee discovered that Kelly had in fact brushed the 40-metre line with his left boot as he kicked the ball.
Kelly with a great kick earning Rovers a 40/20! More like a 40/10! Rovers scrum, 10 out from the Leeds line.— Hull Kingston Rovers (@hullkr_online) August 29, 2015
Or not. The decision has been reversed as replays show Kelly's foot was JUST on the line.— Hull Kingston Rovers (@hullkr_online) August 29, 2015
Leeds Rhinos 50 (Tom Briscoe 5, Brett Delaney, Danny McGuire, Brad Singleton, Rob Burrow tries; Kevin Sinfield 7 goals) def. Hull Kingston Rovers 0 at Wembley Stadium. Half-time: Leeds 16-0. Lance Todd Trophy winner: Tom Briscoe (Leeds).