Leeds 17-16 Salford: Captain Luke Gale’s late drop goal secures Rhinos’ first Challenge Cup in five years at Wembley
- The never-to-be-said Red Devils took the lead for the first time after 57 minutes
- But Handley’s second attempt to make it 16-16 was followed by Gale’s one-pointer
- The triumph was attended by about 200 officials and members of the media
A drop goal five minutes before the end of Leeds captain Luke Gale saw a dramatic 17-16 victory over surprising Challenge Cup finalists Salford in surreal circumstances at an almost deserted Wembley.
The never-to-be-said Red Devils took the lead for the first time after 57 minutes, but Rhinos winger Ash Handley scored his second attempt of the game to level the scores and Gale came in with the winning point.
So Leeds managed to deliver a 14th Challenge Cup triumph for stricken former player Rob Burrow and still left Salford in search of their first cup win since 1938.
Leeds are celebrating after winning the Challenge Cup at an almost deserted Wembley on Saturday
They may have only played two games to get to Wembley as their performance was attended by about 200 officials and members of the media and there wasn’t a walk down those famous steps to get their prize, but the asterisk next to their name will. do well. means nothing to Richard Agar’s men.
This was still Wembley, the place where dreams are fulfilled or shattered, and they did it for Burrow, who had to decline an invitation to attend as he continues his battle with motor neuron disease, but was ‘by default’ the main guest of his home in West Yorkshire.
However, the result was difficult for Salford playmaker Kevin Brown, who has now experienced the heartbreak of defeat in four Challenge Cup finals with four different clubs.
A late drop goal from captain Luke Gale saw Leeds fight back to beat Salford
Salford created the first scoring opportunity when winger Krisnan Inu broke through Leeds’ line, but fullback Niall Evalds, so impressive after returning from six weeks of injuries, was unable to catch his kick with a beckoning attempt.
The Rhinos made the most of the lunge when center Konrad Hurrell produced a clever one-handed pass to get long-serving right winger Tom Briscoe, their 2015 five-try hero, over for his seventh cup final.
Rhyse Martin’s conversion attempt went from far upright to 6-0, but the Red Devils came level with the game in 18 minutes as former Leeds center Kallum Watkins collected Gale’s offensive kick and Evalds quickly thought of winger Rhys Williams. get 90 yards sprint for a glorious attempt.
Inu’s conversion leveled the scores, but Leeds got a try from substitute James Donaldson who declined a double move before creating an overlap for left winger Handley to score his first attempt 10 minutes before half time when they led 12-6.
Winger Tom Briscoe broke a Wembley record with his seventh attempt in a Challenge Cup final
It was an accurate portrayal of the opening half, but the Red Devils are nothing but resilient and they hit back with two tries in six minutes to get to the front.
Burly substitute Pauli Pauli took the pass from Tui Lolohea and proved unstoppable from 15 yards in front of the first, and second rower James Greenwood took the second when full-back Richie Myler failed to handle Lolohea’s high kick.
Inu reversed Greenwood’s attempt to make it 16-12, but it was tied again in 64 minutes when man of the match Myler Handley worked overtime for his second attempt to put in a thrilling final.
Gale was next on his first drop goal attempt and, after Watkins nearly created a second try for Williams, the former Castleford scrum half found the goal with five minutes to go to break the deadlock.