Tag Archives: Challenge Cup Final

Swansea Beat Man United to Crown A Weekend Mirabilis for Leeds   –   by Rob Atkinson

Chris Wood milks the adulation of the fans

Truly it is said that, for a sports fan’s very best of times, it’s not quite enough that your favourites should win. It’s necessary also for a team you despise to lose, preferably after taking the lead and crowing prematurely. It adds the aromatic spice of Schadenfreude to the jubilant celebration feast of success. When everything falls into place like this, pleasure and triumph for the good guys, pain and suffering for the baddies, it arrives like Manna from Heaven or soft, gentle rain in a parched drought. Those joyous moments don’t come along often enough, sadly – but this last two day’s melange of high points is one to remember for a long time.

By any reckoning, such a very rewarding weekend is like a great big, gaudy parcel crammed with delectable goodies, wrapped in paper of pure gold and tied with ribbons of yellow, white and blue. What a transcendentally wonderful 48 hours it has been, first and foremost in football, with Leeds United beating our former tormentors Derby County in their own backyard. The victory was thoroughly well-deserved and sealed by a truly tonking strike from Chris Wood, who is looking more and more like the real deal. United seem set to follow up their breakthrough win with some quality additions to a talented young squad. The future finally looks bright for the Whites – at least for the moment. 

Wood's wonderstrike

Wood’s wonder strike

That victory at Derby was a significant result and something in which to take significant pride and pleasure. But in the grand scheme of this weekend, especially for a fan of both football and rugby league, United’s success was in the nature of a curtain-raiser to the top of the bill, an appetiser before the main course. Leeds Rhinos, indisputably the class act of Super League, had reached Wembley to defend the Challenge Cup they won last year against Castleford Tigers. The opposition this year would come from Hull Kingston Rovers, and the outcome was to be of history-making proportions.

Hull KR undeniably froze on their big day, while Leeds Rhinos were at their imperious best. The game was men against boys; Rovers barely threatened the Rhinos try-line, with Leeds surging through their ranks at will as the Final wore on, racking up 50 points without reply. Tom Briscoe scored a record five tries, including one superb 90 yard finish, in a man of the match display. Leeds Rhinos were supreme and irresistible; Hull KR utterly obliterated. 

By this time, your Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything correspondent was feeling pretty good about his sporting Saturday. There was even the merest hint of that Schadenfreude piquancy, with card-carrying Leeds-haters like BarnsleyHuddersfield and Sheffield Wendies all comically tasting the dry ashes of defeat. The only way the day could have been improved would have been a defeat from a winning position for man u, my much-despised, Pride of Devon, favourite targets. But man u didn’t play till Sunday…

And, lo and behold, it came to pass. Sunday provided the warm afterglow to follow Saturday’s twin climaxes of joy and celebration. It was like Boxing Day used to be when I was a kid; a buffer against the downer that sometimes follows an emotional high – one more fiesta day, parties, further celebrations, even more lovely presents.

The Panther celebrates his winner against man u

My very favourite Pride of Devon defeats are the ones where they’ve ridden their luck and then taken an undeserved lead. You can see the arrogance set in; they start to swagger and believe the media fairy stories about how wonderful they are. And then, every now and again, the opposition bites back and smites the Over-rated Ones hip and thigh. Defeat is snatched by the media darlings from the very jaws of victory. So it happened today, to utterly overflow my cup of pleasure.

With a deadly one-two any champion boxer would be proud of, Swansea City recovered from the blow of going behind and promptly smashed man u left and right, to leave them bleeding and bewildered on the canvas. And then, as always happens with this shabby lot, the arrogance was replaced by truculence; the Pride of Devon starting to moan even more at the ref. They snarled and they kicked, they looked for dodgy penalties, they brought on a beanpole forward and abandoned any pretence at beautiful football. And they lost. Joy unconfined, they lost!

So it’s been another highly enjoyable day to complete a miraculous weekend that’s had just about everything. In the mix, a first win for the Whites, a brilliant clinching goal, yet more silverware for the Rhinos as they continue to carry all before them, a bracing start to Sunday at Whitley Bridge car boot sale and, of course, that sadistic pleasure at the discomfiture and defeat of the hated rabble from the Theatre of Hollow Myths. Still to come: a celebratory Chinese takeaway with wine and a good movie in the very best company I could wish for. And, Lordy Lord, it’s a bank holiday tomorrow. 

I’m a very happy man right now, as you’ve possibly gathered – but, naturally, this too shall pass. For the moment I shall just enjoy it, and look forward to Deadline Day – and then the peace and opportunity for calm reflection that comes with an international break. 

See you at the next turn of the cards. This has been a better one than most!

MOT. 



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It’s Cup Final Day for Derby County AND Leeds This Saturday – by Rob Atkinson

A typically calm moment from Derby v Leeds back in the day

A typically calm moment from Derby v Leeds back in the day

Norman stops Frannie’s lip by putting a hole in it

There’s never been a shortage of feeling in matches between Derby County and Leeds United – not since the days when it was Clough versus Revie, anyway. In the years that the two Middlesbrough lads locked horns at either Elland Road or the quagmire that was the Baseball Ground, those feelings tended to run deep, and often spilled over into epic violence, with both sets of players going at it with relish. The pictures above are fairly typical of a Rams v United clash in those far-off, halcyon days – certainly the players of each club felt a deep and mutual rivalry, and to say that the matches were keenly contested is to show a talent for understatement.

Off the field, the situation was somewhat less mutual. Derby County hated Leeds, alright – no doubt about that. But Leeds fans of that era were well aware of their beloved team’s pre-eminence over most if not all others – so the attitude towards lesser clubs (i.e. just about everybody) tended to be one of lordly indifference. The few exceptions to this rule included manchester united and, to a lesser but still vitriolic degree, Chelsea. These two were accepted as deserving of hatred, despite their obvious inferiority on the field. But the rest, busy Leeds-haters though they might be, tended to get ignored. Naturally, this did not make the Whites any more popular around the country. Spurned haters are just as hotly resentful as spurned lovers, if not more so.

Derby were a case in point back in the 70s, and it’s a situation that persists to this day. They do have a neighbourly loathing for Nottingham Forest, made the more bitter because the comically-nicknamed Tricky Trees got second and better use out of County’s discarded Clough/Taylor axis. Geographical proximity and the Cloughie factor make this mutual antipathy as real as most. But Derby hate Leeds with an almost equal passion – and, frustratingly beyond measure for their fans, it’s entirely unrequited – which really does get under the skin of your average Ram.

The history between the two clubs over the past couple of decades has been a tale of two long periods of dominance, one for each side.  First Leeds had a spell when they found they could toy with Derby as a cat does a half-dead mouse, exacting the maximum in malicious pleasure by torturing them, before dispatching them mercilessly. This was a period of acute suffering for a Leeds-hating County fan. One season, we knocked them out of both cups on their own ground, with the FA Cup win being from two goals down. On another occasion, we gave them a three goal start at Elland Road, before storming back to win 4-3 with Lee Bowyer notching a last-gasp winner before an ecstatic Kop. Later that season, we went to the incongruously named Pride Park and leathered the home side 5-0. It was not a good time to be a Derby County fan.

Then, things turned round for Derby; in a period that coincided with United’s dramatic fall from grace after “living the dream”, Leeds simply could not buy a win against the Rams. Defeat followed defeat – though at a time when most teams were beating us with monotonous regularity, the sting of each loss was not noticeably worse than those against most other teams. For Derby, though, it was like a renaissance – they were beating Leeds, for the first time in years – and they did not particularly care that this was not a Leeds of any special vintage or calibre.

The fallow period against the Rams, though, appears to be coming to an end. Firstly, we managed to avoid defeat in a late-season encounter at Elland Road. Then, last season, each team enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win at home; honours even. Tomorrow’s first Derby-Leeds clash this season will, as usual, be Cup Final day for every Ram. They will be aching to beat us, yearning for the three points as a child yearns for Christmas. It will be very much business as usual for Derby fans, and Leeds United will have to be wary of the intense desire and expectations of the home fans, factors that can certainly inspire a side.

But tomorrow is also Cup Final day for Leeds – and not in any ersatz or theoretical sense as experienced by County followers. Leeds, being a centre of sport unrivaled anywhere else in the country, boasts widely-renowned teams in three sports, with Yorkshire CCC at the summit of the County Championship in cricket, Leeds United showing signs of revival as their glorious history positively demands – and in Rugby League, Leeds Rhinos has long been the team to beat. Tomorrow, they take the field at Wembley in the Challenge Cup Final, with the unfancied Hull Kingston Rovers in opposition. This is not a sentiment that every Leeds United fan will share, but – this being my blog to do with as I wish – I will be hoping and praying that my beloved Rhinos can confirm what the form guide suggests will happen, and bring the Challenge Cup home to Headingley.

Saturday is about two Cup Finals and two Leeds teams. My fingers are crossed that Derby’s prayers go unanswered and that they are left thwarted again, as in the good old days. But, should United stumble to a first defeat of the season, I’ll still manage to keep a smile on my face – as long as Sir Kev‘s warriors do the business at Wembley and achieve the first part of a Rhinos treble.

All Leeds, aren’t we?