Hull coach Lee Radford paid the ultimate back-handed compliment to Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield after his man-of-the-match display ended his own team’s Wembley dream.
Sinfield, restored to the side after Liam Sutcliffe suffered a season-ending knee injury, kicked six goals and produced a masterful tactical performance to guide the holders to a 24-6 victory in the second Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final at the KC Stadium.
“The quicker Kevin Sinfield retires and goes to rugby union the better,” he said. “I’ll sleep at night then. He kicked us all over the park.”
Sinfield was dropped earlier in the year and had been on the bench for the Rhinos’ two previous matches but he demonstrated his continuing value to the side, alongside another half-back veteran in Rob Burrow, who stepped in for the injured Danny McGuire.
Leeds coach Brian McDermott admitted his side adapted better to the wet conditions at the KC Stadium than their opponents and happily sang the praises of his long-serving captain.
“I have always said he’ll have a significant part to play this year,” McDermott said. “It’s always been a case of rotation and squad management.
“Kevin and Rob managed that game really well. It came down to management of the weather.”
Leeds scored their first try though Joel Moon before the drizzle set in and Sinfield opted to take any points on offer by attempting five long-range penalties, succeeding with three of them.
“He makes his own decisions,” McDermott said. “It was always going to be about points on the board. Fortunately we got a try early and they were in chase mode.
“I don’t think we were perfect in the second half, I actually think Hull kicked better than us.
“But you’ve got to defend your tryline which we did and I thought Stevie Ward was again magnificent .”
Kallum Watkins and Zak Hardaker added second-half tries as Leeds strengthened their grip on the game and they were 24-0 up before Hull scrum-half Jordan Abdull, deputising for the suspended Marc Sneyd, grabbed a consolation try for a disappointing home side.
“I’d like to apologise to the supporters,” said Hull coach Lee Radford. “I’m unbelievably frustrated that were weren’t good enough.
“Every time we gave ourselves an opportunity to get some reward we handed it back to them.
“For whatever reason on the big stage we haven’t been able to execute.
“We’ve got to try and physically and mentally recharge now - and learn to catch a football.”