FROM the moment Lizzie Jones showed more courage than any player has ever done on a rugby field by singing a beautiful version of Abide With Me, you sensed this Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final was all set to deliver brilliance.
The only problem, for hapless Hull KR at least, was it was just one side who showed it.
Leeds Rhinos were, in all honesty, brutally ruthless in inflicting a 50-0 defeat of their over-awed opponents in easily the most one-sided final in the competition’s 118-year history.
The bookmakers had them as 1-5 favourites and, let’s face it, they don’t often get it wrong but no one truly expected a destruction of such unrelenting force.
Records certainly tumbled at Wembley on Saturday.
Lance Todd Trophy winner Tom Briscoe remarkably scored five tries, the most by one player ever in a Challenge Cup final and eclipsing another Leeds winger Leroy Rivett who crossed four times in 1999.
That day had seen the Rhinos secure the final’s biggest ever winning margin with a 52-16 defeat of London Broncos but that, too, was easily surpassed here.
Furthermore, Kevin Sinfield – after so many years of heartache in the competition – actually completed back-to-back wins as he led a side into the final for a record seventh time, moving past the six Wigan great Eric Ashton had made between 1958 and 1966.
It was a fine manner in which to depart the famous stadium in, like Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai, his last appearance there.
It was all so hard on Hull KR who, despite largely being written off by most, had privately arrived to face the distinguished Super League leaders with such confidence.
This was their first such final in 29 years while most of their players were not even born the one, and still only, time they have lifted the trophy in 1980.
Their talisman Albert Kelly was, despite all the mock debating behind the scenes, back from injury to try and inspire them but they needed so much more than the Australian scrum-half, with all his tricks, to hurt a determined Leeds side as well-drilled and organised as ever by head coach Brian McDermott.
How Rovers could have done with some of the composure of Jones, the widow of Danny, the Keighley Cougars and Wales player who tragically died after collapsing with a heart problem during a game in May.
A professional singer, she had bravely asked to sing the traditional rugby league hymn Abide With Me before kick-off – and before a crowd of 80,140 plus millions on live television – to say ‘thank you’ to the sport for all their support in the aftermath of that personal turmoil.
How she managed to do so only she will know.
With images of Danny and their twin babies flashing up on the big screen, she delivered a perfect rendition that was as emotive as anything you are ever likely to witness at any sporting event.
Rovers actually started quite positively, completing their sets and not making any handling mistakes early on without truly threatening their opponents.
Brett Delaney had given Leeds a sixth-minute lead when Peacock was denied a farewell try by Kevin Larroyer, the French second-row who desperately stripped possession from the veteran as he strode towards the goalline.
Peacock then showed his guile to slip Joel Moon through a gap for Danny McGuire to score on his 400th career appearance and there was a first early indication of Hull KR’s weak underbelly when their opponents scored again in the very next set. Ryan Hall shrugged off Kelly from the kick-off and Briscoe eventually dissected more feeble tackle attempts to gain his first try and a 16-0 lead after just 19 minutes.
Rovers, perhaps off the pace not only because of the grandness of the occasion but due to the fact they have been playing Championship sides of late, needed to score next.
Despite Kelly’s best promptings, however, they could not do so and they were grateful rather that Leeds, their offloading and precision proving so devastating, did not extend that lead with Hall and Leuluai both held up over the line.
Still, if Rovers could find something at the start of the second half, perhaps this final could still be retrieved.
Unfortunately for the East Yorkshire club, they were undone in part by a raft of costly errors from Kieran Dixon, the excitable full-back whose obvious promise is too often tainted by moments of alarming inaccuracy.
The pacey 23-year-old had been included at the more reliable Ben Cockayne’s expense because of his match-winning ability but the likelihood of making expensive mistakes currently seems to outweigh that.
Dixon endured a nightmare at Wembley on Saturday, glaring error after glaring error being compounded by Leeds’s lethal strike ability.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but, in fairness, many people did wonder if Cockayne’s safer hands and defence would have been a better option; when the Rhinos scent a weakness they expose it to the maximum. You were begging for Dixon to be spared his embarrassment but, with Cockayne not even in the 17, head coach Chris Chester had no options and the Londoner was left out there to suffer added torment.
Rovers wilted badly, the brilliant centre Kallum Watkins eased through the gears, Briscoe profited with four more tries and, Rob Burrow and Brad Singleton also scored to see Leeds easily complete the first stage of their targeted treble.