TEAMS have been competing to win the Challenge Cup for almost 120 years.
But never before in the contest’s illustrious history has a victorious side returned home with a bigger winning margin than the 50-0 triumph enjoyed by the Leeds Rhinos at Wembley yesterday.
And earlier today thousands of ecstatic fans gave their heroes the welcome they so richly deserved as the streets of Headingley were lined in blue and amber for the victory parade.
The team was then introduced to fans who packed into the stadium having successfully defended the trophy they won last summer.
There were huge cheers for the returning heroes and especially for five try star Tom Briscoe and the rugby league legends playing their last Challenge Cup final Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield.
The players reacted modestly when asked to reflect on their success. But the fans were delighted when the announcer suggested Saturday’s match would go down as “The Briscoe final” and when their captain Sinfield promised the Rhinos would give it their all in the hunt for more silverware this season.
The players and staff then took the applause during a lap of honour posing for photographs along the way. Danny McGuire was still pitchside doing photos and autographs for the remaining diehard fans when almost everyone had gone. The club had faced a long wait for Challenge Cup success before last year with defeats in six finals since the millennium.
But the Rhinos had been strong favourites to defend their trophy and their success was no surprise to any of the fans who turned out to greet them home.
Kerry Langley and Oscar Antao said they were confident of victory but didn’t expect such a huge winning margin. Oscar added: “I felt sorry for Hull. The third try made the difference.”
Holly and Hugo Burns-Danforth, aged 11 and ten, were back in Leeds with their parents Mark and Alison to welcome the team having travelled down to Wembley to watch the final.
Mark said; “We were sat with the Hull KR fans. They were confident that their team could win but I don’t think the Hull KR players believed it.”
It was the second time he had been able to enjoy a Leeds players making Challenge Cup history having been in the crowd to see Leroy Rivett score four tries in the 1999 final he was able to celebrate watching Tom Briscoe going one better this year.
Alison said; “At the end of the match we saw some Hull fans congratulating the Leeds manager. There is a good atmosphere at rugby league matches.”
Among the younger fans waiting to see the team home was three-year-old Ellis Asquith with his mother Laura Hanakin.
She said: “He comes with me on a Friday night and really enjoys it. His first match was the Catalan Dragons.
“Our favourite player is Robbie Burrow.”
Fans had also come from further afield to enjoy the occasion although for Rhinos fan Kerry Carson, from Scarborough, the timing was happy coincidence. “My son lives in Leeds and I am a cat-sitting for him.
“It is really exciting to be here for this.”
Like the other Rhinos fans along the route, she firmly expected the side to win but not by such a convincing margin.
Perhaps the two Rhinos fans who had the best day were newly-weds Liam and Carly Morgan, who picked the perfect time for their wedding day at Headingley. “We are massive Rhinos fans” the couple said excitedly as members of the returning team congratulated them.
Later they made their way onto the pitch for their wedding photos which were being taken yards away from where their heroes had celebrated the Challenge Cup triumph.