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Warrington Wolves 48 Leeds Rhinos 12: Rhinos’ Cup dream comes to shuddering halt

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ONE Ladbrokes Challenge Cup shock was quite enough today; there was very little chance of two happening, especially with abject Leeds Rhinos playing like this.

After Catalans Dragons stunned Super League leaders St Helens with a superb 35-16 win in the opening semi-final at the University of Bolton Stadium, Kevin Sinfield’s side must have gleaned extra confidence that they, too, could upset the odds in the second part of an historic double-header.

Leeds Rhinos' Richie Myler scores but it is later disallowed.

Leeds Rhinos' Richie Myler scores but it is later disallowed.

However, proving too disorganised for too long and with some utterly shambolic defending, they never truly came close to unsettling Warrington who marched on to set up a Wembley date with the French on August 25.

Granted, the West Yorkshire club did lead 6-2 at the end of the first quarter, Ryan Hall having come up with a quality try - as the England winger so often does on these occassions - to hint they might be able to shrug off their woeful league form for 80 minutes.

But struggling Leeds, yet again, were the architects of their own downfall as the contest quickly turned and they were suddenly left staring at a 26-6 interval deficit.

After Hall’s try, a cheeky raid down the blindside before embarrassing Josh Charnley with some fine footwork, they twice forced Warrington into goalline drop-outs but each time failed to capitalise.

Firstly, Joel Moon inexplicably kicked early to no one in particular and, then, Matt Parcell fumbled when Richie Myler scrappily played the ball.

On its own, those errors were not catastrophic, but after the latter, Tom Lineham raced 90m to score direct from the scrum, too easily beating Brett Ferres and Moon at the first point of contact.

Crucially, Warrington crossed in the next set as well, Toby King beating Hall to a high Tyrone Roberts kick - he did three times in total - before supplying the pass for Josh Charnley.

Admittedly, that pass was marginally forward but video referee James Child - when checking grounding - was powerless to disallow it.

Warrington made the most of the let-off but, in fairness, they had already twice got over the line only for Charnley and Stefan Ratchford to both spill in the process, so this assault was always coming.

That said, Leeds’ defence was embarrassing when Kevin Brown, the 34-year-old former England stand-off marking his 400th career appearance, produced his trademark ‘show and go’ to usher himself over on the half-hour.

It was similarly paperthin when Ben Murdoch-Maasila rumbled over from further out with the final act of the half.

Leeds’ chances weren’t helped by the loss of three players to injuries, fullback Jack Walker (hamstring) and hooker Matt Parcell (ribs) coming off in first half before Ash Handley departed with a shoulder issue.

Rhinos, at least, showed some spirit at the start of the second period, finally converting a goalline drop-out when Adam Cuthbertson gave them hope of a reprieve.

Liam Sutcliffe added his second conversion and Richie Myler thought he had reduced the deficit further with a clever runaround with Ferres, only to be pulled back for a forward pass.

Leeds did well to deny Jack Hughes at the other end but, when, trailing 26-12 in the 55th minute, Myler sailed a kick straight into touch and the BBC cameras panned to Sinfield in the stands, you could see the dejection in his face.

It is clear the size of the task facing the the club’s new director of rugby who has prospered just once in five games since taking over from the sacked Brian McDermott.

Indeed, the defending champions have won only two of their last 13 matches against Super League opposition and both of those were against bottom-placed Widnes Vikings.

Their battle to avoid relegation in the Qualifiers begins at home to Toulouse on Saturday. Clearly, it will not be an easy passage.

Charnley went in for his second soon after Myler’s miscue, the brilliant hooker Daryl Clark dancing through yet more wretched defence from deep.

Roberts slotted the latest of his eight goals, adding a penalty to make sure, before Warrington kept the ball alive on the last tackle for King to run in a deserved score.

Bryson Goodwin added a try of his own before Lineham completed the rout with another 90m effort, this time intercepting Sutcliffe’s pass.

Ben Westwood, the 37-year-old veteran, took over kicking duties in front of the posts. But missed. Fortunately, Warrington were able to laugh about it, unlike broken Leeds, even if it meant they at least avoided conceding half-a-century of points.

Warrington Wolves: Ratchford; Charnley, T King, Goodwin, Lineham; Brown, Roberts; Hill, Clark, Cooper, Livett, Hughes, Westwood. Substitutes: Murdoch-Masila, G King, Patton, Philbin.

Leeds Rhinos: Walker; Briscoe, Handley, Sutcliffe, Hall; Moon, Myler; Cuthbertson, Parcell, Singleton, Ferres, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan. Substitutes: Dwyer, Oledzki, Peteru, Walters.

Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield)