Written by Rugby Football League
Photo by RFL
Leeds Rhinos claimed their first Wheelchair Challenge Cup with a 74-46 victory against Kent’s Argonaut Skeleton Army at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield over the weekend.
The Rhinos had lost in their previous two Cup Final appearances, but made it third time lucky to take a second of Rugby League’s three Challenge Cups back to Emerald Headingley – after a triumph for the Leeds women’s team against Castleford in the final of the Coral Women’s Challenge Cup in Bolton last month.
Both winning Leeds teams will now be invited to Wembley next Saturday, when St Helens face Warrington Wolves in the men’s Coral Challenge Cup Final.
Josh Butler, a 17-year-old A-level student from Brigshaw High School, scored five of their 15 tries, while another teenager, 18-year-old Nathan Collins, was named Player of the Match.
“It’s a great day for the club,” said James Simpson, the Rhinos captain who has also been appointed an ambassador for Rugby League World Cup 2021, when several matches in the Wheelchair competition will be staged at the Institute of Sport.
“We suffered some big defeats when we started playing a few years ago, but we’ve grown up together. Apart from me as the old bloke, we’re still a young team. Nathan and Josh were both outstanding today, and it’s exciting to think how good they could become – especially as we look ahead to 2021. But this was a real team effort, and I think our strength in depth made a big difference.
“The Argonauts have some brilliant players themselves, several of them on the England Performance Unit. But we were able to mix and match a bit more which meant we were fresher as each half went on.
“It’s great for Leeds to have won two Challenge Cups in the space of a couple of weeks, and I think that shows how much the game is coming on in these different areas. The past 48 hours has been awesome with the amount of media coverage we’ve had, and to have had this game shown live on Our League and by the IPC has been incredible exposure.”
Ralph Rimmer, the chief executive of the Rugby Football League who presented the trophy to Simpson, said: “Days like this are special for the sport. We’ve had two great games, at a venue which has shown what an asset it will be in the World Cup in 2021. Some of the rugby played by Leeds and the Argonauts in the Challenge Cup, and Gravesend and Hull in the Trophy, has been mesmerising. I don’t think you’d find anyone who’s been here today, or who has watched on Our League, who wouldn’t be keen to see some more.”
Lewis King, who has recently been called into the England Wheelchair squad, scored four tries in defeat for the Argonauts, while captain Fred Nye produced the best individual score of the day in addition to kicking five goals.
There was one success for Kent as Gravesend Dynamite won the Wheelchair Challenge Trophy with a 75-42 victory against Hull FC. Ben Hope, the 16-year-old son of Dynamite captain Nevil, scored 24 points from four tries and four goals while another father and son combination, Jason and Max Owen, each scored a hat-trick – with Jason also chipping a delightful drop goal in a player of the match performance.
Billy Swainger, the son of the Hull FC coach Mike who also played alongside his father, scored five tries in the Black and Whites’ defeat.
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