In your opinion what makes a great cup final?
The ingredients for a great cup final come from a few different places, if we look at this game particularly they are two very well matched sides. They are also two very well supported sides so both sets of fans will be keen and enthusiastic on the day and will make their presence felt. Both ends of the Wembley Stadium will be similar in colour with primrose and blue and blue and amber and if I think back to the three finals I played in, they were tight affairs, there was a lot of tension and a lot of drama and a little bit of emotion on the day and this one is going to be no different.
How does each side’s form compare going into this match
If we look at these two sides in isolation then Warrington’s form is fantastic, they’ve been in a number of big games. Some they’ve won and some they’ve lost but performance wise they’ve been pretty much there in the majority of games. Matt King bagged a hat-trick recently against Wakefield and it’s going to be massive for Warrington that when they get in distance of that try line, that they get over. If players like King and Riley can notch up the points then Warrington stand a great chance.
From the Rhinos perspective their form is pretty good, they’ve scored a load of points against Castleford and Catalans in recent games and Ryan Hall is looking in great form. Form wise, the two teams are about even, but what I think might tip the balance is the injury list for both sides. In the Castleford game Jamie Peacock who is one of the real strong leaders of the Rhinos side, sustained a knee injury that requires a reconstruction. His leadership qualities will be severely missed by the Leeds squad. The difficult is that in the same match Luke Burgess broke his jar ruling out a direct replacement for Peacock in the cup final.
Lance Todd contenders
Let’s not forget that in this match the Lance Todd trophy is very much a badge of honour for any player and those that win it are in an elite club that every player would die to be in. The players I think will be of key influence in this final and be in line for the trophy include try scorers such as King and Riley for Warrington and Ryan Hall for the Rhinos, but what tends to happen is that a certain player comes to the fore and I think Adrian Morley fits that mould. He’s represented British rugby league for a long time with distinction and has been immense for Warrington since he joined them. He’s a real contender and was unlucky in my opinion not to pick up the Man of Steel last year, such was his consistency. Lee Briers also has the ability to catch anyone’s attention, I though he was in the running for the Lance Todd last year, he has got a hand or foot in most of Warrington’s positive play.
For the Rhinos Kevin Sinfield, who has previously won the trophy in a losing side, pulls the strings for the Rhinos and has an excellent kicking game and will be at the forefront of everything that the Rhinos do positively. Of course he has a great strike rate with the boot when he’s converting his team mates tries as well. Another player who is in scintillating form for Leeds is Danny McGuire, his performance in the semi final was absolutely immense; he really rises to that big game occasion. Sometimes you look at players and think this is your stage, everything is pointing towards this being Danny McGuire’s final.
Where the game will be won and lost
If you look at the pathway for both teams they’ve been very different with Leeds arguably having to come through a harder set of games to reach the final. How much bearing that will have on the final it’s hard to say, I think it comes back to experience, emotion and composure.
For the first time in a long time this Carnegie Challenge Cup final will be won and lost in the top three inches. Both sides like for like, man for man are as equal as you can get. The styles they employ are slightly different, Warrington have a flair and a mentality that they will pass and are [?] willing to defend those errors.
They’ll also look to whack you, to hit you and hurt you with players like Morley and Harrison and Ben Westwood. The Rhinos control the ruck a lot more and will slow things down. When they have the ball they play with a speed and a ruthlessness that punishes you for your mistakes. I think controlling the controllables will be an important part of what they do, but the uncontrollables such as the atmosphere and emotion are important factors and playing the game and not the occasion will help decide the victory.
I’ve got a couple of predictions before I sign off for 2010, I think they will be a hat-trick in this game from one of the wingers. With Sinfield and Briers using that aerial bomb and using the players they have at their disposal I think three tries will be scored by one player. I think the victors in this game will be the Leeds Rhinos, they haven’t won it since 1999, but they’ve won a lot of finals in a short time, so for me the Rhinos to be victorious.