Warrington proved too strong for Leeds to claim their third Challenge Cup triumph in four years.
Three quick-fire tries from the Wolves proved to be decisive in a commanding second half performance to which Leeds had no answer, meaning the Rhinos became the first team to lose three consecutive Challenge Cup finals at Wembley.
Full-back Brett Hodgson was named the Lance Todd trophy winner, with 27 votes, three years after he suffered defeat at the hands of Warrington while a Huddersfield player.
His try six minutes from time made sure for the Wolves, but the damage was done in a 10 minute spell when Chris Riley, Ryan Atkins and Tyrone McCarthy all crossed for tries to put the game beyond Leeds.
Richie Myler, who missed out on selection in the 2010 final win, also against Leeds, played a pivotal role in the game’s first try, collecting an offload in midfield before racing forward and placing a smart chip-kick, which winger Joel Monaghan snapped up with glee to slide in.
The Rhinos hit back on the 20 minute mark when Warrington were penalised for stealing the ball in the tackle, and moments later, Ian Kirke turned out of a three-man tackle to reach over for a score.
Wembley was then hit by a deluge of rain, and Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield steadied the ship with a penalty, to add to his conversion of Kirke’s try, which edged the Super League champions 8-6 in front.
Sinfield tagged on another penalty on the stroke of half time, to the surprise of some, but not before the aptly named Trent Waterhouse had put Warrington back in front, the two points reducing Leeds’ arrears to 12-10 at half-time.
The pivotal moment of the match came early in the second half when a huge hit from Kylie Leuluai on Hodgson forced the ball free, with Brett Delaney collecting the ball and going over for a try. The video referee, after much deliberation, adjudged that Leuluai had knocked the ball forward to deny Leeds, and Hodgson dusted himself off to mastermind the Warrington victory.
That incident seemed to deflate Leeds for the final half hour, and a big tackle by Myler on Zak Hardaker forced a Leeds a drop-out, and the Wolves forced another set shortly after, although Briers was perhaps fortunate not to concede a scrum following an apparent knock-on. But the pressure told, as Hodgson’s wide pass found Atkins, who in turn released Riley to cross in the corner.
Minutes later, the left hand side proved rewarding again for the Wolves, with Atkins this time crossing for a score of his own, and Hodgson’s conversion put Warrington 22-10 clear with 25 minutes to play.
Leeds, still licking their wounds from the no try decision and that quickfire double, conceded a crucial third second half try shortly before the hour mark, when Tyrone McCarthy crashed over, and a trademark drop goal from Lee Briers virtually put the game to bed.
Kallum Watkins claimed two late consolation tries for the Yorkshiremen, either side of Hodgson’s try, which ensured Warrington’s name would go on the trophy once again, as 35-18 winners.
For Leeds, it was a sixth consecutive Challenge Cup final defeat for them, a year after they were beaten by Wigan at Wembley.
The last time the Rhinos took home the famous trophy was in 1999, when they defeated London Broncos, and have now lost six finals since the turn of the Millennium.