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2011 Wigan 28 18 Leeds
Less than a fortnight before the big day, there could hardly be less to choose between the two teams. 23 games into the Super League campaign, both have identical records, having chalked up 15 wins, two draws and lost the other six. The Rhinos hold third place by virtue of only a 16 point margin in the points difference column, an average of less than one point better per match.
The 2014 Tetley Challenge Cup Final will be the first time that Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos have squared up in a decider and the prospect of such a contest is enough to get any sports fan juices flowing.
It is an ageing side but a one that bears comparison with most, if not any, of those in the sport history. However, in six attempts since that 1999 win, Leeds have been pipped at the post. Half of those were when the decider was played away from Wembley, but the other three have been in the capital, when the Rhinos have been well beaten each time.
Leeds' 1999 Cup winners
The pair of them grew up in Castleford before making their names at Sheffield Eagles and then linking up again under the late Graham Murray at Headingley. Powell himself went on to take the coaching reins at the club, leading them in both 2001 and 2002 before a sideways move to become Director of Rugby when Tony Smith was brought in to replace him.
The way that Powell has harnessed talent such as Daryl Clark and Marc Sneyd, made astute signings like Andy Lynch, Luke Dorn, Jake Webster and Justin Carney, and has improved others such as Kirk Dixon and Jamie Ellis has been little short of a revelation.
2005 Hull FC 25 24 Leeds
2004 St Helens 32 16 Wigan
If the Tigers surprised many with their great start to this campaign, then those same people have had all season to get used to the fact that Castleford have been unquestionably the most improved team in Super League this time.
Wigan 16 0 Hull FC
2006 St Helens 42 12 Giants
In their two meetings in that competition, Leeds won on their travels to the Mend A Hose Jungle in May, coming from behind to win 22 14, before a late Grant Millington try earned the Tigers a 24 all draw in the return fixture at Headingley last month.
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Perhaps the most intriguing of the match ups, however, will be off the field. Tigers coach Daryl Powell and his assistant Ryan Sheridan both played key roles as half backs when the Rhinos last lifted the Challenge Cup, which came in the last final played at the old Wembley in April 1999.
2008 St Helens 28 16 Hull FC
2012 Warrington 35 18 Leeds
Their inventive and combative style of play has been too much for most opponents to handle and collectively they are a team riding on the crest of a wave, so you would be hard pressed to argue that their name isn already on the trophy. They are likely to be without both prop Craig Huby after his dislocated elbow and Aussie forward Grant Millington, but they remain more than capable of winning it.
During that same 15 year period the Tigers have suffered both relegation from and a return to Super League, the humiliation of a defeat to arch local rivals Featherstone then coached by Powell in the 2012 Challenge Cup, followed by a wonderful renaissance since the same man took the helm in May of last year.
1 Harris, 2 Rivett, 3 Blackmore, 4 Godden, 5 Cummins, 6 Powell, 7 Sheridan, 8 McDermott, 9 Newton, 10 Fleary, 11 Morley, 12 Farrell,13 Glanville, 14 St Hilaire, 15 Jackson, 16 Hay, 17 MathiouCoach: Murray
His is a team whose nucleus has remained unchanged for around a decade. Sinfield, Rob Burrow, Danny McGuire, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones Buchanan, Ryan Bailey, Carl Ablett, these are all names that trip off the tongue of league fans when they think of the Rhinos, because they have formed the hardest of cores around which success has been tasted in sizeable chunks.
That match was notorious for the first sending off in the career of England and Leeds skipper Kevin Sinfield, for his head butt on Cas fullback Luke Dorn. Sinfield was back from a two match ban to oversee his team 24 16 success against Warrington in their semi final, while Dorn was again outstanding in the Tigers 28 6 defeat of Widnes that saw them through to Wembley for the first time since their 1992 defeat to Wigan.
Warrington 30 6 Leeds
2007 St Helens 30 8 Catalan
Kevin Sinfield: The Rhinos skipper is yet to win a Challenge Cup
2009 Warrington 25 16 Giants
Challenge Cup finals
Castleford Tigers to meet Leeds Rhinos in 2014 final at Wembley
On the other side of the fence, Brian Adidas Samba Primeknit Ebay McDermott has become the most successful coach in the history of the Leeds club in terms of statistics, winning two Grand Finals, a World Club Challenge and taking the team to Wembley in both 2011 and 2012, together with another losing appearance in a World Club Challenge.
whose first win as a Head Coach when with the old Harlequins club was against Castleford, doesn really much left to prove. He has coached a team to win two titles from fifth place in the table, but whether he is inclined to play it down or not, he would dearly love to add a Challenge Cup win to his burgeoning CV.
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