Leeds Rhinos and Salford Red Devils clashed at an empty Wembley Stadium for the chance to lift the 2020 Coral Challenge Cup in a Final like no other.
The Red Devils started the slightly brighter of the two sides, as Krisnan Inu found open space on the left edge.
He kicked back inside for the returning Niall Evalds to gather. However, the full-back just juggled the ball into the hands of his opposite number Richie Myler.
However in the 12th minute, it was Leeds who took the lead.
The ball was shifted to Konrad Hurrell who then flicked it out of the back to Tom Briscoe who continued his Wembley streak by touching down in the corner after keeping his toes in the field of play.
Rhyse Martin’s conversion bounced in off the upright to make it 6-0.
Six minutes later, as the Rhinos were pushing for a second try, Kallum Watkins cleaned up the fifth tackle kick before combining with Evalds to release Rhys Williams who raced 85-metres to dot down.
Inu converted to make it 6-6.
Following two quick penalties conceded by Salford, Leeds charged up the middle of the field.
James Donaldson looked to have grounded the ball on the line back he second-rower’s ball carrying arm had already contacted the ground, and the score remained level.
On the half hour mark though, the Rhinos second try did come.
Instead of kicking on the fifth tackle, Luke Gale swung the ball to Myler who tapped the ball onto Liam Sutcliffe.
With the overlap outside him, Sutcliffe passed out to Handley to score.
Neither team managed to muster another attacking chance as the half drew to a close, but Myler did make a half break which was quickly shut down by Salford.
HALF-TIME: Leeds Rhinos 12-6 Salford Red Devils
In the opening tackle of the second half, Tyrone McCarthy and Alex Cuthbertson collided and both players then left the field for treatment after touch contact.
Salford once again started the brighter, and after a small break the ball was shifted to Pauli Pauli who ran over the top of Luke Gale to score.
Inu couldn’t quite level the scores from the tee though, and the game was set up to finish in style.
In Salford’s vert next set, a high kick from Tui Lolohea was not claimed by Myler under pressure from Kevin Brown
The ball bounced into hands of Joey Lussick who shifted the ball to James Greenwood who glided over the line to score.
Inu convert to push the Red Devils four-points ahead.
With 15 minutes to go, the score was level once again.
The ball was moved to the left edge once again, and Myler managed to offload off the ground to Handley for the wingers second.
The try was given despite a hint of a forward pass from the full-back.
Martin failed to convert, and with 14 minutes remaining, the scores sat at 16-16.
With the game in the balance, both sides were fighting for every yard.
With ten minutes on the clock, the first drop-goal attempt came as Luke Gale swung his leg at the ball, but the pressure from Mark Flanagan forced the half-way to push the ball wide.
In the resulting set, Kallum Watkins showed his class as he broke through the Rhinos line to create a try-scoring opportunity.
However, his pass to Williams went behind the Welshmen and Leeds were lucky to escape without conceding.
With just over four minutes to go, Leeds set was sloppy at best, but Gale struck his drop-goal sweet enough to push them one-point ahead.
The game was far from over though, as the Red Devils picked up a penalty with just over two minutes to go, and kicked themselves into the Rhinos half.
The Rhinos did their best to keep their discipline and did more than that when they forced a knock on from Inu.
The Red Devils then conceded a penalty which allowed Leeds to run down the clock and pick up their 14th Challenge Cup victory.
FULL-TIME: Leeds Rhinos 17-16 Salford Red Devils
Lance Todd Trophy Man of the Match: RICHIE MYLER
The Leeds Rhinos full-back was superb in the attack, picking up two assists as Ash Handley picked up his brace, as well as being solid in defence, with his only error gifting the Red Devils their third try.
Myler, Briscoe, Hurrell, L. Sutcliffe, Handley, Lui, Gale, Saumanufagai, Leeming, Oledzki, Mellor, Martin, Prior
Interchanges: Dwyer, A. Sutcliffe, Donaldson, Cuthbertson
Tries: Briscoe, Handley (2)
Goals: Martin (2/2)
Salford Red Devils
Evalds, Williams, Watkins, Welham, Inu, Lolohea, Brown, Mossop, Lussick, Dudson, McCarthy, Greenwood, Flanagan
Interchanges: Ikahihifo, Pauli, Yates, Burke
Tries: Williams, Pauli, Greenwood
Goals: Inu (2/3)
Referee: L. Moore
Touch Judges: T. Grant, J. Smith
Video Referee: B. Thaler
Image Source: @TheChallengeCup (twitter)