Leeds celebrate ‘fitting’ win for Burrow

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Leeds head coach Richard Agar said it was “fitting” for Luke Gale, in the number seven shirt previously worn by Rob Burrow, to be their Challenge Cup final match-winner against Salford.

Gale’s drop-goal sealed a 17-16 win.

“Rob’s with us in spirit, that’s for sure. He’s been an inspiration for us,” Agar told BBC Sport.

“It’s really fitting that we’ve done it this year for Rob and it’s Luke with the number seven on his shirt that has come up with the big play.”

Burrow was in the Leeds team that won back-to-back Challenge Cup finals in 2014 and 2015, as well as winning eight Super League Grand Finals with the club.

He has attempted to raise awareness of MND since his diagnosis was announced last December, while friends, family and former colleagues have rallied to raise funds for charity.

Among them was Kevin Sinfield, who ran a solo marathon in March in support of his former team-mate.

Ex-Leeds and England captain Sinfield, now the Rhinos’ director of rugby, said: “You’ve seen over the past 10 months or so what Rob means to our club and our sport.

“The support he’s had from everywhere has been unbelievable.

“If he’s watching at home, and I’m sure he is, this is for you pal.”

Leeds were 12-6 in front at half-time but Salford fought back with tries from Pauli Pauli and James Greenwood to lead for the first time in the match.

However, Ash Handley’s second try of the final brought the two sides level and Gale kept his nerve with four minutes remaining to land the match-winning one-pointer.

“It was a tough game to play in,” said 32-year-old Gale, who returned to Leeds at the start of the 2020 season after coming through the club’s academy.

“I thought we were in control but then in the second half a bit of anxiety crept in.

“I thought we’d thrown it away at one point, and credit to Salford as they came back strongly in the second half, but we played terribly in the second half.

“There have been a few one-pointers this year and thankfully it went our way this time.”

‘As low as I’ve felt in rugby’

Kevin Brown has lost in Challenge Cup finals playing for Wigan, Huddersfield, Warrington and now Salford

Salford played their part in a closely-fought final, but fell just short of their first win in the competition since 1938.

It meant more Challenge Cup disappointment for experienced Red Devils half-back Kevin Brown, who has appeared in four finals for four different teams and lost on each occasion.

The former England international, 36, said: “I’m proud of how much energy and effort we’ve put into it, but it’s probably as low as I’ve felt in rugby, coming up just short after having so many chances to win the game. I’m playing them over in my head. It’s heartbreaking.

“It’s the bounce of a ball, a referee’s call, that’s how close it was.

“We had five clear opportunities and blew them all. If we take one of those, we’re going home as winners.”

Salford also lost in the Super League Grand Final last season, but Brown is convinced that the club is on the right track in their bid for major silverware.

“There’s not much that Salford need to change,” he added. “It’s just so disappointing to come so close but go home as a loser again.”

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