Rugby league fans have an afternoon of thrilling sporting action to look forward to tomorrow, as Hull FC take on Warrington Wolves at London’s Wembley Stadium in the 2016 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final. So what is this tournament all about and how did the two teams battling for the trophy this year make their way into the final?
The Rugby League Challenge Cup – A Quick Guide to the Competition
This famous annual rugby league competition takes eight months to complete. It’s open to European Super League teams, as well as teams in the British leagues and some amateur clubs.
It’s organised in a knock-out format, with different clubs entering at different stages, depending on their pre-tournament seedings. The tournament has six rounds, which are followed by the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and the final.
The inaugural competition was held in 1896 -97 and was won by Batley, after they defeated St Helens in the final. With nineteen wins to their name, Wigan have achieved the most success in the competition, and the club claimed eight back-to-back victories from 1988 to 1995.
The winners of the tournament are presented with the Challenge Cup, a silver trophy which was first used in 2002. The original version of prestigious rugby trophy is too fragile for use now and is kept within Red Hall in Leeds, the Rugby Football League’s headquarters. Since 2007, the winning team has also qualified for the World Club Series.
The man-of-the-match in the final, as decided by attending Rugby League Writers’ Association members, is presented with the Lance Todd Trophy.
Hull FC – Aiming For Their First Challenge Cup Win in Eleven Years
The Black and Whites entered this year’s tournament in the sixth round and defeated their first opponents, St Helens, by 47 – 18 at Langtree Park, the first time they’d beaten the Merseyside-based club there in the tournament since 1926.
They went on to face Catalans Dragons in a quarter-final tie at the KCOM Stadium, Kingston upon Hull, and successfully dispatched their French rivals by 22 – 8, thanks to tries from Steve Michaels, Frank Pritchard and Danny Houghton, and five goals from Marc Sneyd.
In their semi-final match, Lee Radford’s side took on Wigan Warriors at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium and, in revenge for the 2013 final, in which Wigan achieved a 16-0 victory over them, Hull beat their rivals by 16 – 12 to earn a trip to Wembley.
This is the first time that Hull FC have reached the final of the tournament since they lost to Wigan three years ago. They haven’t claimed the trophy since 2005, when they beat Leeds Rhinos by 25-24.
Warrington Wolves – On the Hunt for More Silverware
The Wolves entered the tournament in the sixth round too, securing a decisive 70 – 10 win against Oldham Roughyeds. They drew local rivals Widnes Vikings in the quarter finals and, although the match was fiercely fought by both sides, a last minute penalty kick from Kurt Gidley was enough to give Tony Smith’s lads the edge. The final score line was 20 – 18 in Warrington’s favour.
Their semi-final tie took place at Leigh Sports Village and “the Wire” overcame Wakefield Warriors with relative ease. The team was simply too strong for Wakefield, who had made it into the final four for the first time in eight years, and Warrington will be flying into the final with confidence after their 56 – 12 win.
The Warriors will be hoping to secure the silverware for the eighth time in the club’s history in what’s the first ever final that they’ve played against Hull FC for the cup. So can they clinch the trophy or will Hull seize the victory? In just over 24 hours, we’ll find out.
Are you a Hull FC or Warrington Wolves supporter? Will you be heading to Wembley to watch your team in action this weekend? Leave a comment below.