Challenge Cup 1st round
THE CHALLENGE CUP IS RUGBY LEAGUE’S MOST HISTORIC AND PRESTIGIOUS COMPETITION AND IS THE ONLY KNOCK-OUT TOURNAMENT OF ITS KIND TO INCLUDE TEAMS FROM ALL LEVELS OF THE SPORT.
It is an eight month long competition that starts out featuring many grassroots clubs and climaxes with a spectacular final at Wembley Stadium, London which not only attracts fans from both competing finalists but the whole Rugby League community.
Since the first final in 1897, which saw Batley beat St Helens 10-3 in front of nearly 13,500 people in Leeds, the competition has grown from strength to strength.
In 1929 the final was played at Wembley Stadium for the first time in an effort to grow the appeal of the sport outside of the traditional northern heartland. A healthy crowd of 41,500 turned up to see that first London final and witness Wigan claim their second cup victory after a 13-2 victory over Dewsbury.
Since 1929, Wembley has hosted the majority of cup finals and Rugby League’s annual pilgrimage to the national stadium is now seen as one of the biggest dates on the British sporting calendar.
The Challenge Cup is also responsible for producing Rugby League’s biggest ever crowd in the UK. In 1954, a cup final replay between Warrington and Halifax attracted a jaw dropping 102,569 people, all crammed into Bradford’s Odsal stadium to see The Wire victorious 8-4.
Wigan are the cup’s most successful side lifting the famous silver trophy on the most occasions. This is partly due to their record eight consecutive cup final victories between 1988 and 1995, a feat that remains one of UK sport’s greatest ever cup runs.
Despite this success, Wigan were also victims of one of the competition’s greatest ever giant killings when, in 1998, they were beaten by an unfancied Sheffield Eagles side.
In 2007 the final returned to Wembley having gone on the road to Murrayfield, the Millennium Stadium and Twickenham for seven years whilst the stadium was being redeveloped. Although St Helens were resounding winners under the new Wembley arch, it was memorable for the fact that their opponents, the Catalans Dragons, were the first ever French team to reach the final in the competition’s history.