Warrington won the Challenge Cup for the first time since 1974 in a final that they controlled too convincingly for it to be called a classic. Inspired by a Lance Todd Trophy-winning performance from their hooker, Michael Monaghan, the Wolves took the early initiative and never really lost it.
The Australian scored a try and set one up and there were also influential contributions from the imaginative Lee Briers and the Wolves' fiercely committed captain, Adrian Morley. In other words, Warrington's big-match players and dominant personalities put their hands up at the right time. The same could not quite be said of Huddersfield, whose consistent Super League season had made them slight favourites before kick-off.
The first final since 1986 not to feature one of the so-called big four – Wigan, St Helens, Leeds and Bradford – was all the more intriguing a prospect for it. The game had rarely had a better chance to show that there is compelling rugby played beyond the usual suspects – and it was Warrington who seized upon that invitation. After a minute, Huddersfield's captain and inspiration, Brett Hodgson, had a kick charged down by Louis Anderson. Hodgson got back to make the tackle but a couple of plays later the Wolves scored, Richie Mathers squeezing over the line to the satisfaction of the video referee, Phil Bentham.
The key man in Huddersfield's response was Shaun Lunt, who, surprisingly, had been preferred to Scott Moore as the starting hooker. He was denied a try for a double movement but he soon got one that did count. David Faiumu sparked it with a superb one-handed pass out of the tackle to Brett Hodgson and Lunt backed up equally well.
Warrington regained the lead when the lively Monaghan, who has been a revelation since he moved to hooker from half-back, sold a huge dummy to go over after Darrell Griffin had conceded possession with a knock-on. The lead was then extended with a typical flash of unorthodox thinking from Briers. He kicked on the second tackle of a set for Chris Riley on the left wing. It did not yield a try immediately but it produced a penalty as Riley was held down while the Giants' defence tried to reorganise. Warrington moved the ball the other way and Briers and Chris Bridge manufactured an overlap for Chris Hicks. Bridge kicked his third goal.
Both sides then had tries disallowed, Warrington's Matt King for a two-man ball-steal on Leroy Cudjoe and Huddersfield's David Hodgson for an obstruction by Lunt after a lovely one-handed pass from Kevin Brown. Lunt was then held up over the line, before an eventful first half ended with the Giants cutting the margin to eight points. Jamal Lolesi and Liam Fulton kept the ball alive to release Cudjoe and Brett Hodgson was up in support to score from the inside pass.
The start of the second half could not quite sustain such a breathless pace, but it was notable for Garreth Carvell having another Warrington try disallowed, for a clear double movement, and for a fair but ferocious tackle by Morley, who was leading by example, on Huddersfield's danger man, Eorl Crabtree.
The decisive moment came just before the hour, when Monaghan bustled across field to find the gap through which he sent Vinnie Anderson, who had been pressed into service as an emergency stand-off. It was the killer try.
There was no way back for the side from the town where the game was born, although they did manage a late try from David Hodgson which was set up by fine handling. That score hinted at what might have been if Huddersfield had made fewer mistakes and defended as well as they have done for most of the season.
The last word went to the Wolves, Briers dropping a goal. It had been a long wait for Warrington, but as Morley and Briers climbed the steps to collect the famous trophy, it had been worth it.
Huddersfield: B Hodgson; Cudjoe, Whatuira, Lolesi, D Hodgson; Brown, Robinson; Griffin, Lunt, Mason, Wild, Fulton, Faiumu. Substitutes used: Crabtree, Jackson, Aspinwall, Moore.
Warrington: Mathers; Hicks, Bridge, King, Riley; V Anderson, Briers; Morley, Monaghan, Carvell, Westwood, L Anderson, Harrison. Substitutes used: Cooper, Higham, Johnson, McCarthy.
Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).Reuse content