Warrington beat Huddersfield to win Challenge Cup

Huddersfield 16 Warrington 25
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Warrington cast aside their dismal Super League form in glorious fashion to end their 35-year wait to get their hands on the Challenge Cup.

In the first cup final for 23 years not to feature any of the game's traditional 'big four' of St Helens, Leeds, Bradford and Wigan, it was the Wolves who held their nerve in front of a 76,560 crowd at Wembley to defeat a disappointing Huddersfield.

Warrington are almost certain to miss out on the top-eight play-offs after winning just one of their last six league matches but that will be of little concern to their 22,000 fans who turned Wembley primrose and blue.

Once again Tony Smith's men were able to find their best form on the big occasion and Michael Monaghan and Lee Briers, the men who destroyed Wigan in the semi-final, again proved the match-winners.

Briers, who has waited 13 years to get his hands on some major silverware, was edged out in the voting for the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match by Monaghan, whose devastating play from dummy-half proved crucial.

Today's victory was also a personal triumph for Adrian Morley, who led his side to their first Wembley win since 1974 exactly 10 years after helping Leeds to their win over London Broncos at the "old" Wembley, and coach Tony Smith for whom victory helped erase the memory of Leeds' defeat by Hull four years ago.

Huddersfield, whose last Wembley triumph was in 1953, were a shadow of the side that defeated holders St Helens in the semi-finals as their key players produced below-par performances.

The Giants were also left to curse video referee Phil Bentham, from Warrington, who disallowed first-half tries to Shaun Lunt and David Hodgson that might have been awarded on another day.

Lunt, arguably Huddersfield's best player, was ruled to have used a double movement on the first occasion and then caused an obstruction on defender Chris Bridge, but on such borderline calls are matches decided.

Had the video official been able to rule on the opening try by Richard Mathers he would have spotted a knock-on by Louis Anderson from his charge-down of full-back Brett Hodgson's attempted clearance kick.

That try gave the Wolves the perfect start but Huddersfield were level when Lunt demonstrated exceptional pace to finish off a break by skipper Hodgson.

The score should have settled the Giants' nerves but too many players appeared overawed by the occasion and they resembled frightened rabbits every time Briers had the ball in his hands.

Warrington profited from a knock-on by Darrell Griffin inside his own 20-metre area to open up an 18-6 lead with the aid of two tries in five minutes.

Monaghan went over from dummy-half after Luke Robinson shot out of the line and Briers and Bridge combined to get winger Chris Hicks over for a third try, with Bridge kicking his third conversion.

Had Matt King not been denied a try for ball-stealing, the Wolves would have been home and dry before half-time but Brett Hodgson, who toiled in vain for his side, hauled the Giants back into contention four minutes before the break, taking Leroy Cudjoe's inside pass to finish off a wonderful, intricate passing move.

But Huddersfield lost stand-off Kevin Brown with a knee injury half an hour into the game and the playmaking duties were left to Liam Fulton and winger-turned-forward Martin Aspinwall.

The Yorkshire side lacked direction in the absence of Brown and their play became increasingly desperate in the second half the longer they went without a try.

The stalemate was eventually broken on 59 minutes when Monaghan's pass out of the tackle opened up the Giants defence for Vinnie Anderson to go in for the clinching try.

Bridge added his fourth goal but lost his 100% record when he was wide with a penalty attempt.

Huddersfield scored a consolation try through David Hodgson but, fittingly, Briers had the final say when he put over his 60th drop goal for his club to put the seal on a terrific performance.

Comments