|Current season or competition:|
2021 Challenge Cup
|Winners||St. Helens (13th title) (2021)|
|Most titles||Wigan (19 titles)|
|Broadcast partner|| Sky Sports |
|Related competition|| Super League |
National Conference League
The Challenge Cup is a knockout rugby league cup competition organised by the Rugby Football League,held annually since 1896, with the exception of 1915–1919 and 1939–1940, due to World War I and World War II respectively. It involves amateur, semi-professional and professional clubs.
The final of the Challenge Cup at Wembley Stadium, London, is one of the most prestigious matches in world rugby leagueand is broadcast around the world. "Abide with Me", sung before the game, has become a rugby league anthem.
The current holders of the Challenge Cup are St. Helens, beating Castleford, 26–12 in the 2021 Final on 17 July 2021 at Wembley Stadium, winning the competition for the thirteenth time.
Wigan are the most successful club in the history of the competition, winning the Cup a record 19 times.
The clubs that formed the Northern Union had long been playing in local knock-out cup competitions under the auspices of the Rugby Football Union. The rugby union authorities refused to sanction a nationwide tournament, however, fearing that this would inevitably lead to professionalism. After the schism of 1895, the northern clubs were free to go ahead, and they started the Northern Rugby Football Union Challenge Cup. In 1896 Fattorini's of Bradford were commissioned to manufacture the Challenge Cup at a cost of just £60. Fattorini's also supplied three-guineas winners' medals then valued at thirty shillings (£1.50).
The first competition was held during the 1896–97 season (the second season of the new game), and 52 clubs entered to compete for the trophy. The first final was held at Headingley in Leeds, on 24 April 1897. Batley defeated St. Helens 10–3in front of a crowd of 13,492 (see picture). The St Helens side did not play in a standardised team jersey.
The competition was later interrupted by the Great War, although it was held in 1915, when the season that had begun before the war was completed. It was then suspended until the end of hostilities. Initially, the final tie was held at one of the larger club grounds in the north, however, noting the excitement in Huddersfield that the town’s football team were playing at Wembley in the FA Cup Final and the increasing difficulty for any of the rugby league grounds to satisfy spectator demand to see the final tie, the rugby league authorities voted 13–10 to move to the recently built Wembley Stadium in London, aiming to emulate the FA Cup's success and to put the game on the national stage.
The first final held at Wembley was in 1929 when Wigan beat Dewsbury 13–2 in front of a crowd of 41,500. At the start of the Second World War, rugby league suspended its season immediately, but the Challenge Cup took a single year’s break before restarting, on a limited basis and with the support of the authorities, as part of keeping up morale. The Challenge Cup finals, which took place in the game’s Northern heartland, got big crowds as the game raised money for prisoners of war and for Lord Beaverbrook’s armaments programme.
In 1946, the Lance Todd Trophy was introduced and awarded to the man of the match. The first winner was Billy Stott of Wakefield Trinity while the first winner of the trophy on the losing team was Frank Whitcombe of Bradford Northern in 1948. In itself, it is a prestigious trophy presented only at the Challenge Cup Final. The winner is selected by the members of the Rugby League Writers' Association present at the game and the trophy was presented at a celebratory dinner at the Willows, the home of Salford.
The post World War Two Final crowds almost immediately reached capacity at Wembley - which amounted to multiple 90,000 plus crowds.
1954 saw the Challenge Cup final drawn and the replay set the record for a rugby league match attendance. The match was on 5 May and 102,569 was the official attendance at Odsal Stadium, although it is believed that up to 120,000 spectators were present to see Warrington defeat Halifax 8–4.
The first final that was played under limited tackle rules (Originally 4, later changed to 6) Was the 1967 final between Barrow and Featherstone Rovers.
Wigan became well known for their successes in the Challenge Cup competition, winning every Challenge Cup Final from 1988 to 1995.
Until the 1993–94 season there were very few amateur clubs included in the cup, typically two. For part of the 1980s, and the 1992–93 season the cup was solely for professional clubs. The competition was then opened up to large numbers of amateur clubs as part of a deal between the Rugby Football League and British Amateur Rugby League Association over bridging the gap between the professional and amateur leagues.
In 1997, a Challenge Cup Plate[ clarification needed ] took place for teams knocked out in the early rounds of the competition. The final took place at Wembley and was won by Hull Kingston Rovers who beat Hunslet 60–14.
The first final that featured use of the Video Referee, for try decisions, was the 1999 final between Leeds Rhinos and London Broncos, which saw the Broncos beaten by a record margin of 52–16 in a Challenge Cup Final.
The 1999 Challenge Cup Final was also the last to be played at the old Wembley Stadium before the construction of the new Wembley Stadium began in 2003. During this time a variety of venues were used to hold the Final including Twickenham, Murrayfield and the Millennium Stadium. The Challenge Cup Final moved back into the new Wembley Stadium for the 2007 Final.
There was a belief that the Challenge Cup final taking place early in the season had led to a decline in the prestige of the cup,so the timing of the competition was altered in 2005
On 26 August 2006 St. Helens scrum-half Sean Long became the first player in the history of the Challenge Cup to collect a third Lance Todd trophy following his man-of-the-match performance in the final against Huddersfield. His other Lance Todd trophy wins came in the 2001 and 2004 Challenge Cup Finals.
On 25 August 2018, Catalans Dragons became the first non-English team to win the Challenge Cup as they defeated Warrington Wolves 20-14 at Wembley.
The modern Challenge Cup has eight rounds prior to the final. Teams are seeded, entering at different stages. The precise format has altered slightly from year to year, however the current format is as follows:
During the first round right through to the quarter finals the cup is hosted at the stadium of the team who has been drawn at home. The semi finals are hosted at neutral venues so there is no advantage for the home team. In the event of a draw in the final a replay will be played at a neutral venue somewhere else. The final is played at Wembley traditionally and was first played there in 1928–29 season. Before, the final had been held in different neutral venues, including Leeds, Huddersfield, Manchester, Wigan, Salford and Rochdale. The first Challenge Cup final was held at Headingley, Leeds between Batley and St. Helens in front of a crowd of 13,492.
The Challenge Cup trophy was designed by silversmiths Fattorini & Sons of Bradford in 1897.The trophy stands 36 inches high, manufactured of solid silver and sits on a black ebony base approximately 8 inches deep.
Tony Collins, the Rugby Football League's archivist, stated in 2007 that, "Fattorini's weren't given any particular commission, just told to come up with something prestigious".The trophy cost £60. The average wage in 1897 was around £2 per week which suggests an equivalent 2007 price of £16,000, although Collins says, "if you wanted something made of silver and with that level of craftsmanship these days, it would be far more expensive. In terms of its subsequent value, the RFL got a bargain."
The trophy currently presented to the winners after the final is not the original which had to be withdrawn due to its delicate condition.As well as the silver wearing thin, it had lost its fluted top and the players on each of the handles had been damaged. The original Fattorini trophy was last presented at the 2001 Challenge Cup Final to St Helens captain Chris Joynt after his team had beaten Bradford. The original trophy is now stored at the RFL's headquarters at Red Hall and only used for promotional appearances.
The trophy used today was created by Jack Spencer (goldsmith) of Sheffield in 800 man-hours and is an almost exact replica of the Fattorini piece.One improvement made with the new version is that the small shields displaying each winning team and captain are now the same size, whereas they had been getting smaller as space ran out on the original. The new trophy's neck has been strengthened. The second trophy was first presented to Wigan, winners of the 2002 Challenge Cup Final.
The winners of the cup in looking after the trophy must "follow a certain code of practice," says Collins.When not in a secure cabinet, the trophy must always be in the presence of someone. When the trophy is taken out overnight, somebody must sleep in the same room and if taken in a car there must be two people in attendance. Collins reveals that, "When it went down to France for some Catalans publicity photos, it even had its own seat on the plane."
The Lance Todd Trophy, named in memory of Lance Todd, is awarded to the man-of-the-match in the Challenge Cup Final.The winner is decided each year by those members of the Rugby League Writers' Association present at the match.
The Trophy was first presented in 1946 to William "Billy" Stott of Wakefield Trinity.
The Challenge Cup has been sponsored since 1980, with the sponsor being able to determine the cup's sponsorship name. There have been eight sponsors with Betfred being the current sponsors.
The official rugby ball supplier is Steeden.
|1979–1985||State Express||State Express Challenge Cup|
|1985–2001||Silk Cut||Silk Cut Challenge Cup|
|2002–2003||Kellogg's Nutrigrain||Kellogg's Nutrigrain Challenge Cup|
|2004–2007||Powergen||Powergen Challenge Cup|
|2008–2012||Leeds Met Carnegie||Carnegie Challenge Cup|
|2013–2014||Tetley's||Tetley's Challenge Cup|
|2015–2018||Ladbrokes||Ladbrokes Challenge Cup|
|2019–2020||Coral||Coral Challenge Cup|
|2021||Betfred||Betfred Challenge Cup|
The most tries scored in a final was 5 scored by Tom Briscoe (Leeds Rhinos v Hull KR in 2015), who also holds the record for most tries in total from one player (7 for Leeds, 2014 - 1, 2015 - 5, 2020 - 1) one ahead of Kevin Iro (6 for Wigan, 1988 – 2, 1989 – 2, 1990 – 2).
The first hat trick of tries in a final was scored by Robbie Paul for Bradford Bulls v St Helens in 1996. Three years later, Leroy Rivett scored 4 for Leeds Rhinos against London Broncos in 1999. Some players previously missed out on becoming the first to score a hat trick due to tries being disallowed, such as Martin Offiah (Wigan v Castleford in 1992), Tony Iro (Wigan v Halifax in 1988) & Kevin Iro (Wigan v Warrington in 1990).
Graham Rees scored the quickest Challenge Cup Final try after just 35 seconds for St Helens against Leeds in 1972.
The most famous final was the 1968 'Watersplash' game between Leeds and Wakefield Trinity. Due to a heavy thunderstorm both before and during the match, the pitch became totally waterlogged. In the final minute, with Leeds 11 - 7 in front, Wakefield winger Ken Hurst scored under the posts, and Don Fox (Who had already won the Lance Todd Trophy that day) had a match winning conversion to take in injury time. But due to the saturated pitch, he miskicked the ball, sending it wide of the posts. Despite a successful career for both club and country, Fox has always been remembered for that one infamous moment.
The first player to be sent off in a final was Syd Hynes, for Leeds against Leigh in 1971, for headbutting Alex Murphy. Hynes has always protested his innocence over the incident. Richard Eyers of Widnes was shown a red card for an off the ball elbow on Martin Offiah of Wigan in the 1993 final, and was banned for 6 games as a result.Steve Hampson was the first player to be sin binned for 10 minutes, during the 1991 final for Wigan against St Helens.
In total, 26 different clubs have won the Challenge Cup and 30 different teams have appeared in the final. Wigan Warriors hold the record for most wins with 19 and have appeared in 30 finals. In 2007, Catalans Dragons became the first non English team to reach the final but lost to St. Helens.
|1904–05||Warrington||6–0||Hull Kingston Rovers|
|1908–09||Wakefield Trinity||17–0||Hull F.C.|
|1913–14||Hull F.C.||6–0||Wakefield Trinity|
|1921–22||Rochdale Hornets||10–9||Hull F.C.|
|1924–25||Oldham||16–3||Hull Kingston Rovers|
|1951–52||Workington Town||18–10||Featherstone Rovers|
|1959–60||Wakefield Trinity||38–5||Hull F.C.|
|1963–64||Widnes||13–5||Hull Kingston Rovers|
|1972–73||Featherstone Rovers||33–14||Bradford Northern|
|1973–74||Warrington||24 –9||Featherstone Rovers|
|1979–80||Hull Kingston Rovers||10–5||Hull F.C.|
|1980–81||Widnes||18–9||Hull Kingston Rovers|
|1982–83||Featherstone Rovers||14–12||Hull F.C.|
|1985–86||Castleford||15–14||Hull Kingston Rovers|
|1999||Leeds||52– 16||London Broncos|
|2007||St. Helens||30–8||Catalans Dragons|
|2008||St. Helens||28–16||Hull F.C.|
|2015||Leeds||50–0||Hull Kingston Rovers|
Clubs ordered by number of wins, then by number of runners-up appearances, then by how recently they last won a final, then finally by how recently they last made a runners-up appearance. Only the aggregate winner/loser for the years during the Second World War has been counted.
|Club||Wins||Last win||Runners-up||Last final lost||Total finals|
|21||Hull Kingston Rovers||1||1980||6||2015||7|
|24||Bradford F.C. §||1||1906||1||1898||2|
In Rugby League, the term 'the Double' is referring to the achievement of a club that wins the Super League (Rugby Football League Championship First Division before 1996) and Challenge Cup in the same season. To date, this has been achieved by ten different clubs.
|1||Wigan||7||1989–90, 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1993–94, 1994–95, 2013|
|2||St. Helens||3||1965–66, 1996, 2006|
The Treble refers to the team who wins all three domestic honours on offer during the season; Grand Final, League Leaders' Shield and Challenge Cup. To date seven teams have won the treble, only Bradford, St. Helens and Leeds have won the treble in the Super League era.
|1||Wigan||3||1991–92, 1993–94, 1994–95|
|3||St. Helens||2||1965–66, 2006|
The Quadruple refers to winning the Super League, League Leaders' Shield, Challenge Cup and World Club Challenge in one season.
Winning all Four Cups referred to winning the RFL First Division Championship, Challenge Cup, County League and County Cup in one season.
The BBC first covered the final of this competition when Wigan beat Bradford Northern in 1948. At that time though the only TV transmitter was in London, so fans up North never got to see it. It was another four years before another final was covered when Workington Town beat Featherstone Rovers in 1952. The cup final was not broadcast on TV again until the 1958 final between Wigan and Workington Town since when it has been shown every year. The inception of Grandstand also saw coverage of earlier rounds start to be shown during the 1960s with ITV's World of Sport even showing games as well for a short period.
The BBC has been the predominant broadcaster, showing every final live since 1958 (except the 1982 Final Replay shown as highlights). Eddie Waring was the first commentator for BBC coverage. When he retired, commentary was covered by Ray French and he continues to work for the BBC albeit in semi-retirement, with his last Challenge Cup Final in 2008. From 2009, the present day main commentator is Dave Woods. He usually commentates with Brian Noble, Jonathan Davies, Iestyn Harris or Ian Millward. Nowadays, the BBC continues to broadcast the tournament with Clare Balding hosting from 2006 to 2012 until her move to Channel 4 Racing. Mark Chapman was secondary host in 2012 when Balding was unavailable for the cup and international matches, and previous hosts for the BBC are John Inverdale and Steve Rider. The current main hosts (2018) are Mark Chapman and Super League Show presenter Tanya Arnold.
Sky Sports currently have the rights for the early rounds with one match each round and two quarter finals; whilst BBC Sport show two sixth round matches, two quarter finals, both semi-finals and the final.
|2012–2016|| BBC Sport (2 R6 matches, 2 Quarter finals, 2 Semi finals and Final only)|
Sky Sports (1 R5 match, 1 R6 match, and 2 Quarter finals only)
|New Zealand||Sky Sport|
|United States||Fox Soccer Plus|
|Canada||Game TV and CBC Sports|
The Warrington Wolves are a professional rugby league club in Warrington, England, that competes in the Super League. They play rugby at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, having moved there from Wilderspool in 2004.
The Bradford Bulls are a professional rugby league club in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, currently playing in the Championship. They have won the Challenge Cup five times, the league championship six times and the World Club Challenge three times. Having vacated Odsal Stadium, Bradford intend to play their home games next year at Tetley's Stadium. The team jersey is predominantly white with red, amber and black chevrons.
The Leeds Rhinos are a professional rugby league club in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. The club was formed in 1870 as Leeds St John's and play in the Super League, the top tier of English rugby league. They have played home matches at Headingley Stadium since 1890.
Kevin Sinfield, also known by the nickname of "Sir Kev", is the Director of Rugby for the Leeds Rhinos in the Super League, and an English former professional rugby league footballer, who captained the Leeds Rhinos in the Super League. His usual position was loose forward, although he sometimes played both stand-off and hooker. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest kickers in rugby league history.
The History of the Bradford Bulls stretches back from their former incarnation as Bradford F.C. in 1863 to 2017.
Joseph Paul Lydon is an English former professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1980s and 1990s, and coached rugby union in the 2000s and 2010s, and rugby league and rugby union administrator of the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. He played representative level rugby league (RL) for Great Britain and Lancashire, and at club level for Widnes, Wigan and Eastern Suburbs, as a fullback, wing, centre, or stand-off, has coached representative level rugby union (RU) for England, England Sevens (2001-), was the Team Manager for Wigan (1994–96), Performance Consultant for Waterloo FC (2007-), Chief Executive for Wigan Warriors (2007-), Head of Rugby Performance & Development for Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) (2008-), and Head of International Player Development for Rugby Football Union (RFU) (2013-).
The 1988–89 Rugby Football League season was the 94th season of professional rugby league football in Britain. Fourteen teams competed from August, 1988 until May, 1989 for the Stones Bitter Championship, Premiership Trophy and Silk Cut Challenge Cup.
The 1956–57 Rugby Football League season was the 62nd season of rugby league football.
The 1958–59 Northern Rugby Football League season was the 64th season of rugby league football. Thirty clubs from across Northern England competed for the Championship, culminating in a final between St. Helens and Hunslet.
The 1960–61 Northern Rugby Football League season was the 66th season of rugby league football.
The 1965–66 Rugby Football League season was the 71st season of rugby league football. A three-way county championship was also held, with comparative minnows Cumberland against Yorkshire and Lancashire.
The 1970–71 Rugby Football League season was the 76th season of rugby league football.
The 1971–72 Northern Rugby Football League season was the 77th season of rugby league football. This season saw the entry of rugby league's first sponsors: Joshua Tetley and John Player.
The 1974–75 Rugby Football League season was the 80th season of competition between the clubs of England's Northern Rugby Football League. The season's First Division Championship featured 16 clubs and was won by St. Helens. The Challenge Cup was won by Widnes.
The 1976–77 Northern Rugby Football League season was the 82nd season of rugby league football. Sixteen English clubs competed for the Championship, with Featherstone Rovers claiming the title.
The 1977–78 Northern Rugby Football League season was the 83rd season of rugby league football. Sixteen English clubs competed for the Northern Rugby Football League Championship with Widnes claiming the title by finishing the season on top of the League.
The 1978–79 Northern Rugby Football League season was the 84th season of rugby league football. Sixteen English clubs competed for the Northern Rugby Football League's first division championship, with Hull Kingston Rovers claiming the title by finishing on top of the League.
The 1987–88 Rugby Football League season was the 93rd season of rugby league football in Britain.
The 2015 Challenge Cup, was the 114th staging of the rugby league tournament for teams in the Super League, the British National Leagues and a number of invited amateur clubs.
The 2019 Challenge Cup known as the Coral Challenge Cup for sponsorship reasons, is the 118th staging of the Challenge Cup, the main rugby league knockout tournament for teams in the Super League, the British National Leagues and a number of invited amateur clubs.
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