It is one of the most prestigious games in the world of rugby league with a rich tradition stretching all the way back to the 1890s. The Ladbrokes Challenge Cup (or more simply the Challenge Cup) is the holy grail of rugby, with professional, semi professional and amateur clubs competing for the chance to bring the trophy home.
The competition is played on a straight knock out basis with eight rounds followed by a final. The first two rounds are dedicated solely to amateur teams with championship teams joining the draw in round three and Super League teams entering the competition in rounds five and six.
The first final was played in 1896 with the game played in front of a crowd of 13,493 at Headingley, Leeds. Batley were the winners of that first competition, defeating St. Helens by 10-3. Fattorini’s of Bradford were given the task of manufacturing the cup, which they did at a cost of £60. The company also produced a set of winner’s medals which they valued at thirty shillings each (£1.50).
In contrast, the final in 2017 (the 116th final in the history of the competition) was watched by 68,525 people and by a record worldwide TV audience. The game was won by Hull who beat Wigan 18–14 in a titanic game that had the watching audience on tenterhooks.
Ultimately the difference between the teams that day was the pinpoint goal kicking of Marc Syned. The half back has often come in for criticism but he was quite rightly named man of the match for his efforts during the final. This meant that Syned became the first player to retain the Lance Todd Trophy (awarded annually to the Challenge Cup Man of the Match) for his performances in both the 2016 and 2017 finals.
The victory also meant Hull retained the trophy that they had won the year before against Warrrington. As amazing as it may seem for a side who appear to have taken up permanent residence at Wembley, Hull had taken over a century to record their first win at the national stadium and this victory came at the ninth time of asking! Hull broke the hoodoo against Warrington in the 2016 final with Syned converting two goals. This triggered ecstatic celebrations amongst the team’s jubilant fans at the final whistle. Hull had won the trophy on three occasions prior to their 2016 triumph but all of those victories had happened away from Wembley .
The Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final will be played at Wembley Stadium on the 24th August 2019.
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