Wigan and Saints claim 2024 Challenge Cup crowns

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Rob McHugh recaps the Men's and Women's Challenge Cup Finals on an emotional afternoon at Wembley.

RELATED: See the full list of 2024 Betfred Challenge Cup Draw and Results.


Wigan Warriors 18 Warrington Wolves 8
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London

Date: Sat, 8th June.   Kickoff: 3:00 PM.   Halftime: Wigan 12-2.   Referee: Chris Kendall.   Crowd: 64,845.

Wigan: Field, Miski, Eckersley, Wardle, Marshall; French, Smith; Cooper, O'Neill, Thompson, Nsemba, Farrell, Ellis. Int: Havard, Byrne, Mago, Leeming.
Warrington: Dufty, Thewlis, King, Tai, Ashton; Drinkwater, Williams; Harrison, Walker, Vaughan, Nicholson, Fitzgibbon, Currie. Int: Powell, Musgrove, Crowther, Bullock.

Wigan Warriors (18)
Tries: Liam Farrell, Bevan French, Zach Eckersley
Goals: Harry Smith 3/3

Warrington Wolves (8)
Tries: Matt Dufty
Goals: Josh Thewlis 2/2

With two of Super League's form sides meeting in the Challenge Cup final, expectations were high for a classic encounter. The two sides duly delivered as an intense battle ended with Wigan lifting the famous old trophy at Wembley.

Both sides had plenty to play for coming into the game. For Warrington coach, Sam Burgess, there was an opportunity to lift silverware at the first opportunity in a fledgling career. For Wigan coach, Matt Peet, the chance to hold all four trophies concurrently for the first time since St Helens achieved the remarkable under Daniel Anderson feat in 2007 and emulate some of the great Wigan sides of the early 1990s. Ultimately, it was Peet and Wigan who came out on top. 

An impeccably observed minute's silence before the game only served to charge the atmosphere in the stadium further, as fans paid tribute to Rob Burrow, with the kick-off time pushed back to 15:07 in a break with tradition to honour Burrow. Warrington's opening defensive set was fierce, and Wigan was soon down to twelve men. In the second minute, Matty Ashton carried the ball into the tackle and slipped as he approached the defender, Mike Cooper. The referee deemed that, although Ashton had slipped, there was sufficient force in Cooper's swinging arm to justify a yellow card.

But both sides were down to twelve men from the resulting set, as Matt Dufty caught Liam Marshall high after Wigan had recovered the ball from an attempted Josh Thewlis offload. This ramped the crowd to a fever pitch, and the intensity on the field matched the ferocity of the crowd. The resulting round of applause for Rob Burrow in the seventh minute was almost deafening, given the action on the field. One thing is for sure, he would have loved this encounter. 

Warrington had started the game fast and were ramping up the pressure on the Wigan line. Liam Farrell was penalised for offside on the fifth tackle of a defensive set, giving the Wolves an easy opportunity to open the scoring. Thewlis duly kicked the penalty to give the Wire a deserved early lead.

A penalty for offside against Ben Currie gave Wigan precious field position and served to relieve the pressure Warrington had built. The Warriors made the most of the field position to score the game's first try in the 17th minute. Bevan French, who is so deadly near the opposition line, threaded a precision grubber kick in-goal. Young centre, Zach Eckersley, in the side for the suspended Adam Keighran, collected the ball to touch down. Harry Smith was on target with the conversion to give Wigan a 6-2 lead. 

Wigan then began to turn the screw. Ashton dropped a spiralling bomb under no pressure to give Wigan a brilliant field position, with a scrum 15 minutes from the Warrington line. George Williams then knocked on from an attempted interception to give Wigan another set of six near the Warrington line. From the first play, French received the ball from the base of the scrum and dummied over to score Wigan's second try. Smith added the conversion to give Wigan a 10-point lead after 23 minutes.

At this point Warrington looked shell-shocked, having largely dominated the opening exchanges. However, the game began to settle into a rhythm after the frenetic opening exchanges. Although Warrington had gained a foothold in the game, a series of unforced errors in Wigan territory blunted their attacking threat. French went close for Wigan on the stroke of half-time but had his effort ruled out for a double movement, making the score 12-2 at the break.

Warrington forced the pace right from the start of the set, forcing a Wigan knock-on ten metres out after Ashton attempted an offload. This gave Warrington a great field position right from the whistle. However, Wigan's defence held firm and, this time, they were able to force Ashton into touch to avert the danger. 

Wigan's high kicks were causing all sorts of problems for Warrington, as Dufty failed to take another after 50 minutes. This gave Wigan another set of six near the Warrington line, however, they were unable to convert the chance. Their commitment in defence could not be questioned, however, the challenge was creating a meaningful chance at the other end.

The uneasy stasis on the scoreboard was finally broken after 56 minutes, as Wigan's inspirational captain, Liam Farrell, went over to score. Farrell ran a great line to receive the pass thirty metres from the line. He rounded full-back, Dufty, and crashed over to score, despite the best efforts of Matty Nicholson in defence. Harry Smith made no mistake with the conversion to make the score 18-2 and give Warrington a mountain to climb.

A high shot from Farrell gave Warrington a set of six deep in Wigan territory, from which they forced a goal-line dropout. It was their first meaningful pressure of the second half, and you felt that if they did not convert this opportunity, they would never score. However, Dufty stepped up, cutting inside, and wrong-footing the defence to give the Wolves hope. Thewlis added the conversion and suddenly Warrington had hope.

However, that hope was fading as each second ticked by and, with Warrington forcing the play, errors crept into their game again. A Warrington knock-on gave Wigan a good position to try for a drop goal, however, Harry Smith kicked wide, uncharacteristically. However, it did not matter, as Warrington were unable to force a way through the Wigan defence. Wigan were deserved winners on the day and stand on the verge of creating another dynasty. With a young core and incredible strength in depth, they will take some stopping in the other big games at the end of this season. 

St Helens 22 Leeds Rhinos 0
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London

Date: Sat, 8th June.   Kickoff: 11:45 AM.   Halftime: St Helens (W) 10-0.   Referee: Aaron Moore.   

Leeds (W): Enright, Cousins, Hardcastle, Beevers, Whitehead; Butcher, Casey; Field, Bennett, Northrop, Murray, Hoyle, Sykes. Int: Dainton, Donnelly, Hornby, Robinson.
St Helens (W): Salihi, Hook, Stott, McColm, Burke; Harris, Gaskin; Whitfield, Jones, Crowl, Travis, Rudge, Cunningham. Int: Williams, Stott, Mottershead, Sutherland.

St Helens (22)
Tries: Phoebe Hook, Faye Gaskin, Chantelle Crowl, Luci McColm
Goals: Faye Gaskin 3/4

Leeds Rhinos (0)
No scorers

St Helens retained the Women's Challenge Cup, in a repeat of the 2023 final. However, this year, the Saints were completely dominant, defeating the Leeds Rhinos in a clinical display. The Leeds side was resolute and determined, however, they lacked the cutting edge of a well-coached Saints side, who were good value for their victory.

The opening exchanges were a tense affair, with neither side wanting to make a mistake. In the seventh minute, the ground rose in unison to pay tribute to Rob Burrow in an emotional tribute to the great man. Leeds then thought they had opened the scoring in the 14th minute, only to have the try ruled out. The Saints' defence failed to deal with a kick through, with Phoebe Hook dropping the ball near the Saints' line. However, Liv Whitehead was unable to take the opportunity, knocking on with the try line begging. 

St Helens then took control, thanks to Faye Gaskin. Picking up the ball close to the Leeds line, Gaskin threw a brilliant dummy, wrong-footing the Leeds defence and allowing her to open the scoring. Gaskin then converted her own try to give the Saints a 6-0 lead after 25 minutes.

The Saints did not need long to extend their lead, as Phoebe Hook got on the scoresheet. Hook dived into the corner to finish off a short-side play, with half-back Zoe Harris throwing a brilliant miss pass to put Harris in to score. Gaskin missed a difficult kick from the touchline to make the score 10-0 and give the Rhinos a mountain to climb. The Rhinos were fortunate to finish the game with a full complement on the field after a high shot from Shona Hoyle was punished with a penalty, but nothing more.

Saints were straight back on the front foot in the second half, and only needed five minutes to extend their lead, through centre, Luci McColm. McColm took in a short pass before bursting through the Leeds line to score from around ten metres out. Gaskin was again on target with the conversion to give the Saints a 16-0 lead after 45 minutes.

Whilst Leeds tried to apply pressure to the Saints line, in reality, they never posed a sustained scoring threat, and a series of errors meant that they surrendered what few opportunities they created. 

St Helens would score the final score of the game in the 71st minute, sealing an incredible fourth consecutive Challenge Cup win. Chantelle Crowl crashed onto a short ball near the Leeds line and barged over for a try. The try was sent upstairs for confirmation from the Video Referee, as there was a potential obstruction in as Crowl ran through, however, the officials deemed that no obstruction had taken place. It was a well-deserved final score for the Saints who were the better side on the day.

Faye Gaskin added the final conversion to make the final score 22-0 and drive the final nail into the Leeds coffin. Leeds fought hard but were left to rue missed chances at the end of a bruising encounter. Zoe Harris was deservedly named player of the match after a brilliant display.