The Challenge Cup shock that shook the Rugby League world
The Rugby League Challenge Cup has produced some memorable upsets during its 113-year history but there is one match which stands out above all others as the sport’s very own David versus Goliath battle.
Countless favourites have seen their form frozen beneath the spell of the Challenge Cup since it was first contested 113 years ago but, according to the sport’s supporters, nothing compares to the shock that rocked the Rugby League world.
Six weeks ago the RFL launched a search to find the greatest Challenge Cup giant-killing act of all time and of the hundreds of fans who took part in the poll, an amazing 62 per cent nominated the same fixture.
And in a timely twist, the same two sides will meet again this weekend in the fourth round of the Carnegie Challenge Cup when Sheffield Eagles, Wembley winners in 1998, will attempt to complete an even bigger upset against current Engage Super League leaders Wigan Warriors.
Sheffield’s 17-8 victory over Wigan 12 years ago continues to capture the imagination, as scores of fans confirmed in their nominations.
Sheffield fan Steve Ingham recalled: “On the way to the match we shared a packed tube train with a large number of exuberant, singing Wigan supporters.
“Travelling with my wife, young daughter and her friend, we were the only Eagles fans in the carriage. You can imagine the banter and teasing we had to endure - all in good humour though.
“On the way back, again greatly outnumbered on the train, my daughter - with a big grin on her face - said ‘They're not singing anymore Dad.’
“For a second there was silence. I was nervous. Then a loud laugh and congratulations heaped on us by the deeply disappointed Wigan fans. A great moment.”
Craig Buckingham said Sheffield’s win “showed that team work is more important than the sum of a team’s individuals” while Paul Fox said the win “gave hope to underdogs everywhere that dreams really do come true.”
Geraldine Ingham summed up the final for her: “Apart from the brilliant match, I have two memories I'll never forget.
When we left Sheffield that day I saw a rainbow over our Don Valley ground and thought: ‘It's an omen - we’re going to win!’
“The other memory is of the Wigan supporters who looked at us with pity before the match and at the end just looked bewildered. Pure magic!”
As well as suffering the indignity of being on the wrong end of the greatest Challenge Cup giant-killing act of all time, Wigan also finished on the losing side in the second-biggest shock with their 26-16 defeat by Salford in 1996 ranked at No Two in the all-time Top Ten.
“For me Wigan were still at their pomp and didn’t think that Salford deserved to be on the same turf as they did,” said Salford fan Clive Parker. “Their arrogance cost them that day and I don’t think they’ve been the same day since.”
Oliver Parrish said: “I’ve been watching Salford since 1969 and that win was one of the best results I’ve ever seen. None of us, not even the most one-eyed fan, saw it coming, which made it even more special.”
The Top 10 Greatest Challenge Cup Giant-Killing Acts of All Time according to the RFL’s official poll are:
1 – Sheffield Eagles 17, Wigan Warriors 8 (1998)
2 – Salford 26, Wigan 16 (1996)
3 – Featherstone 14, Hull FC 12 (1983)
4 – Leigh 10, Huddersfield 4 (1971)
5 – Hunslet 18, Huddersfield 14 (2003)
6 – Hunslet 12, Hull KR 11 (1983)
7 – Doncaster 0, Siddal 26 (2010)
8 – Highfield 4, Beverley 27 (1995)
9 – Hull KR 40, Warrington Wolves 36 (2006).
10 – Toulouse Olympique 40, Widnes Vikings 24 (2005)
Tickets for the 2010 Carnegie Challenge Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday August 28 start from £21 and can be purchased from the RFL Ticket Office on 0844 856 11 13 or by visiting www.carnegiechallengecup.co.uk