It was back in 2019 that Warrington Wolves last won the Rugby League Challenge Cup. They are the second favourites behind St Helens to win the trophy this year – but can they really win this prestigious competition for the 11th time in their history?
Last season saw them finish third in the Super League, only a point behind the Grand Final winners St Helens. In the elimination round, the Wolves would have been disappointed to lose to Hull Kingston Rovers, who had finished in sixth place 11 points behind them. That’s the play-offs for you, though.
A glance at the results of the Rugby League Challenge Cup highlights Warrington’s threat. They won the trophy in 2012 and then lost in the semi-final for the next three years in a row. Lots of heartbreak, therefore, as nothing is worse than losing in the last four, especially with a trip down south to Wembley on offer.
2016 finally saw them get through to another final but lost 12-10 to Hull. The following year is the only time since 2011 that Warrington has failed to make the last four. It was a close thing, though, as they lost by a single point to the Wigan Warriors in the quarter-finals.
Another final was reached in 2018, but they lost to the Catalan Dragons. Another triumph was just around the corner as Warrington beat St Helens 18-4 to lift the trophy. Perhaps that might be the final this year?
Both 2020 and 2021 saw Warrington lose in the semi-finals. Last year saw them beat Swinton Lions (not so convincingly as the 112-0 win in 2011) and some revenge on the Dragons. Another final was not to be as they lost in the semi-finals to eventual losing finalists Castleford Tigers.
The 2022 Super League is yet to begin, but the Wolves have been busy in the transfer market. Joe Bullock has been signed from Wigan Warriors on a three-year contract. Also going to Warrington has been Greg Minikin, signed from Hull Kingston Rovers. He scored six tries last season but then suffered a knee injury.
Back fit again, the England Knights international can be an important signing for the club. Could he lead them to a cup triumph at Wembley?
There’s a new man in charge at Warrington this year. Daryl Powell, who previously played for Leeds Rhinos, Keighley Cougars and Sheffield Eagles, has taken over from head coach Steve Price. Powell was in charge at Castleford Tigers, who beat Warrington in last year’s cup semi-final. He led the Tigers to the league leaders shield five years ago.
There are plenty of odds available that suggest the bookies like his efforts, commonly placing Wolves 4/1 to win the Challenge Cup. Those are odds that could produce a win because Warrington has a great record and are always hard to beat.
Powell will hope the bookies are right; winning the Rugby League Challenge Cup and making up for losing in the final last year would be ideal for the new coach.
Warrington face a tough battle if they are to be Wembley winners this year. St Helens are the current cup holders, having beaten Castleford. They didn’t just win the cup, though, St Helens were also victorious in the Grand Final, beating Catalan Dragons 12-10. That saw them complete the league and cup double for the first time since 2006.
They go into the new Super League, having won the last three Grand Finals. 2019 saw them defeat Salford Red Devils, and in 2020, the Wigan Warriors lost a low-scoring Grand Final 8-4. While St Helens have a great recent record in winning Grand Finals, they have not matched the success of Warrington in the Rugby League Challenge Cup.
St Helens are the cup holders, but that was their first win since 2008. That win 14 years ago was their third cup final win in a row. They had to wait until 2019 for another appearance, and that was when they lost to Warrington. The year after that, St Helens lost to Warrington in the quarter-finals.
2022 promises to be another great rugby league season. St Helens will be out to win a fourth Grand Final and again complete the double with a Wembley triumph. Warrington are always tough to beat in the cup, and a bet on them is one that is likely to give you a good run for your money.