Challenge Cup | A History

Toronto Wolfpack will begin its third campaign in Rugby League’s most historic and prestigious competition, the Challenge Cup, when they take on Huddersfield Giants on Wednesday evening. Held at The John Smith’s Stadium, the first-ever meeting between Toronto and Huddersfield will see the loser eliminated from contention while keeping the winning side in the hunt for silverware.

The Challenge Cup is a knockout competition open to amateur, semi-professional and professional Club’s from across the United Kingdom. Beginning in 1896, the Cup has been held every year since with the exception of 1915-1919 and 1939-1940 due to the World Wars. It is the only tournament of its kind to include teams from all levels of Rugby League.

Now entering it’s fifth round, the 2020 Challenge Cup welcomes four Super League teams to the draw this week, with the eight remaining top division Clubs joining in from round six. Beginning on January 11 this year, teams have competed to stay alive in the unique competition, with 24 Clubs still eligible to make the iconic Wembley Stadium Final.

The first round saw 44 teams enter the Challenge Cup, comprised of 37 English amateur Clubs, two Welsh Clubs, a Scottish and Irish Club, three armed forces sides and a team made up of British police. League One Club’s were added to the draw from round three before Championship Club’s made their first appearance in round four.

The Challenge Cup produced Rugby League’s largest ever crowd in 1954 when the Final between Warrington Wolves and Halifax saw 102,569 fans stream through the gates of Odsal Stadium. The Final is now traditionally held at Wembley Stadium, with the 2019 instalment pitting Warrington against St Helens in front of 62,717 fans. The Wolves emerged with a famous 14-point victory to claim their ninth Challenge Cup title.

Wigan Warriors are the frontrunners when it comes to Challenge Cup victories, currently holding 19 titles. When combined with their 13 runners-up performances, Wigan have played in the Cup decider on a remarkable 32 occasions. They have not lifted the trophy since 2013 but still sit a comfortable six wins clear of second-placed Leeds Rhinos.

The Challenge Cup trophy itself is a simply stunning piece of silverware. Designed and handcrafted for the inaugural tournament in 1897, the original lasted for 104 years before requiring undisturbed rest in 2001. The historic trophy is now kept in a safe at the RFL’s headquarters while an exact reproduction is awarded to the Challenge Cup winners each year.

Painstakingly maintained by hand by the same Fattorini family that created the original, the reproduction is every bit as awe-inspiring as its predecessor. Now sporting a strengthened neck for durability and resized winners shield, all 111 title-holders are listed on the trophy itself.

Huddersfield, Toronto’s fifth round opponent, have taking their place in the Final on 10 occasions, the most recent being 2009. They last raised the trophy in 1953 when they claimed their sixth Challenge Cup title by defeated St Helens 15-10. The Wolfpack took part in the tournament in both 2017 and 2018, with their best result a sixth round appearance in 2018 while competing from the Championship.

One of the most important dates on the Rugby League calendar, the 2020 Challenge Cup Final will take place at Wembley Stadium on 18 July.

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