Warrington take on Catalans in this season’s Challenge Cup final on Saturday at Wembley. Here’s everything you need to know about the Wolves…
Warrington Wolves are competing in their 18th Challenge Cup final, having lifted the trophy eight times in their history.
Their very first final appearance came in 1901 when they lost 6-0 to Batley at Headingley, but they got their hands on the Cup four years later when they beat Hull KR by the same score and at the same ground.
They have won at Wembley three times in the last decade with the most recent victory coming in 2012, when a side featuring current stars Ryan Atkins, Chris Hill, Stefan Ratchford and Ben Westwood beat Leeds Rhinos 35-18.
Their last final was less successful though, as they fell to a dramatic 12-10 defeat to Hull FC two years ago.
Route to Wembley
Warrington were in the Qualifiers last season and so started their Challenge Cup journey this year in the fifth round, where they faced former Grand Final winners Bradford Bulls. New signing Josh Charnley showed his abilities with four tries while Bryson Goodwin also scored a hat-trick amongst ten tries in a 54-6 home rout.
It was a battle of the Wolves in the next round as Warrington faced the transatlantic Toronto Wolfpack, and after a closely fought first half hour the game was turned by Andrew Dixon’s red card for punching. That indiscipline, with a number of yellow cards shown too, proved the undoing of the Championship side as Warrington got on with the job, running in a total of 12 tries, including a hat-trick for Tom Lineham, sealing a 66-10 victory.
They faced Super League opposition in the quarter-finals in the shape of Wigan Warriors, who had knocked them out at the same stage the previous year. There were different winners this time though and it certainly wasn’t as close, as Shaun Wane’s side failed to score a single point and the Wolves progressed 23-0.
In the semi-final in Bolton they came up against the struggling Leeds Rhinos, who were under new management in the shape of former great Kevin Sinfield. All of their flaws were laid bare in a fantastic 80 minutes from Warrington, with eight tries scored in a totally one-sided contest including doubles for both wingers, Lineham and Charnley. It was another big win to seal their place in the final, but they will expect their closest game so far at Wembley.
Stefan Ratchford has been in the form of his life so in 2018, with the full-back establishing himself as one of the most consistent players in Super League. His main skills include his running game, with a style where he finds it easy to dip and break tackles, which frustrates the opposition. He also has a knack for scoring tries, and just when you think he may pass to his centre or winger, he goes alone and scores himself. Ratchford has a great rugby mind too, knowing when to and when not to do certain things in a game.
Since his move from hometown club Castleford Tigers, hooker Daryl Clark has been one of Warrington’s best players. His ability to run through defences is second to none, and he’s another player who likes a try or two. One of his best attributes is his offloading game, and even when on the run he still manages to find a pass before he gets tackled, often linking up with Ratchford. Clark is already tipped to win the Lance Todd trophy at this Final.
Former Wigan legend Josh Charnley is in his first season back in rugby league after his 18 month stint in union with Sale. Since his signing in March, the winger has scored 13 Super League tries and a further nine in the four Challenge Cup matches. He will be fired up for this game and will want to get his name on the scoresheet again, and with such a fantastic try-scoring ability he looks very likely to.
There are plenty of good performers amongst the Wolves’ forward pack, but Chris Hill is the one much of the team will look to for a platform. In recent weeks some would say he hasn’t been at his best, but he is Warrington’s captain and a true leader, as well as a brilliant tackler, strong carrier and breaking threat.
Steve Price played for St George Dragons and Balmain Tigers in his native Australia in the late 1990s, but knee injuries forced his early retirement. He quickly turned his mind to coaching, taking up various roles with the Dragons club (and enjoying a brief role as Samoa coach) before being promoted to the top job in 2012. A poor run of form saw him sacked in 2014 and he became assistant coach with Cronulla Sharks, helping them to the NRL title in 2016, before deciding to make the switch to England.
He succeeding Tony Smith after Warrington’s long-serving boss stepped down at the end of last season, and after struggling in the opening weeks Price quickly turned the Wolves back into a top four side. He’s got them this far by taking things game by game, not thinking too far ahead, and victory on Saturday would be a great way to cap a fine first season for Price.