The line-up for this year’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final was confirmed over the weekend, with Hull FC and Warrington Wolves poised to collide at Wembley in August. It will be the first time in the competition’s 120-year existence that those two teams have clashed for the trophy.
Hull FC were forced to work considerably harder to secure their second final appearance in four years, rallying from an 8-2 46th-minute deficit to defeat Wigan Warriors, the most successful side in tournament history with 19 titles, 16-12 at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Warrington Wolves’ return to the showpiece after three years away was achieved in far more emphatic fashion as they put a 56-12 beating on Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Despite the difference in semi-final winning margins, a close final is projected, with Warrington Wolves 4/5 favourites to deliver what would be their fourth triumph in eight years and Hull FC Evens to be crowned for the first time since 2005, having been outfought in their two silverware-deciders since.
However, it isn’t just that recent history which suggests that the advantage lies with the Wolves as statistically the dominance of the semi-final victory does seem to have a bearing on who ends up adding to their trophy collection in the final.
A massive nine of the ten finals over the past decade were won by whichever club outshone their semi-final opponents to a greater extent, with the exception being Leeds Rhinos’ 23-10 win over Castleford Tigers in 2014.
All three Warrington successes in that timeframe were built off the foundation of forceful final-four displays. Most notably, they thrashed Catalan Dragons 54-12 in 2010 as a prelude to defeating Leeds Rhinos 30-6 at Wembley and Huddersfield Giants 33-6 in 2012 before bettering the Rhinos 35-18.
Hull FC meanwhile have twice been victims of this trend, with the most dramatic example occurring three years ago when they were outclassed 16-0 by the same Wigan Warriors side who demolished London Broncos 70-0 in the round before.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.