The Armchair Pundit – Hull’s Wembley curse and other Challenge Cup myths

Challenge Cup

AS THEY cruised to a 47-18 win over St Helens at a blazing hot Langtree Park on Sunday afternoon, there was plenty of talk over whether or not 2016 could finally be the year when Hull FC end their dismal record in Challenge Cup finals at Wembley.
In case you were not aware – and, quite frankly, how could you not be given as it gets trotted out ad naseam every bloody year? – the Black and Whites have never lifted the trophy at the famous London venue.
The closest they have come to doing so was in 1982 when they drew 14-14 with Widnes, eventually winning the midweek replay at Elland Road, while their 2005 triumph over Leeds Rhinos came at Cardiff Millennium Stadium when Wembley was being redeveloped.
Otherwise, it is pretty grim reading for Hull fans. The finals of 1959, 1960, 1980, 1983, 1985, 2008 and 2013 have all seen them fall short underneath the Twin Towers or, as it is now, the Arch.
Small wonder then there is always plenty of talk about some sort of ‘curse’ or ‘jinx’ preventing them from gaining any success at Wembley. Indeed, the BBC ran a whole article on the so-called curse ahead of their final against Wigan Warriors three years ago.
Frankly, this is absolute bunkum. In fact, it is not just finals at Wembley where Hull have an awful record, it is the Challenge Cup final in general.
By the time Hull first lifted the famous trophy in 1914, beating Wakefield Trinity 6-0 at Fartown, they had already been in three other finals and lost all of them.
It should perhaps come as no surprise they were beaten in 1908, 1909 and 1910, with the team being very much mired in mid-table obscurity and facing the all-conquering Hunslet, and higher-placed Wakefield and Leeds in consecutive seasons.
Hull went into the finals of 1922 and 1923 having finished third and first in the league standings, but were then victims to good old fashioned cup upsets at the hands of Rochdale Hornets and Leeds.
It was then not until 1959 until the Black and Whites reached the final, which by then had been a regular fixture at Wembley for 30 years.
And while Hull had established themselves as one of the leading sides of the era in the Rugby Football League, so had opponents Wigan and Wakefield.
The derby clash with Hull Kingston Rovers in 1980 and the defeat to a Featherstone Rovers side which narrowly avoided relegation three years later were both shocks, although that was not the case in their most recent defeats to St Helens and Wigan.
It all leaves an all-time Challenge Cup final record of played 15, won three for Hull – no matter which venue the showpiece game seems to be played at.
Not only did the win which put Lee Radford’s side through to the quarter-finals and have their fans dreaming of a first Cup triumph for 11 years, it also put an end to all talk about this year being St Helens’ year due to the year ending in the number six.
This seemed to start gaining traction on the back of another BBC website article which was published in the build-up to last weekend’s games, chronicling Saints’ victories in 1956, 1966, 1976, 1996 and 2006.
Which is great – apart from the fact it overlooks their wins in 1961, 1972, 1997, 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2008. Oh, and their loss to Halifax in…that’s right, 1986.
And in an even more ironic twist, Sunday’s defeat was the first time Hull had won a Challenge Cup tie at St Helens since 1926.
It is easy to debunk these myths, although it should also be remembered they all add to the history and allure of rugby league’s most prestigious knockout competition.
So if anyone wants to dig up some statistical quirks related to why Castleford Tigers, Widnes Vikings, Warrington Wolves, Huddersfield Giants or Catalans Dragons are or are not going to win the Challenge Cup this year, then feel free to put them out there.

Video killed the rugby league star: It was a shame that a thrilling cup tie between Castleford Tigers and Salford Red Devils which, on the whole, showcased everything that makes rugby league such a wonderful sport to a national audience on BBC One ended up being overshadowed by a decision from the officials. The incident in question came early in the second half when video referee Richard Silverwood adjudicated Denny Solomona had scored a try to put hosts Castleford in control of the match, although later replays showed he had not grounded the ball. The blame for this should not be laid at the feet of Mr Silverwood, nor indeed on-field referee James Child, as they were both just following the protocol laid out in both the Laws of the Game and for adjudicating replays. Assuming Mr Child was not in a position to see whether the ball had been grounded or not and had no reason to think otherwise, he was correct to rule the on-field call as a try. Indeed, the Laws clearly state: “The Referee should not disallow a try because he was not in a position to see the grounding of the ball.” So the onus is then on the video referee to find definitive proof the ball was not grounded, which was not forthcoming on the original angles shown. However, the BBC later showed a magnified replay in which Solomona clearly lost control of the ball and proved the try should not have been awarded. All of which begs the question as to why that facility was not available to Mr Silverwood when he was called upon to make a judgement in the first place? These sort of incidents have come up in cricket as well with the controversial Decision Review System, so it is perhaps more down to the processes being flawed rather than the officials. It is probably worth pointing out Castleford have what would undoubtedly have been a perfectly good try earlier in the game when Mr Childs pulled play back for a scrum to Salford due to blowing up for a knock-on on the advice of his touch judge when it appeared there had not been one. What is it they say about decisions evening themselves out?

//players.brightcove.net/3921507366001/73568996-99ce-4b17-abd9-39751fa59035_default/index.html?videoId=4882893482001

International rugby league comes to the fore: Although the ANZAC test between Australia and New Zealand proved something of a scrappy encounter, with the Kangaroos winning 16-0, there was much to celebrate about the international game over the weekend. For starters, a record crowd of 15,225 were at Parramatta’s Pirtek Stadium for the Pacific Islands grudge match between Samoa and Tonga, with the Samoans triumphing 18-6 in a bruising and high-tempo showdown. Then there was the thriller between Papua New Guinea and Fiji at the same venue, with the former holding out for a 24-22 victory. Over at the Belmore Sports Ground, the Cook Islands defeated World Cup qualifiers Lebanon 30-20. Despite all the recent negative headlines, it is heartening to see such diverse competition at international level.

Championship round-up: Due to the Challenge Cup sixth round, only one match took place in the Kingston Press Championship over the weekend, with Featherstone Rovers seeing off Whitehaven 44-22.
There was plenty to discuss off the field though, with TotalRL.com reporting maverick half-back Rangi Chase had left Leigh Centurions after just five appearances.
No confirmation has, as yet, been forthcoming from the club, although they did tweet only to say he “is still a contracted player at the club”.
There will be no Championship representative in the quarter-finals of this year’s Challenge Cup after Dewsbury Rams and Oldham suffered heavy losses to Wigan and Warrington respectively. Halifax came closest to causing an upset though, having been level at 18-18 with Widnes before the Chemics edged it 28-18.

Bears break new ground: Ahead of the Four Nations double-header at the Ricoh Arena later in the year, Coventry Bears headed to the city’s largest sporting venue for their Kingston Press League One clash with Keighley Cougars.
More usually a venue for football and rugby union, particularly since Aviva Premiership side Wasps relocated to the West Midlands city last year, the Bears managed to attract 1,097 spectators to the game.
Unfortunately for the hosts, it was the Cougars who ran out 36-16 victors. Hopefully some of the locals will have liked what they saw though and return for the internationals when England face Scotland and Australia take on New Zealand in November.

Amateur score of the week: St Ives Roosters 42 St Albans Centurions 40, East Rugby League Premier Division. The first round of matches pitched two of the stronger teams in the East League against each other and did not disappoint, with St Ives snatched victory thanks to a late converted try.

Comments? Questions? Complaints? Email marcbazeley@googlemail.com with the subject line ‘The Armchair Pundit’, tweet @gamethatgotaway or leave a comment below.

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