Jamie Peacock had seemingly put Leeds Rhinos out of sight in the Challenge Cup Semi-Final at the Halliwell Jones Stadium with an uncharacteristic step to put 14 points between his side and St. Helens early in the second half. However it wasn’t until Kallum Watkins crossed the line in the 67th minute that Leeds fans could truly believe they were on their way back to Wembley. The match to decide who would join the reigning champions, Leeds Rhinos, for the showpiece event took place almost fifteen hours later at the home of the holders. Headingley Stadium has been a joyous hunting ground this season for Warrington Wolves, following their 29-10 victory over the Rhinos back in April. And with Hull Kingston Rovers finishing in the bottom four of Super League, it was expected to be another happy occasion for Wire fans, players and staff. But it was not to be. Following Sio’s leap to put the Robins in the lead, Hull KR fans were sent into rapture following an outstretched Kevin Larroyer arm, and delirium ensued as Shaun Lunt scored with five minutes to play; sending the Robins to Wembley for the first time in 29 years.
Initially held at Headingley in 1896 and 1897 (Batley won both finals), Wembley became the spiritual home of the Challenge Cup in 1928 with Wigan defeating Dewsbury 13-2. Ever since, excluding interludes at Odsal Stadium, Bradford, and Elland Road, Leeds, to name but a couple other venues, Wembley has held 82 Challenge Cup Finals up until 2015. And the last time Hull KR were in the final (May, 1986 defeat to Castleford Tigers 14-15), Britain and France had just announced plans to build the Channel Tunnel, the Chernobyl disaster had taken place a week prior to the final, Thatcher is soon to open to M25, and Maradona is a month away from knocking England out of the FIFA Football World Cup with the ‘Hand of God’. But Hull KR won’t care. They are finally back at Wembley.
Opened in 2007, Wembley cost £757 million to construct (£938 million in today’s money), and is iconic for its 315 metre arch. The stadium holds 90,000 fans under one roof and is home to the England football team, as well as every professional football cup final in England, an occasional Rugby Union match, a regular NFL Season game or two, and music concerts. Wembley Stadium also resides in the north of the country’s capital, London. The big smoke oozes history, tradition and sport. With teams spanning every sport imaginable, from Hockey and Basketball to Korfball and Water Polo, London is an epicentre of both domestic and global sport, showcasing the best physical and mental skill humanity has to offer. As such, there isn’t a better place in the world to watch Rugby League; a sport that combines and rewards artistic flair, grit and perseverance in equal measure.
Many fans will make the occasion a long weekend trip to London. A chance to take in the sights and sounds of the country’s capital; visit Big Ben, ride the London Eye, and walk around Hyde Park before heading to Wembley and the Challenge Cup Final to support their team to victory. But regardless of the result, the trip is never wasted. A night out in one of the thousand watering holes will ease the pain of defeat, or prove an appropriate backdrop to celebrate your side making history. Wembley is thus the perfect venue for a cup final and come just past three o’clock tomorrow afternoon as the players walk out on to the hallowed turf, the stadium will be filled with over 80,000 Robins and Rhinos singing Abide With Me together, lead by Lizzie Jones, wife of the late Danny Jones. There is no better place to watch sport and I recommend buying a ticket and popping down, otherwise tune in to BBC and enjoy the spectacle. There really is nothing like Challenge Cup Final day at Wembley Stadium.