Warrington: From beaten Challenge Cup favourites in 2018 to victorious underdogs

Warrington's Daryl Clark celebrated winning both the Challenge Cup and the Lance Todd Trophy
Warrington's Daryl Clark celebrated winning both the Challenge Cup and the Lance Todd Trophy

Warrington's Daryl Clark says the shock Challenge Cup final win over Super League leaders St Helens was inspired by being on the wrong end of an equally big upset at Wembley a year ago.

In 2018, Clark suffered a third Wembley final defeat when Wire were beaten by Catalans - but recognises they went into that game feeling too complacent.

"Saints have been getting the accolades and all the media attention," he said.

"But we knew that we could flip it on its head, coming in as underdogs."

Warrington had lost all three of their previous league meetings with Saints in 2019.

But man of the match Clark said: "I've had a good feeling all week. Looking back, last year, it affected us being favourites. Coming here with a feeling that we'd already got it won.

"It was Tom Lineham who spoke up in the meeting we had on Friday night about how last year we were massive favourites and the way we felt maybe made us a bit arrogant."

Warrington had gone on an an untimely run of five straight defeats going into the final and were nursing several wounded players - including injured prize asset Blake Austin.

But, after losing here with his former club Castleford in 2014 (to Leeds) and again with Warrington in 2016 (to Hull), Clark capped off another outstanding individual display with his side's match-sealing third try - just seconds after the votes had been collected up in the Wembley press box to leave him top of the poll to collect the Lance Todd Trophy

"I've lost three times here and it's heartbreaking," he said. "So to win is special and to score even better as I don't get many tries these days. And to win the Lance Todd is the icing on the cake."

Warrington had a lot of heroes

Daryl Clark celebrates try
Daryl Clark (centre) celebrates his try, which helped him secure the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match

Clark's Lance Todd award came after being one of six different selected nominees - and all were Warrington players.

"That sounds about right," said jubilant coach Steve Price, after winning his first trophy as Wire coach. "That's the best performance since I've been at the club. I could have picked any number of them.

"We haven't been playing great football of late but I knew we had the players to play like this and put their bodies on the line the way they did in that heat. The lads were out on their feet.

"For Jack Hughes to come back after a ruptured testicle and put in a performance like that was amazing. Stefan Ratchford was great and Dec Patton deserves a special mention too. And Daryl Clark was a true warrior. He covered nearly every blade of grass.

"It was a very hollow feeling last year. But this feels a lot better. Saints have been the most consistent side over the last 18 months. They're number one in offence and defend by a country mile and it took something special from my team to not only beat them but keep them down to four points."

Price also played down the loss of Austin - and the rumour mill that sprung up around whether he might in fact still play.

"I don't know what all the uproar was about," he said. "The players knew the 1-19 from Tuesday and we named it on Thursday. It was unfortunate that Blake missed out but the players who stepped up were outstanding."

Morgan Knowles 'try' decision was "massive"

St Helens coach Justin Holbrook
Justin Holbrook said his side's early claims for a try should have been referred to the video assessor

St Helens coach Justin Holbrook knows that his side have an ideal chance to atone for their Wembley disappointment by going on to win this year's Super League Grand Final, sitting 16 points clear at the top, having already claimed the League Leaders' Shield.

But, although he acknowledged that Warrington were the better team at Wembley, Holbrook was left perplexed by referee Rob Hicks' crucial ruling not to refer Saints' claims for an early try for Morgan Knowles to his video assessor.

"That was a massive decision," Holbrook told BBC Sport. "You'd be filthy if that happened in a regular game of rugby league, never mind a cup final.

"I don't want it to sound like sour grapes and take anything away from Warrington as they were brilliant and the game was a great showcase for rugby league. But I still can't get my head round why he didn't go upstairs and check on a decision like that.

"It would have been a bit easier if we'd poked our noses in front. But it's a tough day for anybody chasing points late in the game on a day like that. It's a different game when you're having to come up with something. You're having to come up with plays, which is hard when everyone's out on their feet.

"The second try we had disallowed was more of a 50/50 call. The sort that go against you when it isn't your day.

"But while I'm disappointed to lose, I'm proud of my players. The better side won, which is all anyone could have asked for at the start of the day.

"We threw everything at them and made mistakes chasing the game in 30-degree heat. But it was rugby league at its best."

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