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It's heaven and Hull as Wembley woes finally come to an end

Billy Weir

Published 01/09/2016

One of my favourite sporting events of the year, the rugby league Challenge Cup final, took to BBC1 on Saturday as the Warrington Wolves took on the FCs of Hull.

It was a return to real life for presenter Mark Chapman who had spent most of the past month by Copacabana Beach for the Olympics and like sand in the bottom of your gutties, he just couldn't shake it off.

"Over the last few weeks we've been enjoying the achievements of our Olympians, and our rugby league players follow the same principles," he began.

Faster, stronger and higher they may be but there was a feeling that some in attendance would rather have been elsewhere too, Jonathan Davies, standing outside Wembley, suggesting it was "the power of the Hull pack against the X Factor of the Warrington players".

They were far too late for the audition stages for the return of Saturday night's big show but the final had a great back story with Hull having never won at Wembley.

Davies wasn't to be swayed from his mission, repeating that "Hull are the power and maybe Warrington have the X Factor" and it was fitting then that Aled Jones and a choir of fans took to the pitch for a sing-song before the start.

"They don't want to leave the Wembley turf and you can understand that, but they're going to have to otherwise they're going to be in the middle of a stampede," added Chapman, but thankfully they lived to sing another day, probably on the X Factor next week.

Onto the match at last and just before the off, commentator Dave Woods told us that the referee was a part-timer, his day job being an engineer at Sellafield, so obviously the players didn't want to have any fall-outs with him.

From singing, Davies switched codes, a gritty opening quarter with the two teams knocking lumps out of each other prompting him to say it was "like a game of chess" but that didn't last long as at the break Wolves' Aussie player Kurt Gidley explained that it was an "arm wrestle" with his side 6-0 to the good and Chapman was clearly worried that the uninitiated would turn off in their droves.

"For those people who are with us for the one game a year, how do you sell this as a game of rugby league?" he asked pundit Brian Noble.

"You should watch this as a gladiatorial tussle in the Coliseum and they are belting the (almost a naughty word alert) err, living daylights, out of each other," he replied.

"That would have kept them watching if you'd let a cheeky one out there," snorted Chapman but it was fine, no one was leaving this enthralling tussle, apart from giddy Gidley, who should have stuck to the arm wrestling as he missed two kicks, was then clattered and taken off with his face in tatters.

By that stage the FCs had fought back and after Jamie Shaul scuttled over to score, Marc Sneyd kicked over to end all those years of hurt. It's enough to make you break into song and Chapman obliged...

"Ol' Blue Eyes is going to play us out but the Challenge Cup is adorned in black and white," he said as I've Got You Under My Skin began. Still, at least we know what Davies will be singing on X Factor's Cardiff auditions.

Belfast Telegraph

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