Too close to call was the opinion of most pundits as the two sides, neck and neck in the Super League, Wigan Warriors and Huddersfield Giants went head-to-head at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the Challenge Cup Final
The two sides last met in a Challenge Cup final in the 1919-20 season when it was Huddersfield who emerged as 21-10 victors in a game played in front of 14,000 fans at Headingley in Leeds. Wigan have lifted the trophy on nineteen occasions, Huddersfield seven times, Wigan´s last win in 2013 but there would be few from West Yorkshire who had witnessed a Huddersfield cup win as they hadn´t lifted the trophy for sixty-nine years.
The bookies had made the Warriors slight favourites but most in the stadium had no idea what the next eighty minutes would deliver.
Huddersfield got the 121st Challenge Cup final underway as they kicked to Wigan but with just under a minute on the clock the Warriors were penalised for an obstruction and Tui Lolohea kicked the penalty from thirty metres to start the scoreboard ticking.
The Giants were looking the stronger side early on but some tremendous last ditch Wigan defence kept them at bay until the sixteenth minute when Ricky Leutele finally found some space to run the angle and stretch to ground five metres in from the left corner flag. Lolohea hit the near post with his conversion attempt, the Giants 6-0 ahead.
On twenty-four the Giants were forced to dropout under their own sticks after Lolohea was pushed back into his own in-goal and on the second tackle after the restart a deft pass from Morgan Smithies found Harry Smith to go the last ten metres and dot the ball down. Smith added the conversion to level the scores, thirteen minutes from the interval.
A jinking run from Chris McQueen on thirty-three, twice throwing the dummy to Jermain McGillvary, saw the second rower go over from ten metres out. Lolohea was again off target with the boot as the Giants spurned another two potential points.
Two minutes after the restart a moment of Bevan French magic, speeding down the right wing, before he found Jai Field inside in support to take the pass and go over from ten metres. Smith added the conversion and the Warriors hit the front for the first time in the game.
A forty-ninth minute Lolohea penalty went under the cross bar as the Giants looked to draw level again, an opportunity missed as the kicker´s accuracy dropped to twenty-five percent.
A Leutele break was rewarded with a penalty on fifty-six after a high tackle and on the third play McGillvary squeezed over in the right corner to slam the ball down one-handed. Once again, the kick was missed, the Giants back into a two-point lead.
With seven minutes remaining Field broke down the left wing and looked to be clear before a brilliant last-ditch tackle from Lolohea forced him to throw the ball inside and gift the ball to the Giants. Cade Cust picked up a serious looking wrist injury in the resulting melee as the side scrapped for the loose ball.
Four minutes remained when Liam Marshall collected a Smith grubber to the corner to dive over the line for the winning try to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Smith couldn´t add the conversion but the Warriors had a two point lead.
It was a edgy and nervy cup final with errors from both sides, but there was no doubting the dedication from both squads and their desire to win and pick up the trophy. Wigan had the staying power to overcome the Huddersfield onslaught and win the game thanks to couple of moments of genius from French and Smith. The seven decades of drought continue for the Giants, Wigan get their name on the famous trophy for the twentieth time.
McQueen was announced as the Lance Todd winner on the losing side and the accolade was scant consolation for the loss.
Huddersfield Giants: Lolohea (G), McGillvary (T), Cudjoe, Leutele (T), Senior I, Cogger, Russell, Hill, Levi, Wilson, McQueen (T), Jones, Yates. Subs: English, Greenwood, Golding, Trout.
Wigan Warriors: Field (T), French, Thornley, Bibby, Marshall (T), Cust, Smith (T, 2G), Singleton, O´Neill, Byrne, Farrell, Bateman, Smithies. Subs: Leuluai, Mago, Ellis, Havard.
Score Progression: 2-0, 6-0, 6-4, 6-6, 10-6, : HT : 10-10, 10-12, 14-12, 14-16 : FT.
Lead Exchange: Huddersfield – Square – Huddersfield – Square – Wigan – Huddersfield - Wigan.
Referee: James Child.