The Ladbrokes Challenge Cup is a rugby competition in England organized by the Rugby Football League since 1896-1897. The final of the cup is one of the premier events in world rugby and one of the most televised rugby events during the year. The song “Abide with Me” which is sung before the final game of the Challenge Cup has become a rugby league anthem.
The Challenge Cup features amateur, semi-professional and professional rugby teams from Canada, France, England, Wales, and Scotland. English clubs have been most successful in the competition, with the Wigan Warriors leading the cup in titles with 19.
The first Challenge Cup was held during the 1896-1897 season, with 52 teams entering the competition. The cup was interrupted only twice in his 100-year history – the first time was between 1915 and 1919, while the second time the Cup was put on pause for only a year during World War II (1939-40). The coveted Lance Todd Trophy awarded to the best player on the field in the final was introduced in 1946 when it was won by Billy Stott (Wakefield Trinity). The Challenge Cup grew steadily over the years, resulting in many sponsorships deals which made it all the more popular. Each final since 1945 has been held at Wembley Stadium due to the great interest from fans and the public.
The current Challenge Cup has 8 rounds before the final, with the teams being seeded and entering the Cup at different stages. The format alters a bit year by year, although it largely remains unchanged. The amateur teams such as Royal Navy, British Army, and Great Britain Police enter the Cup in the first round with professional teams entering it at different stages later. The semi-finals are held at neutral ground, while the final is always held at Wembley Stadium.
The prized Challenge Cup trophy is so important that the team that wins it must follow a certain code of practice. If not left in a trophy cabinet, it must remain with someone. It isn’t allowed to be taken outside unless for special events, and it once had its own seat on a plane on route to publicity photos.
The current champions of the Rugby Challenge Cup are Hull, who won against Wigan in the 2017 final. This year the trophy will get a new holder as Hull were defeated in the quarter-finals, leaving 4 teams in the running.
St Helens R.F.C. is an English rugby team based in Merseyside. St Helens competes in the Super League, Europe top-tier competition in rugby and the Challenge Cup as well. The club is one of the most successful clubs in the Cup with 12 trophies, with the last one coming in 2008.
On their way to the semi-finals this year, St Helens defeated the Castleford Tigers in the Sixth round and later faced defending champions Hull in the quarter-finals, defeating them with 25-22. The team has been drawn against the Catalans Dragons in the semi-final, who are outsiders for the 2018 Challenge Cup according to many bookmakers and experts.
When it comes to the odds, St Helens is the main favourite for the trophy. The Merseyside outfit is being given odds of 4/7 at Ole777 and Fun88, 4/6 at Genting Bet, and 2/3 at Energy Bet and LV Bet. This makes them absolute favourites, which is why the odds are unappealing. If you’ve been considering placing a bet on the winner of the 2018 Challenge Cup, wagering on St Helens won’t bring you much in return.
The Warrington Wolves are a professional rugby club coming from Warrington, England. They compete in the Super League and are the only club competing in all the seasons at the top flight. They’ve won 8 Challenge Cups in their history, becoming the fourth most successful team in the competition. They’ve even won the coveted ‘Double’ in 1953-1954, by winning the Championship and Challenge Cup as well.
The Wolves have a fierce rivalry with St Helens, Wigan, and Widnes. On their way to the semi-finals this year, they’ve utterly destroyed the Bradford Bulls (54-6) in the Fifth Round, the Toronto Wolfpack in the Sixth Round (66-10), and rivals Wigan Warriors in the quarter-final with a stunning result of 23-0. They’ve been drawn against the Leeds Rhinos in the semi-final and thanks to the dominance in this year’s Challenge Cup, fans of the Wolves are hopeful that their team will win another trophy, the first one since 2012.
When it comes to bookies, the Wolves are second on the list of favourites. Ole777 and Fun88 give Warrington odds of 59/20, while Genting Bet, LV Bet, and Energy Bet have them listed at 3/1. Although it looks like they’re a long way from the title, the odds are certainly enticing, and with the Wolves being in great form, they might surprise everyone and win the Cup this year.
The Rhinos are a professional rugby league club from Leeds that competes in the Super League, winning it a record eight times. The Rhinos also have 13 Challenge Cup trophies behind their name, making them the second most successful team in the competition. Additionally, the team has won 11 League championship and 3 World Club Challenge titles.
The Leeds Rhinos narrowly defeated the Widnes Vikings in the Sixth Round (20-23), while thrashing the Leigh Centurions in the quarter-finals. They’ve been drawn against the Wolves in the semi-final that will take place on August 5 in a match that’s sure to bring excitement.
The Rhinos have been given odds of 9/2 by Energy Bet and LV Bet, 5/1 at Genting Bet and 19/4 at Fun88 and Ole777. This means that although not heavy favourites for the trophy, the Rhinos definitely possess the quality of making a run for the trophy. At these odds, you should definitely consider them for the title. St Helens might be the favourite, but it’s not like the Challenge Cup hasn’t produced surprises in the past.
Coming from Perpignan, France, the Dragons are one of the youngest clubs in the competitions, having only been founded in 2000. They are the only team outside of Northern England in the Super League. In 2007, the Catalans Dragons became the first non-English team to reach the Challenge Cup final after defeating the Wigan Warriors on route to it. The lost the final match to St Helens, but they also managed to finish the season on the 10th place in the Super League, exceeding all expectations.
Understandably, bookies are giving the Dragons the lowest chances of winning the 2018 Challenge Cup. They’ve been drawn against St Helens in the semi-final, and most bookmakers don’t think the French team has what it takes to defeat the biggest favourite.
The Dragons have odds of 14/1 at Genting Bet, LV Bet, and Energy Bet and 13/1 at Fun88 and Ole777. This means they’re the complete outsiders for this year’s trophy, but with a little bit of luck, we think they can hold their ground against any team.