Huddersfield 16-25 Warrington

Eight years ago Lee Briers‘ brother, Brian, died tragically. Eight years later, Briers’ helped his beloved Warrington Wolves lift the Carnegie Challenge Cup trophy for the first time in 35 years.

After the talismanic Welshman helped secure the Wolves place in the final beating Wigan in the semi-final on what would have been his late brother’s 43rd birthday, it seemed like fate that Briers and the Wolves were destined to make the Challenge Cup Final this year. Not only destined to make it though, but to emerge victorious and win the famous trophy for the first time since 1974 after a gruelling eighty minute duel with an equally determined Huddersfield side.

Richie Mathers opened the scoring for Tony Smith’s men – lifting a trophy in his first season after returning to club coaching – after just seventy seconds, Vinnie Anderson the main provider after charged down Luke Robinson‘s kick to camp Warrington on the Giants’ line. Huddersfield scrambled back to prevent the try for a couple of tackles, but they could not stop the full-back Mathers from diving over under the posts.

The Giants soon hit back though, pressurising the Wolves with back-to-back sets and looked to have equalled matters when Shaun Lunt‘s attempt from dummy-half culminated in the former Workington player forcing the ball over the line. However, video referee Phil Bentham deemed the attempt to be a double movement and the effort was chalked off.

But Lunt was not to be denied minutes later, supporting a break from Brett Hodgson to dive over and get Huddersfield up-and-running.

Warrington were quickly stung by that score and led by the guidance of Michael Monaghan – only the third Australian to lift the Lance Todd Trophy after an enthralling and dominant performance – and Lee Briers, gained momentum and scored two quick tries to rock Huddersfield and put the Wolves into a commanding position.

Monaghan took advantage of some lackadaisical defence to force his way over after 12 minutes before Briers conducted a superb sweeping passing movement that enabled Chris Hicks to score in the corner.

Huddersfield temporarily stopped the rot as the game reached a stalemate and several attempts to break the strong Warrington resilience failed.

But their pressure finally did pay dividends in the closing stages of the first-half, Brett Hodgson diving over after the ball was kept alive beautifully between Jamahl Lolesi and winger Leroy Cudjoe.

The second half continued in a similar vein to the first: scrappy, messy and a titanic battle in both defence and attack. Bone shuddering tackles hit Eorl Crabtree and Richie Mathers alike, breaks from both sides were ended by superb tracking back.

Warrington took first blood, although it took twenty vital, energy-sapping minutes to do so, Monaghan once more the architect throwing an offload out to loose-forward come stand-off for the day, Vinnie Anderson, to scythe through the Giants’ defence.

Huddersfield did gain some consolation with minutes remaining, David Hodgson scoring in the corner but it was not enough to ruin the Wolves’ day and their victory was sealed with a trademark Briers drop-goal.

 

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