The last 7 losers of the Challenge Cup final-and what happened to them next

Louis Chapman Coombe
Hull KR, St Helens, Warrington Wolves

From left to right: Hull KR (2023), St Helens (2019) & Warrington Wolves (2018) players all pictured following Challenge Cup final defeats

The Challenge Cup is one of the most historic trophies in British sport, and the winners instantly become immortalised in rugby league legend. 

But what comes of those teams who lose in the final, and what do Warrington Wolves have to fear – or look forward to – following their Wembley defeat to Wigan Warriors on Saturday?

Recovering from the emotions of a Challenge Cup final defeat can either make or break teams, so we’ve had a scan across the past seven years to find out what happened to the teams in both the remainder of the year they lost the final in, and what happened the following campaign too…

RELATED: Sam Burgess makes Warrington Wolves vow following Challenge Cup final defeat

2023: Hull KR

Hull KR, Challenge Cup final 2023
Hull KR players & head coach Willie Peters (left) appear dejected as they watch Leigh Leopards lift the Challenge Cup in 2023

The Robins have had a rapid rise since Willie Peters came in. They reached the Challenge Cup final – losing in golden point extra time to Leigh Leopards – and made it to the Super League play-off semi-final too in 2023, before bowing out against eventual champions Wigan.

They have only kicked on from here though, and they currently sit third in the league having exited this year’s Challenge Cup at the semi-final stage to winners Wigan. Can KR go one better than last year in the play-offs?

2022: Huddersfield Giants

2022 was a positive year for Ian Watson’s side, making a Challenge Cup final – in which Wigan beat them late on – and also finishing third in Super League, losing out to Salford Red Devils in the play-offs. Their performance that season certainly left many expecting big things, but unfortunately they didn’t live up to expectation.

The Giants were plagued with inconsistencies in 2023, ending with a lowly ninth-place finish, and were dumped out of the cup in the sixth round.

POWER RANKINGS: Challenge Cup final losers Warrington Wolves sink on LoveRugbyLeague‘s ladder

2021: Castleford Tigers

Castleford Tigers
Castleford Tigers celebrate a try in the 2021 Challenge Cup final

Cas put up a good fight in 2021, but fell short at the final hurdle in the Challenge Cup with St Helens their conquerors at Wembley. The Tigers then narrowly missed out on a top six finish, with head coach Daryl Powell departing for Warrington at the end of the season.

Expectations were fairly high when Lee Radford took over in 2022, but the Fords again narrowly missed out on the play-offs, and were knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup, too.

2020: Salford Red Devils

A Luke Gale drop-goal shattered Salford hearts in the 2020 Challenge Cup final, with Leeds ending up 17-16 winners at an empty Wembley during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Red Devils ended up ninth in Super League that year.

The following campaign then saw Richard Marshall’s side end up 11th having won just seven league games, and they were knocked out of the Challenge Cup by another drop-goal – this time from the boot of Castleford’s Gareth O’Brien at the quarter-final stage. Paul Rowley then replaced Marshall ahead of 2022.

RELATED: 2025 Challenge Cup finals day – Date, Venue & Ticket information revealed by the RFL

2019: St Helens

St Helens celebrate a try in the 2019 Challenge Cup final

Saints were beaten by Warrington at Wembley in 2019, but that season was the beginning of their reign of dominance in British rugby league. They would go on to win the Grand Final later that year, beating Salford at Old Trafford.

And come 2020, they repeated the feat – unforgettably beating Wigan at the MKM Stadium in the Grand Final courtesy of Jack Welsby’s try after the hooter. Wire beat them in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals in 2020.

2018: Warrington Wolves

Warrington reached the Challenge Cup final and Grand Final in 2018, losing them both. Catalans Dragons were their conquerors at Wembley, with Wigan getting the better of them at Old Trafford.

2019 however did see a more successful return to Wembley with victory against Saints in the Challenge Cup final. After last weekend’s defeat under the arch to Wigan, that remains the Wolves’ most recent major honour. Wire fell at the first hurdle in the Super League play-offs in 2019, beaten by Castleford.

LRL RECOMMENDS: Wigan Warriors, St Helens & Wakefield Trinity stars in LoveRugbyLeague‘s Team of the Week from Challenge Cup finals day

2017: Wigan Warriors

Wigan Warriors 2017
Wigan Warriors’ Oliver Gildart (left) & Joe Burgess (right) dejected on the Wembley field following their 2017 Challenge Cup final defeat to Hull FC

Wigan hadn’t won the Challenge Cup at Wembley since 2013 heading into Saturday’s clash with Warrington, with their last visit to the national stadium in 2017 ending in defeat to Hull FC. A few months later, the Warriors scraped into the Super 8s but then couldn’t make the top four, so missed out on the Super League play-off semi-finals.

Shaun Wane’s side lost out in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals the following year to Warrington, but got the perfect revenge with victory against the same opponents at Old Trafford in the 2018 Grand Final.