Throwback Thursday: 1998 Challenge Cup final, Sheffield shock Wigan

2 May 1998: The Sheffield Eagles celebrate their victory after the Silk Cut Challenge Cup final against Wigan Warriors at Wembley Stadium in London. Sheffield won the match 17-8. Mandatory Credit: Alex Livesey/Allsport

The 20th anniversary of one of the most famous Challenge Cup upsets is soon approaching.

Rewind a couple of decades to May 1998 as Sheffield Eagles shocked the rugby league world with a 17-8 victory over a dominant Wigan Warriors side.

To set the scene, Wigan had won nine of the last 13 Challenge Cup finals, seven of the previous nine First Division championships and secured up an incredible 16 trophies in just eight seasons.

Meanwhile, Sheffield were making their debut appearance in the Challenge Cup final, having never previously been further than the fifth-round stage of the competition and having only been established 14 years ago.

As they came up against some of the generation’s greats, in Jason Robinson, Andy Farrell and Kris Radlinksi, the bookmakers priced a Sheffield win at 16/1. 

Despite what the narrow scoreline may suggest, Sheffield dominated proceedings at Wembley and their historic triumph was thoroughly deserved.

After just five minutes, Nick Pinkey grounded a bomb to the corner from Mark Aston, the Lance Todd trophy winner on that afternoon and the now Eagles coach.

On the other flank, Matt Crowther dived over before a late Aston drop-goal saw the Eagles lead 11-2 at the break.

Darren Turner extended the lead in the second half before Mark Bell scored Wigan’s only try of the afternoon, but Sheffield saw out their most famous victory and pulled off an unbelievable upset.

“I’m very proud that I played in a Challenge Cup final at Wembley,” Aston told LoveRugbyLeague in 2013. “Not many players can have the honour of saying that, but I can.

“To actually win the final was a dream come true. The camaraderie and team spirit of our side was too much for the talent of the Wigan side, and it showed that you can do anything if you work hard enough.”

Two years later, Wigan won the League Leaders Shield whilst financial problems forced a short-lived merger between Sheffield and Huddersfield, who finished bottom of Super League in 2000, losing 24 of 28 regular season matches.

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