Last night’s Challenge Cup quarter final was a major disappointment. There were those of us who hoped Widnes could cause an unlikely upset (an upset which may, no disrespect to London, have set up a Widnes v Warrington cup final) and those of us who simply hoped that Widnes would raise their game to provide a competitive encounter with Wigan.
All such hopes were frustrated as the Vikings failed to compete. Wigan were gifted points – Josh Charnley scored what might be the easiest hat-trick of his career – and eased to their 48-4 victory.
The other quarter finals were similarly disappointing. Huddersfield’s lacklustre performance at Warrington belied their league form and position – one place above the Wolves in second – and failed to provide a competitive game. While many had hoped to see an upset on Friday night, London overcame Sheffield in a scrappy encounter, and while I missed Saturday’s game between Hull and les Catalans Dragons, it was apparently another scrappy affair which failed to show rugby league at its best.
When Chris Irvine from The Times opined that he “can’t remember a more dismal set of Challenge Cup quarter-finals” he seemed to speak for many rugby league supporters – so much so that the call has gone out (again) to scrap the Challenge Cup and consign the famous old competition to the history books.
The logic of this position is evident. If the Challenge Cup fails to provide top-quality fixtures then it really needs to be done away with. The one-sided games, the mistake-ridden games and the below-form games – none of these would occur in the Challenge Cup if there was no Challenge Cup. In the words of one supporter: “in all honesty this CC competition is doing far more harm than good for the Game of Rugby League and I am more certain than ever that it has by far surpassed it’s sell-by date and should be taken from the shelves”.
Yet those who have called for the end of the Challenge Cup have failed to realise that such games occur not only in the cup, but in Super League as well. In fact they occur throughout rugby league, whenever and wherever it is played. The only logical solution then is to end rugby league.
Think about it. One-sided games? Just this past month we saw Huddersfield beat the Catalans 60-16, on live television no less! St Helens beat Salford 52-10 just the week before that and – the clinching argument – Warrington beat London 82-10. Then there’s mistake-ridden games. Look no further than Wakefield v Widnes a week ago, a game which contained many knock-ons and missed tackles. But the most shocking thing is that these games took place, not in the Challenge Cup, but in Super League.
People have longed argued that one-sided games between Super League sides and lower-league opposition are a reason to get rid of the Challenge Cup. When Bradford put seventy points on Rochdale Hornets and Salford eighty on Gloucestershire All Golds (and you simultaneously ignore that Batley nearly upset Huddersfield and until Friday evening we all thought Sheffield might beat London) the logic of this position is undeniable.
Yet, it needs to be remembered that although Warrington and Wigan comprehensively beat Huddersfield and Widnes, these clubs are all – and this is important – in the same division. So while on the face of it scrapping the Challenge Cup seems the ideal solution, what’s to prevent this sort of thing happening in Super League?
The only viable option then is to bring rugby league to an end. If one-sided, mistake-ridden and below-par games in a competition should spell the end for that competition, then one-sided, mistake-ridden and below-par games in a sport should logically spell the end of that sport. The only downside though is that many of the game’s “supporters” might have to find something else to spend their days whining about.
Keep Your Eye On … rugby union, or soccer, or NFL, or Aussie Rules, or Gaelic football – because rugby league clearly isn’t worth bothering with