Challenge Cup Final 2009: A Photo Essay

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In the end, it wasn’t as close or as tight as I thought it would be. It certainly wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. Everything about the day was enjoyable, except for the second half when it became abundantly clear that the Huddersfield Giants simply didn’t have what it took to beat a Warrington Wolves side that was a defensive juggernaut on the day. The speed and swarm that Wire possessed in defense turned practically every pass the Giants made into a hospital pass. On top of that, Lee Briers and Michael Monaghan played a vital role in producing one of the Wolves’ most composed performances of the year, and with about twenty minutes to go it became quite clear that the Wolves were entering shutdown mode, a move they played almost to perfection. 

It was a frantic start to the game as Brett Hodgson’s kick was charged down by Louis Anderson, which led to Richie Mathers opening the scoring. From the stands it seemed like Louis had knocked on in the process of picking up the ball, but looking at the TV replay it seems it was either his toe or a funny bounce that made it look that way. The Giants hit back when Shaun Lunt finished off a rather nice team move, but only after he had been denied by the video ref in one of a few calls that the people I was sitting with in the stadium thought were dubious (and the replay ddin’t make think it was any better of a call either). 

Warrington replying with two quick tries to Michael Monaghan and Chris Hicks, followed by the second disallowed try that the Giants thought they had scored (David Hodson’s finish wiped off due to obstruction) seemed to kill off the game for me. From that point onwards Huddersfield fell apart. The second half in particular saw them drop an outrageous amount of ball in key positions early in the tackle count. It’s debatable how much this even mattered though because whenever the Giants did hold onto the ball, all they did was run sideways and pass to a stationary man. This made it easier for a Warrington side who had brought their A-game defensively anyway, and meant that the second half turned into a rather dour battle. Warrington had shown touches of invention and class in the first half but (understandably) resorted to a more conservative gameplan in the second half. Although Vinnie Anderson and David Hodgson both got on the scoresheet, the second half was clearly never going to turn into a shootout, and as it became clear that the Giants didn’t have what it took it undermined the drama somewhat.

Were Huddersfield affected by the debatable video ref calls? Maybe. If they were, then it’s their own fault they lost because they should have just got on with it. I was really disappointed by the Giants because they’ve been a top team all year, and for them to flop so hard on the biggest stage yet was disappointing. Even so, they’re still top contenders to reach Old Trafford at this stage, so hopefully for them they’ll learn from this experience. 

Conversely, Warrington were a revelation. I knew they could muscle up as well as anyone, and I knew they were capable of fantastic attacking play, but I never expected them to be so… solid. Apart from Lunt’s two scoring attempts, they never really looked fazed at all, and they followed up conceding with two quick-fire tries. Their defence was brutal and completely choked Hudderfield out of the game. Even if Warrington don’t make the playoffs (and at this stage it looks unlikely) they’ve still won a trophy, and definitely have the foundations to be a challenger next year.

Like for Friday’s game, I took some photos with my camera phone. In fact, I took a lot of photos. See them after the break, and admire the story that they create.

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Fans coming out of Wembley Park tube station. I’m still not sure how wise it is to have a massive staircase at a station that often has tens of thousands of people going through it at a time, but it does seem to create a more dramatic backdrop. 

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Things I never thought I would see at the Challenge Cup final: climate camp protestors trying to attract support. I suppose this is a compliment of sorts, showing that the final is a large enough event sit in front of the tube station and bother people on their way to the stadium.

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Things I definitely thought I would see at the final: distributors of novelty shit. 

“Get your piece of coloured cloth on a stick! Only five pounds!”

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The journey up Wembley Walk is simultaneously both really impressive (due to the size of the stadium and the sheer number of people that are there heading in the same direction) and really mundane (due to being through an industrial estate).

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The view from my seat. Not too bad, I thought.

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I think this was taken after Michael Monaghan’s try, based on where Chris Bridge is attempting to take the kick. 

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One of the things I did really like about our seats was that you could see plays developing. When you’re lower down, you often don’t notice the way gaps are forming in the defence. This was best seen during Lunt’s try and on Briers’ fantastic chip across the park for Chris Riley. This is not a photo of either of those moments, but it’s the only decent picture I have of the two sides in open play, and that counts for something, right?

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The Wembley Arch. I like it. One of the stadiums for the Football World Cup in South Africa next year is also having an arch, andthe architect bagged on the Wembley arch for not being symmetrical. Personally, I like the off-kilter look. It fits in with the swishness of the stadium.

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After the final whistle. Both teams congregate to consider what has just happened. I imagine it was a sombre gathering for the Giants. 

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Somewhere in this blur of a photo, Adrian Morley is holding aloft the Challenge Cup. I think he’s part of that white mass in the middle (I’ve noticed how the picture quality of this phone’s camera declines dramatically when the zoom is used). 

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The two sides of fandom. The Giants fans have to look on enviously, whilst the Warrington fans get a fun night of partying ahead of them. If they’re doing it in London, it’s probably an expensive night as well.

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Fans begin the Wembley Walk in reverse, generally a less satisfying experience than walking to the stadium (especially for this set of fans). 

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What does this even mean? How does it make any sense? These are the things you notice when queuing for the tube away from Wembley.

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No, this policeman isn’t freakishly tall, he’s just on a horse. Horses trouble me. There, I said it. They’re too big. I’m always worried of being crushed by one whenever I’m in the tube queue, even though there’s probably more chance of me winning the lottery.

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Fans head back home, either distraught, delighted or merely ambivalent about the day’s events. Note the cavemen at the top of the stairs. I think one of them told me I needed a shave, which I considered a bit rich considering he was DRESSED AS A FUCKING CAVEMAN IN PUBLIC!!! But I didn’t let it ruin a good day, which is the important thing.

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