In 1896, the fledgling rugby league in England launched a knockout cup competition for its clubs.
Nearly 115 years later the tournament has expanded dramatically, but the prize remains the same and Challenge Cup betting is as keen as ever.
Teams from England, Wales, Scotland, Wales, France and now even Russia take their chance of final glory. The tournament is one of the highlights of the season, and rugby betting in the early stages can be as much about the spread of points rather than individual results as the game’s minnows from the UK and beyond enjoy their distant dreams of a grand day out at Wembley.
One well-known online bookmaker summed the sense of excitement up when he said: “It’s the day out at Wembley when north meets south, and the final really is a grand day out. Rugby betting is normally centred on results, of course, but we are seeing an increasing number of bets of a wide variety of markets, including points scored, first try-scorer and number of drop goals.
“It is often worth using a free bet to look beyond the traditional Challenge Cup betting markets, where the adventurous predictor of betting outcomes might look at the odds against the number of players sin-binned for example. These games, whatever stage they’re played, are hard-fought affairs and offer wide scope in rugby betting.”
Challenge cup betting, of course, focuses on rugby league’s powerhouse teams drawn from the Superleague.
Warrington Wolves are the holders of the trophy and should always feature highly in on your rugby league Challenge cup betting slip.
It is an eight month long competition that starts out featuring many grassroots clubs and climaxes with a spectacular final in London which not only attracts fans from both competing finalists but the whole Rugby League community.
Since the first final in 1897, when Batley beat St Helens 10-3 in front of nearly 13,500 people in Leeds, the competition has grown from strength to strength. It’s rich tradition, where underdogs tend to over-perform, means that it’s worth using one of the many free bets available from online bookmakers to pick one of the lesser lights of the Superleague for a bet.
In 1929 the final was played at Wembley Stadium for the first time in an effort to grow the appeal of the sport outside of the traditional northern UK heartland. A crowd of 41,500 turned up for the first London final and witness Wigan claim their second cup victory after a 13-2 victory against Dewsbury.
Wigan are the cup’s most successful side, lifting the famous silver trophy more times than any other club, due in part to their record eight consecutive cup final victories between 1988 and 1995, a feat that remains one of UK sport’s most phenomenal runs.
Despite this success, Wigan were also victims of one of the competition’s unlikeliest results when, in 1998, they were beaten by an unfancied Sheffield Eagles side, proof if ever needed Challenge Cup betting can always cause an upset.
The odds are stacked against the lesser teams, but there is romance to be had in the cup, and in Challenge Cup betting.
In 2007 the final returned to Wembley having gone on the road to Murrayfield, the Millennium Stadium and Twickenham for seven years while the stadium was being redeveloped. Although St Helens were resounding winners under the new Wembley arch, it was memorable for the fact their opponents, the Catalans Dragons, were the first French team to reach the final in the competition’s history – further proof of the growing appeal of the sport and evidence of the appeal of rugby league Challenge cup betting.
Every year, this traditionally northern game widens its appeal and more people become interested in rugby league Challenge Cup betting. From its deep roots in the north of England, the sport is now a global brand with matches shown live across a range of television and internet outlets.
Clubs who want to win the Challenge must go through a tough, physical run seven matches to get there, with Superleague clubs only entering the latter stages. Yet despite the romance, the odds are there will be two top-flight teams in the final. It follows that searching for teams with a cup tradition can pay dividends when undertaking rugby league Challenge cup betting.
St Helens have been one of the powers of the cup game – and constant favourites for the cup having won three of the past four tournaments. Not surprisingly, they’re always fancied in Challenge cup betting.
Leeds Rhinos have been the dominant Superleague team in recent years, but have not won the knockout competition since 1999 as a succession of less fancied teams have produced shock results. Given the inherent value to be had by those prepared to bet against the majority of predictions, this could be their year.