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Challenge Cup Final: Top five attendances since 2010 as ticket sales trend towards huge 2024 crowd

Challenge Cup

One of the hottest topics of conversation in UK Rugby League right now is whether the Challenge Cup has lost its sparkle. Last weekends’ semi-finals attracted just over 20,000 fans, which is around 2,000 down on the previous year.

Although the games were generally well viewed on the BBC, across the board, attendances at Challenge games seem to be on the decline.

However, Warrington Wolves have reported encouraging sales. Two weeks out from the Wembley showcase, the club announced that they have sold more than 10,000 tickets and requested a further allocation in the northeast corner of the stadium.

This inspired us to look back at the top five highest Challenge Cup final attendances since 2010.

1) 2010: Warrington Wolves 30-6 Leeds Rhinos –  85,217

Warrington Wolves Challenge Cup

Credit: Imago Images

The 2010 final attracted a bumper crowd, which remains the highest Challenge Cup final attendance of the Super League. Warrington ran out comfortable winners against Leeds Rhinos which was beginning to slip from its peak.

Leeds had dominated Super League in the years building up to the final, however, the Challenge Cup had thus far eluded the club’s Golden Generation. Having won the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Grand Finals, Leeds were hoping to break their Wembley curse.

However, an inspired performance from Lee Briers and a Chris Hicks hat-trick meant that the Wolves ran out comfortable winners. Briers took home the Lance Todd trophy and Wire coach, Tony Smith, got one over on his previous employers.

14 years on, a crowd of over 80,000 feels a long way off.

2) 2015: Leeds Rhinos 50-0 Hull KR – 80,140

Tom Briscoe Leeds Rhinos Challenge cup

Credit: Imago Images

Cup finals always lead to contrasting emotions, as the victors revel in their success and the losers cry salt tears. However, there can be few finals where the contrast was as large as the 2015 Challenge Cup final.

80,140 fans watched a rampant Rhinos side tear apart the Robins, in the most one-sided Challenge Cup final in history. 50 points remains the largest margin of victory in a Challenge Cup final.

The Rhinos were on their way to securing a famous treble. They secured victory thanks to a famous five tries from Tom Briscoe. As the injured Jamie Jones-Buchanan hoisted the trophy aloft with Kevin Sinfield, there were very few KR fans left in the stadium.

However, the official attendance of 80,140 remains a near-high watermark, with only the 2010, 2008 and 2007 finals surpassing it in the Super League era.

3) 2012: Warrington Wolves 35-18 Leeds Rhinos – 79,180

Warrington Wolves

Credit: Imago Images

Another year, another high attendance for a Warrington versus Leeds final, which ended with the Wolves lifting the trophy underneath the Wembley arch.

Warrington full-back, Brett Hodgson, was the architect of the Rhinos’ downfall on this occasion. After a tight first half, the Wolves blew the Rhinos away in the second period, thanks to an inspired display from Hodgson, who won man of the match, having scored 14 points, including a try.

Leeds would eventually win at Wembley in 2014. Warrington have remained frequent visitors to London in the intervening years. They will be hoping for another successful visit this year.

4) 2011: Wigan Warriors 28-18 Leeds Rhinos – 78,482

Wigan Warriors

Credit: Imago Images

Apologies to any Leeds Rhinos fans reading this run down, as this list may bring bad memories. 2011 saw another Rhinos defeat at Wembley. This time, the defeat came at the hands of the Wigan Warriors, who registered a comfortable 28-18 win.

The final was illuminated by a moment of brilliance from Joel Tomkins, who briefly turned into prime Ellery Hanley, scoring from deep inside his own half. Jeff Lima won man of the match, scoring two tries on the way to a famous victory.

78,842 fans watched the Cherry and Whites win the cup. However, the Rhinos would have their moment, winning the Super League Grand Final against St Helens later in the year.

5) 2013: Wigan Warriors 16-0 Hull FC – 78,137

Challenge Cup

Credit: Imago Images

The second victory for Wigan in the list, and the second Hull side to fail to score in a Wembley final. Victory in the final was Wigan’s 19th Challenge Cup final win, with their first coming in the 1923/24 season.

78,137 fans watched a tight game, which was not settled until Sam Tomkins scored the final try of the game in the 80th minute. Until then, only Iain Thornley’s 21st-minute try, and three goals from Pat Richards had separated the sides.

Hull would eventually lift the Challenge Cup in 2017, gaining their revenge over the Warriors in the final. Wigan now have a record of 21 victories in Challenge Cup finals. They will be hoping a sizeable crowd can watch them make it 22 wins in two weeks’ time.

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