Wigan beat Warrington to win Challenge Cup

Wigan celebrate their second try

Betfred Challenge Cup final

Warrington (2) 8

Tries: Dufty Goals: Thewlis 2

Wigan (12) 18

Tries: Eckersley, French, Farrell Goals: Smith 3

Bevan French gave a half-back performance the late Rob Burrow would have been proud of as Wigan Warriors beat Warrington Wolves at Wembley to win the Challenge Cup.

Man-of-the-match French made the first of Wigan's three tries for Zach Eckersley, before scoring a brilliant second as the Warriors extended their dominion over the Wire in big finals.

Wigan skipper Liam Farrell - a cup winner in 2011, 2013 and 2022 - then iced the latest cherry and white cake with his first try in a final.

Matt Dufty caused mild flutters by pulling a try back a quarter of an hour from time, but Wigan saw it through for only their third Wembley win in almost three decades.

For all that they achieved in that amazing run of eight straight Wembley Challenge Cup wins from 1988 to 1995, Wigan had only twice won at the home of English football since - in 2011 and 2013 - as their two other cup wins came in Edinburgh (2002) and Tottenham (2022).

Matt Peet's side now hold all four major honours in the League Leaders' Shield, the Super League title, the World Club Challenge and this record-extending 21st Challenge Cup triumph too.

On a day when English rugby combined to remember one of the true greats in Burrow, it was only fitting, however, that the revered Lance Todd Trophy should go to a darting half-back like Wigan's star Australian French.

The 64,845 crowd at Wembley - the biggest for a Challenge Cup final since 2017 - performed an impeccably observed minute's silence prior to kick-off, and again seven minutes into the match in honour of the shirt the Leeds Rhinos legend wore.

But, by then the game had got off to the most dramatic of starts when referee Chris Kendall issued two yellow cards inside the first three minutes - both of them harsh.

Wire old boy Mike Cooper was first to go in only the second minute for a high challenge as he lost his balance. And, when Dufty did similar, Kendall was forced to whip his card out again to balance things up.

It was back to 13 a side again when Josh Thewlis put Wire ahead with a penalty kick before a touch of French class opened up Wire for the game's opening try.

The Aussie coolly waited before placing his grubber kick to perfection for Eckersley, the replacement for the banned Adam Keighran, to touch down - and Harry Smith duly kicked the first of his three conversions.

Then, only six minutes later, with Wigan camped down at the Wire end after a bad spill by Matty Ashton, they were in again - this time a solo effort from French as he powered to the line and, although challenged, had the presence of mind to touch down whilst facing backwards.

His next finish right on half-time was even more sensational, as he somehow snaked out his arm to score after wriggling over.

But it was ruled 'NO TRY' - rightly as it turned out as his elbow had already hit the floor and it was clearly a double movement. However, it was actually ruled out for not getting a proper connection in grounding, which he seemed to have done.

It took until almost midway through the second half before Wigan scored again - with what seemed to be a match-clinching third try, when Farrell raced clear to score one of his trademark breakaway tries down the left, wriggling over acrobatically to complete the score.

Warrington briefly had hope when Dufty cut inside to score 15 minutes later.

Another try then would have made it interesting, but Wire never got close again – and the Warriors clinched their third cup win in three years.

Wire made to suffer cup final heartbreak - again

Warrington and Wigan had only ever met once in a Challenge Cup final before – back in 1990, in the third leg of Wigan’s imperious eight year-Wembley run.

But Wire had also been beaten three times by Wigan in three Old Trafford Grand Finals in 2013, a second time in 2016 and then again in 2018.

They were at least first and last on the scoreboard this time, Thewlis putting the men in primrose and blue ahead with his early penalty – and the winger also kicked the goal when Dufty went over for his late try.

But, once Wigan had gone in front, Wire never looked likely to turn it round as they failed to deal with the full extent of French’s fancy footwork and hand artistry.

It was a particular disappointment for Wigan old boys George Williams and Sam Powell, who came off the bench, and coach Sam Burgess.

Having failed to win this trophy as a player in his three years with Bradford Bulls before heading to Australia, he would have atoned by landing a trophy in his first season back in England as a coach. And, of course, with Wire sitting handily placed in Super League, just two points behind second-placed Wigan he still can.

Wigan Warriors captain Liam Farrell told BBC Sport:

"There's only a couple of teams that have ever held on to all four trophies, so it's a very big achievement for ourselves. We are in a very good place.

"The club's iconic when it comes to the Challenge Cup - and we will just keep on doing that. We will celebrate this but it's back to business after that.

"When I was a young lad, it was all about winning that first trophy. I had a bit of success when I was younger but now with this group of players - with the youth, a great blend of talent and some grit in there as well - to go out there and lead those 17 players is a big thing for me.

"And it's down to Matty Peet. He brought the culture right back down to earth where it should be."

Warrington head coach Sam Burgess told BBC Sport:

"This is not a setback for us. It's a step forward. We had 12 players out there who had never played in a final before.

"I'm disappointed for the players. We put a lot of effort into getting here. But we just didn't get our game going.

"The occasion probably got to us a tiny bit. By the time we got into it, it was a bit too late.

"Next time we get there, we'll have 12 players with experience who have felt that emotion and pressure. We'll only be better for that."

Warrington: Dufty; Thewlis, King, Tai, Ashton; Williams, Drinkwater; Harrison, Walker, Vaughan, Nicholson, Fitzgibbon, Currie.

Interchanges: Bullock, Musgrove, Crowther, Powell.

Sin-bin: Dufty (3).

Wigan: Field, Miski, Eckersley, Wardle, Marshall; French, Smith; Cooper, O'Neill, Thompson, Nsemba, Farrell, Ellis.

Interchanges: Havard, Byrne, Mago, Leeming.

Sin-bin: Cooper (2).

Referee: Chris Kendall.