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Wigan's Wembley win down to emotion and motivation

In what will go down in history as 'The Rob Burrow Final', Wigan Warriors' record-extending 21st Challenge Cup triumph was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to honour a rugby league legend.

But coach Matt Peet says the 18-8 win over Warrington - 100 years on from their very first triumph in the competition - was also motivated by the club's sheer love and habit of winning trophies.

In terms of pure emotion, it was entirely fitting their main hero on the day should be man of the match Bevan French, who had good cause to recall his win with Wigan at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in May 2022 - just four months after his own mother passed away, like Burrow, from motor neurone disease (MND).

"The first trophy I won when I came back to England after she passed away was the Challenge Cup," said French, the latest in a long, illustrious line of Lance Todd Trophy winners. "So it makes this a bit more special.

"With Rob obviously being such a legend, it has connected to me a bit emotionally.

"Especially the fact that my mum passed away from it."

Beaten Warrington coach Sam Burgess also lost his father Mark to MND, while the final was emotional too for winger Liam Marshall, who lost his mother in February, just a day after his baby daughter was born.

"I'm sure it stirred up emotions for Bevan, for Liam Marshall and for Sam Burgess," added Peet.

"We all love Rob Burrow and his family. It's been an emotional week because Rob was such a special character, but it stirs up emotions for everyone.

"It was always going to be a special final in its own right for whichever team won."

World Club Challenge holders Wigan, who also won the Super League Leaders' Shield and the Grand Final in 2023, are now only the third team in the modern era to hold all four major trophies at the same time since the annual clash between the English and Australian title winners was first created in 1976 - following Bradford Bulls in 2004 and St Helens in 2007.

But Peet admitted it took great mental strength to recover from a nightmare start when Wigan's former Warrington favourite - and lifelong Wire fan - Mike Cooper became the recipient of Wembley's earliest yellow card in only the second minute.

Within a minute the numbers were evened up, and it was back to 13-a-side again by the time Australian French created the game's opening try for young winger Zach Eckersley - only playing because of the suspended Adam Keighran's own disciplinary indiscretion a week earlier.

When French, 28, then scored the second try himself just six minutes later, Wigan were into a two-score lead which they never looked like surrendering, once Liam Farrell had claimed the third try, even after a too little too late Wire rally.

"It's about trusting each other and coping with the ebbs and flows," said Peet. "The strength of this group is their ability to deal with whatever comes along.

"When things are against them they almost seem to rise to the challenge.

"Our motivation was achieving something that is not unprecedented but is particularly special, putting that fourth trophy in the cabinet.

"This group of players are motivated by what they can achieve and the memories they can make together."

Peet also had special praise for his captain Farrell, who capped a fourth Challenge Cup winner's medal at the age of 33 - and more glory for the famous Farrell rugby family - with a typical solo burst for his first try in a Wembley final.

"Sometimes Liam's achievements can go noticed," added Peet.

"There have been some good back-rowers in Super League over the last 10 or 15 years but, in terms of success and playing in big games, Faz takes some beating."

Wigan - the rugby league club for all seasons

Wigan's 21st Challenge Cup triumph was their 18th at Wembley, although only their third at the new rebuilt stadium after it reopened following a seven-year gap in 2007.

They won the first of them 100 years ago in Rochdale, when they beat Oldham 21-4 at the Athletic Grounds, the former home of Rochdale Hornets.

Wigan were then also the first Wembley Challenge Cup winners when they beat Dewsbury 13-2 in 1929 - six years after the old Empire Stadium had opened.

The Warriors also lifted the 2002 trophy in Edinburgh at Murrayfield, after the old Wembley had been bulldozed for redevelopment. And, 20 years later, they also won it at Tottenham as Wembley was unavailable.

But another first for this club's iconic connection with the Challenge Cup was to become the first to win it in the month of June.

They have lifted the trophy 10 times in May, eight times in April - including six of the phenomenal record eight straight wins between 1988 and 1995 - and twice in August, with their two previous successes at the new Wembley in 2011 and 2013.

Now, having won the the league title in September, the Grand Final in October and the World Club Challenge in February, showing up on rugby league's biggest stage in June has proved just what a club for all seasons they are.