Challenge Cup Final 2022 Odds: Tight at Tottenham for 2022 Final
The annual pilgrimage for rugby league fans down to Wembley for the Challenge Cup Final takes a different route in 2022, with scheduling issues at the national stadium meaning a replacement had to be found. Tottenham Hotspur's new ground at White Hart Lane will host its first ever rugby league game for the showpiece Betfred Challenge Cup final between Huddersfield Giants and Wigan Warriors. Billy Grimshaw is on hand to preview the finale to the famous old knock-out competition...
Challenge Cup Final Odds
With the 2022 Super League season now at the halfway point, it is safe to make a judgement on how each of the twelve teams competing are faring this campaign. Defending champions St Helens are unsurprisingly setting the pace, with last year's league leaders Catalans Dragons hot in pursuit. These two teams would have been expected by most to fill these two positions come this stage of the year, but they are followed by two clubs that look markedly different to their 2021 vintages in 2022. Wigan Warriors are in third place and despite a low-key off season recruitment wise, look a team rejuvenated under new head coach, the rookie Matt Peet. Eyebrows were raised when the Wiganer with no playing career to speak of was handed the reins at arguably the most famous club in world rugby league, however he has masterminded a change of playing style with the help of his two new assistants Lee Briers and Sean O'Loughlin which has had Warriors fans purring.
Next on the Super League ladder come Huddersfield Giants, a side now a year and a half into their own revolution under a British coach. Ian Watson was highly sought after for all the top jobs after leading Salford to consecutive major finals on a shoe-string budget, while sticking true to an entertaining style of rugby. It was Huddersfield who snared him with the promise of funds for recruitment and autonomy over the club's direction back in 2020 to take over for the 2021 campaign. Last year was a false start to the Watson era but with an off season recruitment drive that reunited the coach with some of his old favourites from Salford, Huddersfield look much more the part in 2022 and deserve to be in the top four.
The two sides in third and fourth will square off for the first piece of silverware of the rugby league season. Wigan have unquestionably had the tougher route to the final, having to eliminate the Saints in a semi final for the ages. The Warriors blitzed to a 14-0 half time lead with a stunning forty minute performance, one which led many to declare it was the best half of rugby seen anywhere in the northern hemisphere in 2022. Saints fought back in the second stanza and were 18-14 ahead soon after their own try scoring blitz stunned the Wigan faithful at Elland Road. However, a Liam Marshall breakaway try saw the Warriors back in front and they closed the game out to triumph 18-20 and reach their first final since 2017. They will be looking for their first win of the famous prize since 2013 and it would be especially pertinent for Wigan as it would be the club's 20th Challenge Cup success. Huddersfield made lighter work of their semi final opposition, beating a lacklustre Hull KR 25-4. Star man Tui Lolohea again shone for the Giants, who will be looking to win the cup for the first time since 1953!
Challenge Cup Final Tips
The first selection for the 2022 Challenge Cup Final hinges on Huddersfield turning up and playing at their maximum, something I think Watson will have been priming his squad to do for weeks. Both sides' main threats come from the full back position in Lolohea for the Giants and the electric Jai Field for Wigan. Looking across the backlines, the edge has to go to the Warriors with the pace of Marshall and French on the wings a constant threat to any opponent. The Wigan Warriors of 2022 are built on speed and on a big, dry track such as the one they will encounter in North London expect to see the Warriors get the ball wide at every opportunity. Huddersfield have the stronger half back pairing in my opinion, however the news that Frenchman Theo Fages will miss the game means this particularly aspect of the team sheets is much more even. Jack Cogger is expected to deputise and partner young scrum half Olly Russell with the task of guiding the team around the paddock. It would be a shame for Harry Smith of Wigan to be dropped in favour of the more experienced Tommy Leuluai and although the latter is undoubtedly a safer pair of hands, if I were of the Huddersfield persuasion I would be relieved to see the veteran replace the youngster in partnering Cade Cust on this season's form.
The Giants also have an ace up their sleeve in Will Pryce, one of the country's hottest young stars who could return to action after a mammoth TEN (yes, 10!) game ban for a shocking tackle earlier in the year. Pryce is expected to start on the bench for Watson's men and if the game is tight come the last quarter, expect his coach to throw him on in the hope he can produce some magic. Huddersfield's front row also edges that of the Warriors for my money, and their hooker Danny Levi has been excellent since his arrival from Brisbane. In the back row, however, Wigan possess two international standard players in Farrell and Bateman. Farrell in particular has been underrated throughout his career and the lines he will be running off Cust, Smith or Leuluai will be giving Ian Watson nightmares. Hopefully this summary has illustrated how balanced I think the two sides are on paper, and I can't see either team cruising to victory at Tottenham. I expect a tight contest with jeopardy until the end and as such, backing the underdog with more than a converted try start at even money seems the sensible play.
My final selection is backing the man I think can sway the game between these two evenly matched teams in his favour to win the Lance Todd Trophy and be crowned Man of the Match. Jai Field signed for Wigan in 2021 and much was expected of the Aussie flyer, however he tore his hamstring in round one in that season and never really got going upon his return from such a lengthy lay off. Wigan already had a speedy Australian full back in their ranks in Bevan French, who was given the number one jersey heading into 2022 ahead of Field. However, a family bereavement meant French missed a chunk of pre-season and the opening rounds of Super League 2022, so Field deputised and has never looked back.
To say the Australian is quick would be one of the understatements of the year. The former Paramatta man looks to have jets propellers attached to the back of his boots and once he gets into space it's game over for the opposition. Many have tried this season and many have failed to stop Field finding broken space to utilise his freakish turn of foot, and I cannot see how Huddersfield will keep a lid on him for the full 80 minutes in this final. With my earlier prediction that this will be a tight encounter, a moment of magic could be all it takes to decide the destination of the famous old trophy. The man most likely to produce such a moment is Jai Field and even at 7/2 favourite, he is a good price to scoop the Man of the Match award here..