Choosing a dream team for the Summer Era Challenge Cup Final: Legends of Leeds Rhinos, St Helens and Wigan Warriors

After yesterday’s Challenge Cup Grand Final, we’re looking back at the recent history of the competition to pick a dream team for the Cup Final.

We take a look back at the summer era and at the players who have dominated the Challenge Cup Finals since 1996, whether by the number of wins they’ve amassed over time, some outstanding final performances that will last a lifetime, or attempts earthquakes that helped settle. Where did the trophy end?

So with that in mind, here is our dream team for the Challenge Cup Final.

Wingback: Paul Wellens
Only two players have won the Lance Todd in consecutive finals in Super League history and one of them is Paul Wellens. Sharing the prize in 2007 and overall winner in 2008, he was always a key part in the five finals he won with the Saints becoming one of the most successful players in the history of the competitions. Not only did he produce brilliant performances at all stages of these finals, but he was able to evoke great moments such as the 2004 and 2007 final tries.

Wingers: Tom Briscoe and Ryan Hall
Only three wingers in the Super League era have won the Lance Todd trophy and all three were Rhinos. Leroy Rivett, a four-try scorer from Wembley, is the unlucky one of the three to miss. Ryan Hall beats him to it largely due to the near-impossible nature of his first try in the 2014 final when he scored a brace to win Man of the Match. A year later he played him in another final victory when teammate Tom Briscoe stole the show with a record five attempts, including the length of the field effort. He picked up Man of the Match that day but also won two other finals for the Rhinos scoring in both 2014 and 2020.

Centers: Joel Tomkins and Kallum Watkins
Joel Tomkins will always be remembered for scoring one of the best Wembley tries of all time at center back in 2011 when Wigan defeated Leeds in a grand final. The move began with his brother Sam and was completed with a brilliant elusive run from the back-turned-centre. On that day, he faced a young Kallum Watkins who was making his Wembley debut. Despite being a youngster, he recorded one assist and got another in 2014. Even more remarkable than that, he had four assists in the 2015 final. He also scored at Wembley last time out for a brace in the 2012 final. .

Media: Sean Long and Marc Sneyd
Two multiple winners of the Lance Todd Trophy appear in the halves. Sean Long collected the award on three separate occasions in 2001, 2004 and 2006. He scored in all five cups won during his career losing only one final. Meanwhile, Marc Sneyd will always be remembered for ending Hull’s Wembley hoodoo in 2016 before repeating the feat a year later by collecting back-to-back Lance Todd trophies.

Props: Adrian Morley and Jamie Peacock
Jamie Peacock won four Challenge Cup finals as the player to score in the 2003 final. He was also quite exceptional in the 2015 final helping set up Danny McGuire’s try, nearly crossing for a try only to be denied by a one-shot strip. against one that fell into the hands of Brett Delaney to score. He also had a hand on one of Tom Briscoe’s five tries showing big hands on the blindside. Another four-time winner of the trophy is Adrian Morley. His first win came with the Rhinos in 1999 before he was part of the Warrington side that won the trophy three times in four years. He led that side from the wing and deserves his place on the team. A special mention to Jeff Lima, though as the only prop to win the Lance Todd in the summer era.

Prostitute: Kerion Cunningham
In the space of 12 years, Kerion Cunningham won seven Challenge Cups, making him one of the most successful players in the tournament and the most successful player in the summer era of the competition. A late-try scorer as well, he always knew how to step up for the big occasions.

Second rowers: Paul Sculthorpe and Chris Joynt
Curiously, the Lance Todd was an award that alluded to the brilliant career of Paul Sculthorpe. He won five finals with the Saints crossing for tries in the 2004 final win as well as the 2002 final loss, the only Challenge Cup final loss of his career. Even when he began to pick up injuries towards the end of his career, he always featured in Saints Wembley victories and retired with the trophy in 2008. Predominantly a loose striker, he featured in the second row in the 2006 win over Huddersfield . A fellow saint joins him on the side. Chris Joynt won four Challenge Cup Finals scoring in the 1997 win over Bradford. That day he lifted the trophy as vice-captain and repeated the feat in 2001 as patron of Santos.

Loose Forward: Kevin Sinfield
This can be seen as a bit controversial. After all, along with teammate Rob Burrow, Kevin Sinfield holds the record for most final losses in 2003, 2005, 2010, 2011 and 2012 before lifting the trophy in consecutive years in 2014 and 2015. After the heartbreak of being ruled out of the 2000 final after being instrumental in Leeds’ run to the decider, further pain came in the form of being blamed for the 2003 final defeat. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was exceptional in the 2005 final winning the Lance Todd trophy only to end up on the losing end. That performance, coupled with his role in Leeds’ back-to-back successes, is what makes him part of the squad, as is the fact that he holds the record for most goals in finals history, as well as the most points in the final story with Frano Botica.

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