2006 Cup Final at Twickenham
Our Day In The Sun by Matt from Huddersfield
Our first Challenge Cup final for 44 years was ultimately to end in defeat, but the memories will always remain happy ones. For me finding out we got to the final was an unusual one.
Whilst most of our fans were dancing on the terraces at the crater in Bradford as De Vere scored on the stroke of full time against Leeds, I found the only computer in the Grand Canyon and the echoes of my screams down the canyon could be heard many hours later. Fortunately I had left someone back in England in charge of getting my tickets in the unlikely event that we actually beat Leeds.
Strange really, a trip of a lifetime, yet one of my best memories was sat at a computer reading the BBC website in total shock whilst a load of Americans starred disapprovingly as I used every expletive I knew to describe my joy. Also I needn’t have worried about getting tickets because as soon as the final hooter went in the semi final Rhinos fans flocked to ebay to try to get some money back on their cup final tickets, he he.
Anyway the day of the final, my family and me set off early in the morning after very little sleep the night before. Fortunately we set off early enough to avoid the bad traffic that many fans got stuck in so we were lucky enough to wander around the centre of Twickenham soaking in the gradually building atmosphere whilst laughing at those who go every year and wear more and more barmy fancy dress.
We then went for lunch at a typical local café where the staff all talked with funny accents and made all their words rhyme. It has to be said eating a meal was tough, the nerves were definitely growing, although I can’t imagine how nervous the players must have been. After the event Chris Thorman bravely admitted he was so nervous he was actually sick.
Eventually we walked to the ground, it was great to see so many fans wandering around in claret and gold, as well as every other shirt in rugby league, so many people came up to us to say they were supporting us, basically it was Saints verses the rest of rugby league. After soaking up more atmosphere(s) on Twickenham’s concourse, (by the way, when I say atmosphere this atmosphere has an abv value to it) we went up to our seats. At this point the ground was probably less than a quarter full, but it gave me time to read the programme and watch the players warm up, I must admit I felt a real sense of pride watching them warm up in the cup final, I not sure why, but nevertheless I did.
Then the pre-match entertainment started with the London Community Gospel Choir and when Abide with me kicked in I could feel a real lump in my throat.
Shortly afterwards the teams walked out, there were fireworks and loud music, but most of all there was a huge roar from the crowd that made every hair on the back of my neck stand up. The teams lined up and were introduced to some old winger and the national anthem was played, at this point I just wanted it to get started, I was ready to burst.
Finally in what seemed like an age the game was ready to start. I did my usual routine of screaming, “Come on Fartown” just before the ball was kicked off and then it was a dream of a start as thuggish Leon Pryce didn’t collect the ball and instead we got it deep in their half. Quickly afterwards fatty Kieron Cunningham gets swamped by a hoard of Giants players and shoved back over his own try line.
Those first few minutes were outstanding, Saints looked like the team that had all the nerves, they came across as the underdogs, we were mighty, colossuses on a rugby pitch. I doubt Twickenham had seen such an explosive start by a team written off by everyone except the players and its own fans.
These outstanding early minutes cumulated when Drew collected at acting half, started off on a typical darting run and broke through the Saints line, then the ball goes through to De Vere who fed a perfect ball on to Aspinwall who dived over in the corner. De Vere added the touchline conversion and everyone in Twickenham had been completely stunned by Fartown’s deserved lead.
After that Saints slowly got into the game and got their first try about halfway through the first half and the rest as we say is history, but for one more memorable moment when Drew kicked through for Robbie to get on the scoresheet.
Regardless of the final score I was delighted with the way our players never gave up even once the scoreline had got away from them, they battled right up to the final hooter.
I did believe at half time that we could still do it, we were only six points behind and we did normally play better in the second half, but it wasn’t meant to be. Of course we have been in other final since and hopefully soon we will be the victors, but until that day I will always fondly remember our day in front of the nation.
Huddersfield: Reilly, Aspinwall, Nero, De Vere, Donlan, Thorman, Paul, Jackson, Drew, Gannon, Crabtree, Raleigh, Wild. Replacements: Snitch, Jones, Smith, McDonald.
St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, P. Anderson, Cunningham, Cayless, Wilkin, Sculthorpe, Hooper. Replacements: Gilmour, Roby, Graham, Fa'asavalu.
Referee: R Silverwood (Dewsbury).
Huddersfield 12 (6)
Tries: Aspinwall, Paul
Cons: De Vere 2
St Helens 42 (12)
Tries: Talau, Long, Wilkin 2, Fa'asavalu, Lyon, Cayless
Cons: Lyon 7