Written by Callum Walker
Photo by RFL
In its inaugural year, the 1895 Cup has been a blessing in disguise for Widnes. Whilst turmoil off the field has led them to struggle in the league, the cup has given the loyal fans some much-needed respite and the Vikings find themselves making the long journey down to the capital for the first time since 1993.
Widnes have won a mere twice in their last eight fixtures – one of which was the cup semi-final against Leigh – whilst Sheffield have won four of their last five. And, whilst the Vikings are looking nervously over their shoulders in the Championship table – just three points separates them and 11th-placed Barrow – Sheffield are just two points behind Featherstone who occupy the last play-off spot.
Widnes have done an astoundingly good job to be in the final of this cup after an off-season of uncertainty and a 12-point deduction which unsurprisingly made the sole aim of 2019 to survive. The pull of playing at Wembley seemed to spur the club on more than most and their 12-8 semi-final victory over Leigh will be remembered for years to come.
Sheffield, on the other hand, have had a tremendous season. They began 2019 like a house on fire, winning six of their opening seven games and have since cemented their place in the top half of the Championship with 15 wins from 25 games – more than double what they achieved in 2018.
Widnes head coach Kieron Purtill makes eight changes to the side narrowly defeated at Leigh last weekend. Patrick Ah Van, Danny Craven, Chris Dean, Anthony Gelling, Jordan Johnstone, Dan Norman, Jack Owens and Sam Wilde all come back into the squad as the Vikings head to Wembley for the first time in 26 years.
Menzie Yere, Bradley Tagg, Rory Dixon and Pat Burns drop out from the Sheffield side that beat Halifax with James Davey, Brad Knowles, Ben Hellewell and James Meadows coming into the 19-man squad.
Whilst the Vikings fans will travel in numbers, Sheffield are not blessed with huge crowds and this may be the deciding factor. With a few thousand Widnes supporters behind them, the Vikings’ players will rise to the occasion, though the Eagles can attempt to channel the spirit of 1998 when they went all the way in the Challenge Cup. SHEFFIELD FOR THE WIN