CHALLENGE CUP SPECIAL: Two losses to Bradford sum up an era for the Wire.

The turn of the century was characterised by three things. The first Labour government for a generation, Oasis dominating the charts and the Wire being absolutely shite.

After missing out on the Championship in 1994 on points difference, our beloved club spent the rest of the decade floundering in mid-table obscurity.

Then, as we entered the new millennium, something magical happened. The great Alfie Langer, the legendary Brisbane, Queensland and Australia scrum half, signed for little Warrington. Also joining him on the plane from Australia was former Broncos team mate Andrew Gee and Tawera Nikau, who had just won the NRL with the Melbourne Storm.

As a consequence, Warrington were being tipped by seemingly every journalist, pundit and neutral supporter to once again be amongst the challengers for trophies. This, of course, would become a common theme for us. Mercifully, Sloop John B wouldn’t become the staple basis for every chant in English football for a good few years so it would be a decade before we’d have to put up with that fucking ‘always your year’ tripe.

Sadly, these genuine superstars were lining up alongside the likes of Lee Penny, Steve McCurrie and Jon Roper who, in all fairness, were shite, so the closest we came to challenging for any silverware for the two years that we were graced by the Langer-Briers halfback combination was two soul-destroying semi final defeats at the hands of the Bradford Bulls.

The 2000 cup run will be remembered by most for Allan Hunte’s try in about the 96th minute against Salford in the quarter’s, clutching victory from the jaws of defeat and sparking a ‘limbs everywhere’ moment from the huge travelling support that seemed to spill into every corner of The Willows.

For others (namely us), the most memorable moment of the cup run was our mate needing a piss on the coach to that quarter-final so badly he reached for an empty bottle of Oasis and started to urinate into it – the relief turning into panic as he realised he was reaching the top and was showing no signed of stopping. In some of the greatest handling since Alfie stole the ball off Tommy Martyn behind the line at Wilderspool, he managed to find and open a grab bag of Cheese and onion, empty the crisps into a rubbish bag, put the wee filled bottle onto the floor, support it with his feet and continue to empty his bladder without spilling a drop.

Only for the bus to stop suddenly and the pint off piss toppled over pooling satisfyingly in the drivers foot well.

In many ways, that summed up both the 2000 and 2001 cup runs. He tried his very best, bless him, but it just want quite enough. The same applied to the Wire.

Having gone down 44-20 in 2000, in our first semi for a decade, and outnumbered almost three to one, the vociferous Warrington support turned up at the McApline the following year more in hope than expectation, but returned home largely disappointed, though certainly proud of the effort the team had put in against the formidable Bulls team that were demolishing everything in their way during that period.

Our impotence in the cup and the Bulls’ domination of the game meant that they were expected to cruise to victory at Huddersfield, but they did not have it their own way at all.

Lee Briers, on the back of a very impressive World Cup for Wales, continued to develop into a top class stand off and it was his combination with Alfie Langer, combined with some brutal defence from our pack, that set up a grandstand finish, with the scores tied 18-18 with just a quarter of an hour left.

Who knows what would have been had Nikau’s try not been ruled out so hastily for offside by Stuart Cummings.

As it was, and despite a hat-trick form the brilliant Briers, a Henry Paul drop goal changed the game and Bradford ran in three more tries through Scott Naylor, Robbie Paul and Stuart Spruce, who was gifted a try when Jamie Stenhouse dropped a high kick over his own try line.

We eventually lost 39-22, but fuck me, we ran them a lot closer than the score line suggests.

Warrington team in 2000:

Lee Penny, Alan Hunte, Toa Kohe-Love, Jon Roper, Mark Forster, Lee Briers, Allan Langer, Andrew Gee, Danny Farrar, Danny Nutley, Jerome Guisset, Steve McCurrie, Tawera Nikau
Subs: Ian Sibbit, Steve Blakeley, Ian Knott, Mark Hilton

In 2001:

Alan Hunte, Rob Smyth, Toa Kohe-Love, Ian Sibbit, Jamie Stenhouse, Lee Briers, Allan Langer, Andrew Gee, Dave Highton, Martin Masella, Dean Busby, Tawera Nikau, Steve Georgallis

Subs: David Kidwell, Steve McCurrie, Jerome Guisset, Danny Nutley

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