Warrington co-captain Jack Hughes wore a cricketer’s box to help him get through the pain and play a huge role in his side’s shock Challenge Cup triumph.
The Wolves turned the form book on its head with an 18-4 victory over neighbours St Helens, the runaway Super League leaders who went into Saturday’s game as heavy favourites.
Hughes was one of Warrington’s heroes, pushing hooker Daryl Clark for the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match, just three weeks after suffering a ruptured testicle that put his Wembley appearance in doubt.
“I was always confident of playing,” he said. “There was just that contact side of things that meant there was a bit of doubt.
“I had a box on, similar to what the cricket lads wear, and it did the job. It was pretty uncomfortable at the start but, once you get out there, you don’t think about it.”
Hughes’ former Wigan team-mate Josh Charnley led the praises for the England Knights captain, who has been promoted to Wayne Bennett’s senior squad for the end-of-season Great Britain tour.
“I came through the system with Jack and played many games with him so I’ve seen him grow into the player he is,” Charnley said.
“I reckon he’s the most underrated player in the comp. He’ll play anywhere and he’s a true leader.”
Steve Price’s men rode their luck early on, withstanding a torrent of Saints pressure, before gaining confidence from substitute Joe Philbin’s solo try and adding a second before half-time when Hughes got Ben Murdoch-Masila charging over to open up a 12-0 lead.
St Helens threatened a comeback when Theo Fages went over for a 56th-minute try but Clark finished them off with his side’s third try nine minutes from the end.
After receiving the trophy with co-captain Chris Hill from Prince Harry, Hughes says the victory helped make up for their defeat as favourites to Catalans Dragons 12 months earlier.
“This is something we’ve been striving for since Steve arrived at the club,” he said. “We reached two finals last year and we felt we had to take that next step as a team.
“They say third time lucky but I don’t think it was lucky. There was a lot of talk about our form going into it but we had that confidence, that belief.”
St Helens, 16 points clear at the top of Super League, remain favourites to win at Old Trafford but Warrington’s victory will give renewed hope to the chasing pack and Hughes says they have found the secret to beating them.
“It’s a matter of containing one or two individuals, starting with Tommy Mak (Makinson) and Regan Grace coming out of their half and then you’ve got the two big boppers in (Luke) Thompson and (Alex) Walmsley,” he said.
“We put a massive emphasis on those individuals and I thought we did a pretty good job on them.
“You’ve got to do it against Saints for the full 80 minutes. Previously this season we got to 60 or 65 and then sort of crumbled. We made sure we didn’t crumble again.
“We got one over on Saints last year when it mattered and we’re confident we can do it again this year.”