Such was the backcloth of history for the final between the Cardiff Cobras and the UH Sharks, many fans were musing before the game whether the teams would arrive by coach or by DeLorean to the John Charles Stadium.
The groundstaff at the stadium had been working on the field since the early hours of the morning and ensured that the 2011 vintage of this historic match up was no repeat of the now infamous mudbowl final but was played out on a surface more akin to one for crown green bowling. Indeed, the stadium, the surface and the blazing sun provided the perfect setting for some fabulous football from two teams who look set to emerge from some lean years to become Conference powerhouses yet again.
The opening salvos of the Challenge Trophy saw both teams evenly matched. Two strong defences meant that it would be a battle of offensive attrition as each offensive co-ordinator sought to pick a way through the opposition's back line.
In the end it was the Cobras who drew first blood in the opening quarter. A first and goal on the 8 was swiftly converted for the game’s first touchdown. Gareth Humphrys found Josh Hurford and the Cobras took a 6-0 lead which was extended when the extra point was duly taken.
The game then stepped up a gear as the Sharks started to exert some real pressure and test the Cobras defense. With the Sharks offense starting to look like they may tie the game it was with a sense of relief that Cobras fans saw Tom List pick off the quarterback and give the Cobras possession and some much needed respite in Shark territory.
It would be the dying moments of the first half before the Cobras would add to their lead. A 35 yard pass from Humphrys to Sherwood saw the Cobras enter the endzone and, with the extra point, move into a 14-0 lead which gave the Sharks a mountain to climb.
The second half kicked off with the Cobras seeking to finish off the Sharks with one more venomous bite. Following a sustained period of pressure where the Cobras would have hoped for a third touchdown of the day they had to settle for a Field Goal attempt which was missed. Throughout the attack, tailback Ayo Akintunde proved himself to be increasingly influential in asking questions of the Sharks defense. Fortunately for the Sharks their defensive line was able to provide most of the answers in a powerful display of grit, determination and hard tackling, epitomised by the impressive Stephen Yeamans who was coming off the back of his first pick for the Sharks in their semi final victory over the Solent Redhawks.
After seeing off a concerted Cobras effort to wrap up the game the Sharks started to turn the tide and a remarkable comeback looked on the cards when Patrick White stunned the Cobras with a fabulous touchdown run only to have elation turn to despair as the play was called back following a flag for holding. Despite this, the Shark’s resolve never faltered and they continued to test the Cobras until deep into the fourth when a series of picks saw the definitive shift in momentum and ultimately led to a final touchdown for the now victorious Cobras outfit who were able to to call themselves the 2011 National Challenge Trophy Champions.