All four Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-finals previewed
We’re just two rounds away from Wembley, as eight sides meet across the next three days in an all-Super League Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final line-up.
In fact, seven of Super League’s top eight teams have made the quarter-finals, with the only side outside the top eight – Huddersfield – no doubt focusing intently on the Challenge Cup as a great chance to win some silverware in an otherwise disappointing season.
Among the ties are two local derbies and a class encounter between top and fourth in Super League, as well as a mouth-watering match between 19-time Challenge Cup winners Wigan and the entertainers of Super League, Castleford.
The oldest and most famous competition in rugby league rarely disappoints, and there is plenty of potential for four extremely close games, so we’ve picked out a top bet for each game over the next three days.
Huddersfield Giants v Wakefield Wildcats (Thursday, 20:00)
Opening the Challenge Cup quarter-finals are local rivals Huddersfield and Wakefield, who have had distinctively differing seasons.
Huddersfield have gone from reaching the play-off semi-finals in 2015 to languishing joint-bottom of Super League, while Wakefield have gone from being comfortably the worst side in the competition last year to putting on a superb run under Chris Chester to sit sixth in the table.
Wakefield might have got the better of the Giants on two occasions already this season, but Huddersfield are getting closer to their full-strength squad following a number of injuries in 2016.
Former Wildcats boss Andy Kelly is in temporary charge of the Giants following Paul Anderson’s dismissal, and he has a great opportunity to be the man who leads the Giants to their first Challenge Cup semi-final since 2012.
Warrington Wolves v Widnes Vikings (Friday, 20:00)
Another local derby follows on Friday when Warrington have the chance to do the treble over Widnes, having already defeated them home and away this season.
Tony Smith’s Wolves have spent a number of weeks at the top of Super League this year, but despite a recent drop in form which has seen them move down to third, they still boast the best attack and defence in the league.
After a blistering start to the season, Widnes suffered a huge down-turn in form, but have recorded two wins from four recently to maintain their place in the top eight. Nonetheless, it looks like getting past their bitter rivals will be a step too far in the Challenge Cup.
Hull FC v Catalans Dragons (Saturday, 13:30)
In arguably the tie of the round, league leaders Hull FC host fellow high-flyers Catalans Dragons on Saturday afternoon.
Lee Radford’s Hull FC side have undoubtedly been the form side of Super League over the past two months, winning eight games on the bounce to take their position at the top of the table, a position that was held by their opponents Catalans after the Magic Weekend.
Hull scraped past Castleford last week while Catalans fell to a last-gasp defeat at Warrington, both games separated by just two points. Expect another tight encounter on Humberside on Saturday afternoon.
Wigan Warriors v Castleford Tigers (Saturday, 17:30)
The final tie of the round sees Super League’s entertainers Castleford Tigers travel to 19-time Challenge Cup winners Wigan Warriors.
Wigan’s most recent final success came in 2013, while Castleford were beaten in the final by Leeds the following year.
The Warriors sit second in the table, despite not being anywhere near their best this season. However, they have developed a trait of grinding out close wins, a sought-after attribute of champion sides.
Castleford, on the other hand, are one of the most free-flowing and entertaining sides in Super League, and in Denny Solomona – who has 24 tries to his name already in the league this season – they have the most devastating winger in the division in their side.
His finishing prowess will again be crucial if they’re to make the semi-final.
Click here for the latest Ladbrokes Challenge Cup odds and specials.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.