The quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup offer some interesting match-ups this week. When the draw was made it raised a few eyebrows and there was wish for the season to fast forward up until this point.
All of the Super League’s top four are in action as well as the holders and two sides who are looking to use the cup as a springboard for the rest of the season while Featherstone Rovers are the sole representatives from the Championship.
Here’s our brief preview of the ties – accompanied by their odds to lift the cup – before we preview the matches in a little more detail later on in the week. We’ll also have a preview of one Super League game taking place this weekend as Huddersfield face St. Helens.
(9/1) Salford Red Devils v Wakefield Trinity (25/1)
It was only a couple of weeks ago that Wakefield scored a big win on the Red Devils’ own patch, and they have been awkward for nearly every side they have faced to far this season. In addition, Salford go into this game in the unfamiliar position having lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, with Hull also leaving the AJ Bell Stadium with two points last Friday.
Wakefield’s impressive run of wins came to an end with a narrow home defeat to Leeds Rhinos. They are likely to make this another difficult game for Salford.
The home side are the favourites to make it through to the last four at 1/2 – with Wakefield as long as 15/8 to repeat their win from a fortnight earlier, which looks appealing. On the handicap, the visitors have been given a +6 start – available at Evens with Betfred. At other bookmakers, Salford are 10/11 to cover that deficit.
(9/2) Leeds Rhinos v Featherstone Rovers (500/1)
Please forgive us for making this preview more about the Rhinos than Rovers, as most will agree that if the Rhinos are professional then they should book their place in the semi-finals. They have had Doncaster and Barrow in previous rounds at Headingley, and some of the remaining sides will probably look at Leeds a little enviously because of the draw that has been handed to them.
Featherstone have been given a +32 on the handicap at 10/11. They’ve certainly been competitive in the Championship this season as they sit fourth. Their only real disappointment of late was a heavy defeat at the hands of London, but Fev will pose a threat if they are taken lightly.
Leeds are best priced 1/50 to win the game, and you can get Featherstone at 22/1 to cause the ultimate shock and knock the Rhinos out.
(13/2) Warrington Wolves v Wigan Warriors (11/2)
This is a really hard one to call – and for those that have been away for a while, it’s not because both sides are good. This is a massive game for both clubs in order to try and salvage something from their season. For the victor, there will be renewed hope but whoever loses could really see their season fall off the edge of a cliff.
Both sides could see some of their frontline players return to the respective sides – and they will be hoping for improved performances too. We’ll have more on them in our more detailed preview later on in the week.
Warrington have lost their last three games pretty heavily, while Wigan’s last win was in the previous round of the cup against Swinton Lions. They will want a response after being on the end of 50 points to Leigh.
The Warriors are the slight favourites – available at 13/20 – while you can get Warrington at 17/10. Given they’re at home, and it could be a case of ‘first try wins’ given the brittle confidence of both sides, the home side seem pretty good value.
(13/2) Hull FC v Castleford Tigers (3/1)
Now this one is difficult to call for good reasons. Castleford extended their winning run in Super League to seven games at the weekend, and in recent weeks they have cleverly rotated their side to keep the bulk of their frontline players fresh.
Hull have suddenly returned to form in the past couple of weeks and it’s hard to think they won’t be up for this as they seek to retain the cup this season.
The Black and Whites have also recorded a win over the Tigers this season so they know they have nothing to fear if they’re right at it. They are an appealing 15/8 to make it through to the last four. Castleford, who are understandably favourites, are available at 8/13.