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Castleford covet Challenge Cup Wembley win over rivals Rhinos

There is no doubt about the fact that the last time Castleford appeared in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in 1992, their team then, man-for-man, would probably beat a Leeds Rhinos team of today, who are odds-on favourites at 2/5.

At 21/10 for victory 22 years later, Castleford are again underdogs, as they were when they took on arguably one of the best club sides of the last century; Wigan.

This time, they don’t have to contend with the lightning pace, or sheer athleticism of Martin Offiah, who makes Leeds’ Ryan Hall look slow. However, they are without past club legends Greame Steadman, Lee Crooks, Tawera Nikau or Richie Blackmore to name just a few.

In Daryl Clark, Mark Sneyd, Michael Shenton, and Kirk Dixon, however, they have a squad more than capable of beating a Leeds team that many would argue on paper at least is weaker than their past seven losing outfits. Captain Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock though, are experienced campaigners who can prove the difference against a relatively younger Castleford team.

Wingers Justin Carney and Shenton have 17 and 16 tries respectively in the Super League this term, and the former is 8/1, while the latter is 14/1 to cross the whitewash first.

When Hall gets it right for the Rhinos he is a human wrecking ball, though the England international will be watched closely, having recorded 15 tries already this season. To put the first four points on the famous Wembley board, he is 6/1, and if he gets in the groove, can take the stadium by storm. He is 9/1 to score a hat-trick.

Leeds centre Tom Briscoe returns to Wembley for a consecutive year, having been part of a Hull FC side that lost to Wigan. He admits that he and his teammates will have to be at their best to overcome one of the teams of the season.

“I feel like I am in good form but we are all going to need to be to beat Cas. The props, Lynch, Huby and also in the pack Millington are superb players with great go-forward who also have the ability to offload. It is going to be difficult to stop them,” Briscoe said.

“On the back of that you’ve got Sneyd, Dorn and Ellis who have been testing defences including ours consistently all season. Then opposite players like myself in the backs are Carney and Dixon on the wings and Shenton in the centres who can score tries from anywhere.

“Daryl Clark has been ripping teams up down the middle for fun this season and he’s another great young player and one that we’ll have to try to contain on the day.”

Whatever the result, it is gearing up to be one of the most eagerly anticipated finals for a while, as the Tigers aim to win their first Challenge Cup for 28 years. No doubt the presence of the ‘old guard’, Steadman, Crooks et al in the crowd will be an additional motivator to bring success back to Wheldon Road.