Pennine divide in both Challenge Cup semis
It’s that time of the year again in the Rugby League calendar, as the Challenge Cup final draws nearer.
Castleford fans will remember the final of 1992 when they last appeared at Wembley, as a rampant Wigan side beat them 28-12. It was Martin Offiah that day who terrorised them with his pace, scoring twice and preventing a try at the other end. He is the connection as the Tigers prepare to take on Widnes, who never really recovered from losing Offiah in 1991.
At 7/4 to win, the Vikings can reach their first final for 21 years, though it is even longer than that since they lifted the iconic trophy, as Joe Lydon inspired them to victory in 1984, scoring a brace of tries. The Wigan connection continues this time around, as former player Denis Betts looks to manage a Widnes side to a semi-final victory against Castleford, having been part of the Lancashire outfit that beat the west Yorkshire club in the 1992 final.
In the first scorer market, full back Rhys Hanbury is favourite at 9/1 for Widnes who have lost two of their last five fixtures in Super League. Form, however, goes out of the window with the Challenge Cup, which has produced its fair share of shocks over the years.
For Castleford, who are odds-on at 4/9 to progress to the final, hooker Daryl Clark who scored a hat-trick against Widnes in the league is 14/1 to cross the whitewash first. The club are in the ascendancy this season, being firmly embedded in a play-off place, and are serious contenders to win silverware.
Meanwhile, Leeds Rhinos are bidding to reach the final for the eighth time in 15 years. Perhaps astonishingly, they haven’t won it since 1999, when they defeated London Broncos 52-16. The Yorkshire outfit is odds-on at 8/11 to progress, with winger Ryan Hall the favourite at 6/1 to cross the whitewash first.
Warrington last won the trophy in 2012, ironically defeating Leeds 35-18. However, the Cheshire side has endured a patchy campaign, and although they will make the Super League play-offs, are 11/10 to secure a place in the final. One of their success stories is centre Joel Monaghan who has scored the most amount of tries this season, with 23. He is 7/1 to breach the in-goal area first.