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Championship Challengers on road to Wembley

Championship Challengers on road to Wembley

by: Gareth Walker, April 11, 2014, 7:00 am

The fifth round draw of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup means that there will be at least two Championship clubs left in the last eight of the competition this year.

With Leigh Centurions hosting Featherstone Rovers, and Swinton Lions taking on Keighley Cougars, those four clubs now have the very real prospect of a huge Challenge Cup quarter-final in 2014.

Three other Kingstone Press Championships clubs remain as well – with Hunslet, Doncaster and Sheffield earning trips to Super League big guns Wigan, Warrington and Castleford respectively. It ensures plenty of interest in the competition for the sport at this level, and even opens up the possibility of one of the clubs making the semi-finals this year.

“There’s going to be at least two Championship clubs in the last eight now, and with some luck of the draw, they could maybe get each other and we could have a Championship club in the semi-finals,” Leigh stand-off Martyn Ridyard told the new edition of Rugby League World magazine.

“It’s a good draw for us. We want to get as far as we can, and wanted to avoid the big Super League clubs. Featherstone at home is a big challenge for us, but there’s a possibility there.

“You keep an eye on the clubs around you and Fev have been a top side for quite a few years now. They’ve had a couple of slip-ups this year, but they had a good result in the last round against Crusaders and that proves they’re clicking and gelling.”

That should be a huge clash with a bumper crowd, while in the other all-Championship tie, the competition’s two player coaches will face off.

Ian Watson has done a terrific job in steadying Swinton Lions’ ship after their turbulent close season, and he will come up against Paul March’s Keighley Cougars, who have made a bright start to the season themselves.

This column last week argued against the seeding of the Challenge Cup, and this year’s competition appears to support that.

Last weekend I attended two Challenge Cup matches – Dewsbury versus Wigan and Wakefield against Leeds. Both ended in one-sided scorelines (6-58 and 6-60), but the Rams were still in the contest after 50 minutes and were given standing ovations at half-time and full-time.

In contrast, Wakefield were blown away early on by the Rhinos and rarely looked interested.

Dewsbury also more than tripled their average home gate, and only had 1,428 fewer than the all-Super League game.

Seeding the Challenge Cup won’t prevent blow-out scorelines, but could stop Championship clubs from having semi-final dreams and bumper home crowds. Leave the competition in its current format.

Rugby League World magazine is out now with a host of Championship features. Interviews with Paul Cooke, Joe Mbu, Jason Golden and Austin Buchanan, plus the monthly exclusive player ratings.

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