C for semi final celebrations

Upfront: The League Express opinion – Mon 31st May 2021

It’s W for Wembley as eight teams eye a ticket to the national stadium on Saturday, July 17 on what promises to be an intriguing weekend of knockout action.

The increasing use of the term D to mean defence has been noticeable in recent years, and now, particularly on Twitter, we see W for win.

So who will be C for celebrating after Saturday’s Challenge Cup semi-finals and Sunday’s 1895 Cup last-four clashes?

And, of course, it all kicks off with the Women’s Challenge Cup final, in which York face St Helens at Leigh Sports Village this Saturday lunchtime.

That match gets underway at 11.15am and is the first part of an historic triple-header, with the men’s semis, also at Leigh, following.

Hull face St Helens at 2.30pm while Castleford take on Warrington at 5.00pm, with all three matches being screened live by the BBC.

The women’s final is intriguing, with seasoned Saints up against an ambitious York side bolstered by a raft of recent signings.

The Knights showed they are a force to be reckoned with by comprehensively beating Wigan in the quarter-finals before crushing Castleford in the semis.

The Tigers’ men’s team took an unexpected pasting in their Super League clash with Leeds on Friday and face a big test of character against Warrington.

Cas haven’t been in the last four since 2014, when they beat Widnes before losing to Leeds in the final.

Warrington were beaten by Leeds in the semis that season, and are featuring at this stage for the fourth year running.

The formbook clearly suggests a Warrington win and therefore a third final appearance in four years.

But the Tigers are nothing if not unpredictable, and with Daryl Powell up against the club he will coach next season, could there be a twist?

Hull won the Challenge Cup in both 2016 and 2017 while since lifting the trophy in three successive seasons from 2006-08, Saints have been in only one final.

That was in 2019, when they lost to Warrington, and the Black and Whites face a tough challenge to deny Kristian Woolf a Wembley outing.

But there’s no doubt they have made strides forward under Brett Hodgson, and on their day, are more than capable of matching any opponent.

On Sunday, the 1895 Cup returns after being put on hold last year due to the pandemic, which has also forced a truncated version of the tournament this time around.

Sheffield won the inaugural competition in 2019, and once again, the final is part of a double-header with the Challenge Cup showpiece.

York are clear favourites to win the first semi-final at the LNER Stadium, which starts at 2pm, and so deny Swinton a first-ever Wembley appearance.

Widnes were beaten finalists two years ago, but have their work cut out to prevent hosts Featherstone booking a trip down the M1. That one kick-off at 4pm.

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