Things really are heating up (no pun intended) as we approach the end of July which can only mean one thing, the Challenge Cup semi-finals are upon us!
This year will see Hull FC battle it out with Warrington Wolves whereas St Helens will go up against Championship side Halifax RLFC, both repeats of previous historical Wembley clashes!
First things first, to get to the iconic stage, clubs must do battle in the semis before earning the right and building up to this weekend, we take a look at five memorable semi-final clashes to have graced out screens in the summer era!
5. Castleford Tigers 27-33 London Broncos – 1999
The end of the old millennium saw something remarkable as London Broncos edged Castleford Tigers in a thrilling affair at Headingley.
Both sides exchanged scores until the closing moments of the match, with Danny Orr’s drop-goal cancelling out Peter Gill’s potential match winning try to make things 27-27.
But then came along Steele Retchless to pinch the winning try from acting half to send his supporters into delight.
Though things did not go smoothly for the Londoners in the final against Leeds, it remains a memorable win for London as it saw them reach their first and only final to date.
They may not have kicked on with such success, however London have recently returned to Super League and should look to such victories as a means of inspiration towards survival!
4. Warrington Wolves 18-26 Hull Kingston Rovers – 2015
Next up really was a turn up for the books as Hull Kingston Rovers stunned Warrington Wolves at Headingley in 2015.
The Wolves were highly fancied as the match came shortly after they secured their place in the Super League Super 8s, in contrast to Hull KR, who were condemned to the Qualifiers.
But the Robins upset the applecart in spectacular fashion, running into a 20-6 lead thanks to tries from Josh Mantellato, Ken Sio and Kevin Larroyer following Ryan Atkins’ early effort.
Warrington stormed back following touchdowns from Richie Myler and Ben Currie before Shaun Lunt sealed a dramatic victory late on for the red and whites.
It resulted in their first trip to Wembley since 1986, and though their subsequent final day with Leeds proved to be rather anti-climactic, this was easily one of their greatest ever wins and one that will live long in the memory.
3. Hull FC 16-12 Warrington Wolves – 2013
Rewind six years to the previous Cup-semi between two of Saturday’s opposition as Hull FC edged Warrington Wolves in Huddersfield.
Once again, the Wolves were highly fancied as they ended up finishing as high as second place this season and looked good money following early tries from Joel Monaghan and Trent Waterhouse.
But the Airlie Birds stunned all as scores from Tom Lineham, Richard Whiting and Aaron Heremaia put Hull 16-8 up, with Ben Currie’s late try not enough to salvage a win.
Hull would go on to suffer a forgettable, and rather uneventful Wembley final as a whole, but this game had everyone on the edge of their seats until the very end, when Jacob Miller smacked the ball into touch following Warrington’s onslaught on their try line.
Hopefully similar superlatives will befall this Saturday in front of a packed out crowd at Bolton between two entertaining teams.
2. St Helens 16-35 Catalans Dragons – 2018
A result that transformed arrogant cheers into unpleasant misery for St Helens supporters as their side were comfortably beaten by Catalans Dragons.
After their quarter-final win over Hull FC, this draw came out to iconic cheers and at the time, who could blame them as they were the runaway league leaders.
But Catalans got their sweet revenge in flamboyant style. They raced into a 27-0 half-time lead, thanks to tries from Lewis Tierney, Tony Gigot and a brace from Benjamin Garcia.
Saints struck back through a Mark Percival brace and a try from Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, but a final Catalans try from Sam Moa put the game beyond doubt.
St Helens supporters turned up in their numbers, only to witness their side miss out to Wembley for the tenth year in a row whereas Catalans would go on and lift their first ever piece of major silverware!
Surely it will not be 11th time unlucky for the league leaders this weekend? Right?!
1. Leeds Rhinos 33-26 St Helens – 2003
Finally, a match that literally had everything, Leeds Rhinos mouth-watering win over St Helens at Huddersfield in 2003!
The match has been christened as the longest Challenge Cup semi-final in the competitions’ history, with only Castleford and Leeds 2011 clash coming close time wise.
However, this one will always remain special considering how it panned out.
The Rhinos led 18-6 after 25 minutes thanks to two tries from Mark Calderwood and one from Francis Cummins, cancelled out Darren Smith’s early effort.
But then the Saints battled back and led 26-20 during the dying moments following scores from Paul Newlove, Paul Sculthorpe and Smith’s second.
But then future record try scorer Danny McGuire came along to score in the final minute to send the game into extra-time and added a second during the closing moments of the period, following Kevin Sinfield’s drop-goal, to seal a famous win.
The final proved almost as entertaining, and though Leeds lost out to the Bradford Bulls, this semi will take some beating as the competition continues.