Only eight teams remain in the Challenge Cup following a superb weekend of action as Super League sides fell by the wayside and Championship clubs highlighted their potential.
As the road to the Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium hots up and the trophy beckons what have we learnt this weekend from the Challenge Cup action?
We’re answering that with five major talking points from this weekend’s rugby.
Warrington’s season suffers another blow
Wakefield defeated Warrington for the second time in two weeks on Sunday, this time sending them crashing out of the Challenge Cup. Despite Warrington going into half time in front, Wakefield were able to mount a comeback as Warrington went scoreless in the second 40. It’s four losses in a row now for Daryl Powell’s side, and they desperately need a return to form if they still have designs on a place in the top two or three.
Wakefield in strong form
The game that saw Warrington lose their fourth consecutive fixture was the same one in which Wakefield made it three on the bounce. After a poor start to the season, Poching has turned his side’s season around as they earn a place in the quarter finals having climbed to 8th in the table. With a game against an inconsistent Salford side up next, there is a good chance for Wakefield to move even further up the ladder. There is plenty of quality in Wakefield’s squad and with Mason Lino firing, a play-off place is not out of Wakefield’s capabilities.
Is the season over for Leeds?
After Richard Agar’s departure off the back of a defeat to Salford, interim head coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan was unable to steady the Rhinos’ season as they faced Castleford in the Challenge Cup. An abysmal first 40 left the Rhinos with far too much to do as they ended up on the wrong side of a 40-16 score line. Sat in 10th with just one win, and having been knocked out the cup, a recovery is needed fast if Leeds are to achieve what their squad is more than capable of and reach the play-offs.
Championship clubs fall to Super League opposition despite valiant effort
There is no surprise that Super League clubs have more quality than sides from lower leagues given their increased ability to fund squads and facilities, but it is becoming extremely rare for Championship clubs to produce an upset. The four championship clubs in action were knocked out, and although no single result was a surprise, it seems that this will be the case for the foreseeable. This year will be the third in a row that has seen exclusively Super League clubs playing in the quarter-finals. However, it has to be said the likes of Leigh, Featherstone and Barrow pushed their Super League opponents. Perhaps the cup needs to be amended to give more Championship sides a chance of meeting Super League opposition otherwise there is a fear that without the ability to test themselves against the best, they could be left behind.
Saints face hardest draw possible
Catalans away is the exact draw that most St Helens fans would have wanted to avoid more than any other. The inform French side will pose the biggest threat to Saints’ bid to win the double again. With Warrington in disarray and Wigan not yet in full flow, a visit to the South of France will be a real test and the winner is likely to at least make the final given the two sides’ form.