In a repeat of the 1986 Challenge Cup Final, Hull KR and Castleford butt heads with a place in the final four up for grabs.
With big names like Warrington and Leeds already knocked out, the latter by the Tigers themselves, and with one of St Helens and Catalans set to join them, the Challenge Cup represents a serious opportunity for success for the two sides who last year served up a thrilling battle in the cup.
Hull KR have a team capable of beating anyone on their day and their experience in the play-offs last year will have only helped them where knockout rugby is concerned. As for the Tigers, after building up momentum recently, they will have their hearts set on going one step further in the competition after losing the final to St Helens in 2021.
After missing the win over Warrington, Jordan Abdull should be available for this do or die clash as should 2021 Challenge Cup winner Lachlan Coote. Fellow fullback Will Dagger is back in the mix after a knee injury whilst Dean Hadley could make his first appearance since the Robins defeated Salford. Tom Garratt will not feature after starting at prop owing to a head knock.
Daniel Smith is back for the Tigers after he picked up an injury in their cup win over Leeds a fortnight ago. His return is more than welcome with George Lawler hit with a three-match ban following the win over Toulouse last week.
Match Preview – Key Battles:
Lachlan Coote vs Niall Evalds: Two outstanding fullbacks who have endured seasons blighted by injury so far do battle tomorrow. Often overlooked, it would not be hard to make an argument saying either is the best in the league and it’s not long since the pair locked horns in a Grand Final or indeed a Challenge Cup Final as they did last year with Evalds even picking up the Lance Todd Trophy in last year’s final. Both central to their side’s attack, the better performer could spearhead their side to victory.
Matt Parcell vs Paul McShane: The 2020 Man of Steel takes on one of the league’s in form nines down the middle of the field tomorrow. Like Coote and Evalds, they have met in Grand Final in the past so are well versed in high stakes games adding even more spice to this intriguing battle as the cerebral McShane battles the electric Parcell.
Elliot Minchella vs Joe Westerman: Lee Radford recently described Joe Westerman as the best 13 in the league and the stats back that up with a huge number of metres and tackles registered to the Tigers talisman. Moreover, we’ve seen him be central to the classy Cas attack recently. Always hard to stop, he’ll be against the brilliant and somewhat under the radar Elliot Minchella who has been solid since returning from long term injury. A dangerous player in his own right he could test Westerman in the middle.
Where the game will be won and lost:
It has been overlooked but recently Castleford’s attack has been sublime. Even when they were losing games they were still scoring points and then hit Leeds with an avalanche of tries in the last round of the cup before doing the same to Toulouse last week. A very good offence but is it as good as the attack Hull KR possess. The Robins set the league alight last season and seem to be shining again in 2022 with Mikey Lewis on fire. We could be in for another try fest and it may well come down to which team has the better scoring ability on the day.
Score Prediction: Hull KR 32-30 Castleford Tigers