The Challenge Cup is starting to heat up as we reach the last-16 stage of the competition. Last year’s champions Leeds Rhinos face a tough clash against fellow Super League outfit Huddersfield Giants, while the likes of Warrington Wolves and St. Helens have been paired with lower league opponents. However, anything can happen in the Challenge Cup and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see at least one shock in this weekend’s games. We take a look at this year’s competition and provide our thoughts on a few of the teams that may go on to win the Challenge Cup at the end of August.
Leeds Rhinos are the team to beat
The current Super League leaders face a potentially tricky tie with Huddersfield Giants on Friday evening. The two sides recently clashed in the league and both sides were left to rue missed opportunities after a 24-24 draw meant that they shared the spoils. However, the hosts will be going all out to ensure that they reach the quarter-finals and will be targeting back-to-back Challenge Cup triumphs. Many have tipped Leeds to beat Huddersfield convincingly on Friday, but Brian McDermott won’t be leaving anything to chance and is expected to select a strong side for the clash.
St. Helens stand a great chance
Keiron Cunningham’s side have played some phenomenal rugby league at times this season and must feel a little aggrieved to sit behind rivals Wigan Warriors in the Super League table. Their form has been indifferent in recent weeks, but the Saints are more than capable of beating the division’s best sides. St. Helens boast the best defensive record in the league and will be hoping that their mean defence can contain League 1 side York City on Friday evening. The Saints are expected to rest a few of their key players, and supporters will be way of a potential, although unlikely, shock defeat.
Warrington and Wigan could challenge if they get a decent draw
These two sides have performed admirably in the Challenge Cup throughout the last seven seasons and it would be no surprise to see one of them left the trophy at the end of August. Warrington have struggled to find consistency, but have already beaten Leeds twice this year – showing just how good they can be. Meanwhile, Wigan appear to have turned their form around after a slow start and sit second in the league. Both sides will be expecting to reach the quarter-finals at the very least, and could go on to win the competition if they are given a favourable draw.