Challenge Cup Quarter Final Review
Hull KR 32-26 Catalans Dragons
Hull Kingston Rovers survived a second-half comeback from Catalans Dragons to progress to the Challenge Cup semi-finals for the first time in nine years with a 32-26 victory at the KC Lightstream Stadium.
The Robins produced a scintillating first-half performance going in 26-4 to the good at half-time however the French side fought their way back but Rovers held on for their eighth home win out of ten in 2015.
Chris Chester was boosted by the return of Shaun Lunt and Dane Tilse who both played a part in the win. Meanwhile Laurent Frayssinous had to draft in youngster Stan Robins in the absence of Thomas Bosc and Todd Carney, with Zeb Taia making a welcome return after missing their win over Wakefield.
The home side went ahead as early as the eighth minute when Ken Sio backed himself against Fouad Yaha after good combination play from Albert Kelly and Kieran Dixon. The latter then got in on the act when he took a great offload from Tony Puletua near the line to crash over.
Maurice Blair put up a high bomb which saw Josh Mantellato outjump Catalans full-back Morgan Escare before allowing Kelly to score.
By this point the normally calm and collected Frayssinous was on the touchline and it got worse for the French outfit. The returning Lunt delivered a superb cut-out pass to Mantellato with the Italian international teeing up Graeme Horne for his side’s fourth try.
With Mantellato kicking all four conversions the Robins had raced into a healthy advantage but that was cut six minutes from the break, when Krisnan Inu touched down following a grubber kick in the corner. Rovers kicked a penalty with seconds going in the half to make it 26-4 leaving the field to a standing ovation.
Inu thought he’d grabbed his brace at the beginning of the second-half but the video referee saw a knock on in the build-up chalking off the score. The ever-dangerous Taia then barged his way over following Ian Henderson’s flat pass and Inu wasn’t to be denied his brace when he scored on 55 minutes after Tony Gigot’s dummy fooled everyone in the ground.
Catalans now had real momentum and sensed the nerves amongst the Rovers players but them doubts were allied somewhat when Liam Salter crafted a try for Ken Sio – taking his tally to 17 for the season.
There was still late drama and tension to be had when Henderson scampered his way over and Whitehead crossed but it was too little too late as the Dragons were defeated 32-26.
Hull FC 6-24 Leeds Rhinos
Challenge Cup holders Leeds Rhinos cruised into the last four of the competition with a 24-6 win over Hull FC at the KC Stadium.
In an error strewn match played in deteriorating conditions it was Leeds who prevailed largely thanks to the boot and game management of veteran Kevin Sinfield.
The two sides faced off in the league the previous week with Leeds again running out 32-20 victors, but this game had a different complexion. Much of the build-up surrounded the Marc Sneyd tackle on Danny McGuire which earned the half-back a two match ban. McGuire, despite fears he had broken his ankle, was named in the 19-man squad for the match but played no part albeit adding a bit of extra spice to the occasion.
Liam Sutcliffe will spend the remainder of the season in the stands after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament and the travelling side were also without potential Man of Steel Adam Cuthbertson. Hull gave Jordan Abdull a chance in the halves partner Leon Pryce but coming up against the veterans Sinfield and Rob Burrow it was always going to be a tall order for the youngster.
The only try of the first-half came in the fifth minute when Joel Moon regathered his own high kick, outjumping Jordan Rankin, to touch down.
Sinfield added the extras and added a further two out of three penalty kicks to extend his side’s lead to 10-0 going into the break.
Two minutes after the restart and Leeds took a 16-0 lead when Ryan Hall switched the play to Sinfield whose inside pass allowed Kallum Watkins to cross despite the best efforts of Gareth Ellis.
Hull continued to fight but uncharacteristic errors from Jordan Thompson and Joe Westerman saw chances go begging in wet conditions in Yorkshire.
The Rhinos clinched the victory and killed off the game as a contest when Zak Hardaker finished off a great move ten minutes from the end. Sinfield added the conversion and another penalty before Abdull grabbed a consolation try with four minutes to spare but it was the Rhinos claim the victory and their spot in the next round.
Warrington Wolves 34-24 Leigh Centurions
Warrington Wolves progressed to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup beating Leigh Centurions 34-24 in a pulsating encounter at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Championship side Leigh, who had already knocked out Super League sides Salford Red Devils and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, pushed the Wolves all the way but their top flight opposition proved too much in the end.
Warrington got the game’s first break through with former Leigh man Chris Hill fed Ashton Sims with the Fijian international breaking the deadlock with a close-range effort. Leigh pegged the home side back with Greg Worthington managed to ground Ryan Brierley’s neat grubber kick.
Parity didn’t last long when Ben Harrison managed to claw the ball out of Bob Beswick’s hands seeing Ben Currie race away for a try.
The Championship leaders, unfazed by the occasion, hit back with Brierley took full advantage of a loose ball racing all of 60 metres and evading Stefan Ratchford at full-back.
Kevin Penny thought he’d got his side’s third try when he grounded the ball in the corner only for the referee to disallow his attempt for a forward pass.
Leigh, who look odds on to contest the Super 8s, showed just why they could cut it in Super League when Liam Kay raced away down the left flank chipping the ball infield to the supporting Gregg McNally who scored to give his side a 14-12 lead at the break.
With the words of Tony Smith still ringing in the ears of the Wolves players they started the second-half in clinical fashion. Brad Dwyer cut through the Leigh defence before offloading to Ratchford who weaved his way and allowed Penny to cross the whitewash in the corner.
Penny then arguably scored the try of the competition showing superb ability to dive in at the corner despite being barged into touch.
Gareth O’Brien was sent to the sin-bin for tackling Brierley off the ball to give the Centurions hope but that was dashed when substitute George King scored with Warrington stretched their lead.
The impressive Brierley scored his second of the game to lessen the deficit but Currie added his brace to all but confirm victory. Tom Armstrong scored a late consolation try for Leigh who put up a valiant display but it’s Warrington that progress in a victory only marred only by a worrying injury to James Laithwaite.
St Helens 36-20 Widnes Vikings
St Helens booked their place in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup by coming from behind to beat Widnes Vikings 36-20 at Langtree Park.
Keiron Cunningham’s side were bidding to win their first Challenge Cup final since they last won the competition in 2008 but this was far from a comfortable victory.
The recently retired and former Saints captain Paul Wellens, who retired mid-week, received a shirt by chairman Eamonn McManus and was given a guard of honour by both teams prior to kick-off highlighting his status in the game.
Widnes, who had been in stuttering form, came close to opening the scoring through Alex Gerrard but Jon Wilkin produced a try-saving tackle to deny the prop.
Adam Swift got the first points of the game when he raced all of 90 metres to put his side ahead before Widnes replied through Joe Mellor who stretched over from close range to level the game.
Stand-in full-back Mark Percival edged St Helens ahead with a penalty before he connected well with Swift to cross for a try after Jordan Turner had made an initial break.
St Helens further stretched their advantage after a great switching move saw Luke Walsh combine with Travis Burns seeing Matty Dawson race into the right corner. Despite the scores at 18-6 in favour of the Wolves they could never really settle and the Vikings pulled a try back when Danny Craven took Kevin Brown’s pass to force his way over.
The visitors were in again three minutes into the second-half when Patrick Ah Van crossed to get the Widnes tails up. Chris Dean then put Denis Betts’ side into a slender lead when the video referee awarded a try to set up a great finish to the game.
Just after the hour mark the towering presence of Kyle Amor saw him crash over for Saints’ fourth try putting them back into the lead.
Turner furthered his side’s advantage when he burst through a tiring Vikings defence before Percival added another penalty and grabbed his second of the game late on to round off the win for Saints.
Published on June 29 2015 for Rugby AM.