By Josh Powell
Leeds mascot Ronnie the Rhino was lucky to escape serious injury last week as he took a tumble trying to abseil down Headingley Stadium. Fortunately Ronnie was unhurt after the fall and Leeds fans will be hoping their team can avoid a similar slip-up as they take on the Wigan Warriors in the Challenge Cup semi-final.
The Rhinos have lost the last two Challenge Cup finals and have the chance to avenge last years 28-18 defeat against Wigan on Saturday. Leeds haven’t tasted Challenge Cup success since 1999 and 13/2 with Paddy Power to lift the trophy this year.
Wigan will be no walk-overs though and are odds-on at 10/11 to retain the Challenge Cup. There’s a reason they are the favourites being the most successful Challenge Cup team in history, winning the cup 18 times in total including eight on the spin during the early ’90s.
The Warriors gave Leeds an education on the field earlier this season beating them 50-8 but you would expect this contest to be considerably more competitive.
Waiting for the victors in the final will be either the Warrington Wolves or the Huddersfield Giants. The Wolves beat the Catalan Giants by 10 points in the quarters and tasted back-to-back cup victories in 2009 and 2010. Warrington beat the Giants at the Galpharm Stadium in February and have their eyes set on lifting the trophy again on the 25th August.
The Wolves are 9/5 to lift the trophy and the Giants are the biggest price of the four teams at 9/1. It’s no surprise to see Huddersfield at such a big price in a season where their league form has been underwhelming. They lost the 2009 final to Warrington 25-16 and haven’t lifted the cup since 1953. It will take something very special for the Giants to end that 49 years of pain.
Wembley awaits the winners of these two matches with the destination of the Challenge Cup decided on August 25th. Wigan are the odds-on favourites which is no surprise as they continue to dominate this season but Warrington got the better of the Warriors by a couple of points in March and they look a tastier price at 9/5 to be champions this year.