And then there were eight. Warrington Wolves have reached the quarter finals of the Challenge Cup once again, having beaten Widnes in the sixth round by a convincing 34-20 scoreline last month. With home advantage once more at the Wolves’ disposal in the next round, Tony Smith’s men will be reasonably confident of progression to the semis. The quarter-final opposition, however, is one against which the Wolves have struggled of late.
That opposition is, of course, none other than the Wolves’ cross-county rivals Wigan Warriors. According to the Guts.com online casino and betting UK licensed website, both the Wolves and the Warriors are (as of 10 June 2017) priced at a somewhat generous 19/4. This is, if anything, an indication of the bookmakers’ confidence in the Wolves to win the Challenge Cup, but the squad will know all too well the difficulties that lie ahead.
The Warriors will be further buoyed by their most recent away triumph over the Wolves. Back in March, an injury-hit Warriors side defied expectations, with a 38-16 victory over their rivals, leaving nobody under any illusions as to which side had the momentum needed to grasp silverware.
Although the strengths possessed by the Warriors and the Wolves are self-evident, neither is the outright favourite to win the Challenge Cup, with another six teams still in the equation – though some are clearly more ‘in the equation’ than others…
*Correct as of 10 June 2017.
Despite finishing a disappointing fifth, Castleford will approach the quarter finals in fine form, with seven wins in the last nine games. A 53-10 thrashing of St Helens in the sixth round demonstrated the attacking prowess that the Tigers now possess after a disappointing 2016. The fast-paced style that, just three years ago, saw them branded a popular and entertaining side, has once more been shown at crucial phases in their games.
Second favourites Leeds have been less consistent than Castleford of late, but would be underestimated at anyone’s peril. The Rhinos’ relatively short odds are also a reflection of the fact that they have what is seen as the easiest quarter-final draw possible, with a home tie against rank outsiders Featherstone Rovers.
Hull FC (Cup Holders)
Hull recently arrested a nosedive in form that included embarrassing home defeats to St Helens and Leigh Centurions. The Black & Whites’ last game was a disciplined and ruthless 34-10 away win over Salford Red Devils. Said win gave the bookmakers much cause to shorten their odds on a Hull retaining the Challenge Cup, after beating Warrington in last year’s Challenge Cup final:
Salford Red Devils – 15/2
Two home defeats in a row appear to have stalled, to a devastating extent, what was a promising run of form for Ian Watson’s men. Like Leeds Rhinos, however, the Devils have a hugely favourable home tie against Wakefield Trinity in the next round. Anything other than an easy passage through to the semi finals would represent the biggest humiliation for Salford in living memory.
The Long Shot
Wakefield Trinity – 35/2
Priced at well over 300/1 across the board, Featherstone Rovers are clearly not worth any form of consideration. Of the realistic Challenge Cup winners, Wakefield are by far the least fancied, despite being in the midst of a six-match winning run in the Super League. They also thrashed Dewsbury Rams 54-6 away in the last round, giving punters much food for thought ahead of the quarter finals.