Date: Saturday 23rd August
Venue: Wembley
Kick-off: 3:00pm

Teams

Leeds Rhinos Team:

Zak Hardaker, Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Kevin Sinfield, Kylie Leuluai, Rob Burrow, Jamie Peacock, Carl Ablett, Bret Delaney, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Ryan Bailey, Paul Aiton, Ian Kirke, Liam Sutcliffe

Castleford Tigers Team:

Kirk Dixon, Michael Shenton, Jake Webster, Justin Carney, Luke Dorn, Marc Sneyd, Andy Lynch, Adam Milner, Craig Huby, Weller Hauraki, Nathan Massey, Daryl Clark, Oliver Holmes, Frankie Mariano, Scott Wheeldon, Jamie Ellis, Liam Finn, Lee Jewitt, Gareth Carvell

Road To Wembley

Leeds Rhinos

Round Four – Wakefield (A), 6-60

Round Five – St Helens (H), 32-12

Quarter-Finals – Leigh Centurions (H), 25-12

Semi-Finals – Warrington Wolves (N), 24-16

Castleford Tigers

Round Four – Batley Bulldogs (A), 10-48

Round Five – Sheffield Eagles (H), 60-16

Quarter-Finals – Wigan Warriors (A), 4-16

Semi-Finals – Widnes Vikings (N), 28-6

Preview

Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers will go head to head on Saturday at Wembley in a battle for Yorkshire pride and the right to be crowned Challenge Cup Champions.

It is the first time in 22 years that Castleford have appeared at Wembley and they will have the support of the majority of the neutrals as they are considered the underdogs. A piece of silverware will be just reward for their extraordinary success this season as they have cemented a place in the top eight and surprised everyone with their rise towards the top.

In contrast, Leeds Rhinos have been to five finals since 2000 having lost every one of them, although they did lift the trophy in 1999. The only Challenge Cup winner amongst their vastly experienced side is Jamie Peacock but his two winning medals from 2000 and 2003 came for Bradford against Leeds Rhinos.

Brian McDermott started the Challenge Cup mind games early when he announced his side, from 1 to 17, at a press conference on Monday afternoon while sat next to opposing coach Daryl Powell. It seems as though the Leeds coach was trying to unnerve Powell early on and we will find out whether his tactics will work or not come Saturday.

Both have had a tough run to the final, with Leeds facing three Super League sides on the road to Wembley and Castleford defeating two, which included the holders Wigan Warriors.

Having brushed aside Widnes Vikings in front of a sell-out Leigh Sports Village with a faultless performance, Daryl Powell’s men will be full of confidence ahead of a historic trip to Wembley for the Tigers.

Leeds were dominant in St Helens as they saw off Warrington Wolves despite a strong second half from their opponents and have had to battle hard earlier in the competition to see of Leigh Centurions and St Helens.

Both sides go into the final off the back of league defeats as they fielded weakened sides with one eye on Wembley. Castleford were beaten well by Warrington and Leeds gave away a commanding lead to be beaten by London Broncos as they won their first game of the season.

With all of their experience Leeds Rhinos should have the upper hand however, if Castleford have taught us one thing this season it is to never write them off and the two shared a point last time they met in the league when they played out an outstanding 24-24 draw.

We are set for a phenomenal contest in front of a bumper Wembley crowd come Saturday and we will finally find out whether Leeds can end their Challenge Cup final hoodoo, or if Castleford Tigers can continue their shock season by picking up the trophy for the first time since 1986.

Key Battles

Shenton vs Watkins

Arguably the best centres in Super League at the moment go head to head as the current England international Kallum Watkins faces up to former international Michael Shenton. Watkins is a powerful centre who can make something from nothing out wide with his blistering pace and great finishing ability. Shenton is as dangerous from deep in his own half as he is from deep within the oppositions half as he can pick a gap and break the line at any given moment. If these two are on top of their game we will see plenty of points scored.

Sneyd vs Sinfield

The young pretender comes up against the master. Kevin Sinfield has bags of experience and has led Leeds to glory in all but the Challenge Cup, can he complete the collection with victory at Wembley? He will be at the heart of everything Leeds do and his organisation and calming influenced could get them over the line and end a run of five final defeats. Marc Sneyd on the other hand is a daring and exciting young prospect who has enjoyed a brilliant 2014 with the Tigers. He can take the line on with his great footwork and he can back that up with his great pace. Nothing has fazed him so far this season so don’t expect him to step down from the challenge of Kevin Sinfield.

Clark vs Burrow

Daryl Clark could be England’s next top hooker for the next five years as he has gone from strength to strength in this over performing Castleford side. His engine is incredible and he never seems to tire no matter how much work he gets through. If he spots any lazy defenders then you can guarantee a break is on the cards. Burrow, much like Sinfield, has all the experience in the world and has impressed in the last few seasons since his switch to hooker. His quick dummy half dash is dangerous and he isn’t easy to get hold of once he gets going. If Cas start to tire you can count on this guy to pick holes and expose the Tigers defence.

Previous Meetings This Season

These two have met twice already this season with Leeds travelling to Castleford and beating them 14-22 before the two shared a point in the return fixture at Headingley. It was a brilliant match which ended 24-24 but it will be remembered for a moment of madness from Kevin Sinfield, who head-butted Luke Dorn and was sent off for the first time in his career.

Prediction

Last year we had a shock finalist in Hull FC and they failed to rise to the occasion however, I have no doubts that Castleford will perform in this year’s final. Leeds will be desperate to end their woeful luck in Challenge Cup finals but having seen Castleford go from strength to strength this year I’m tipping them to keep Leeds waiting at least another year. Cas by 6.