There are four very tasty clashes as eight sides fight for a place in the semi-finals in Bolton. Here are my predictions…
Huddersfield Giants vs Catalans Dragons (Thu, 7:35pm)
Both of these sides have had a real upturn in fortunes over recent weeks after slow starts to the season, with Huddersfield winning their last four and Catalans five of their last six.
Sticking with Steve McNamara seems to have worked for the Dragons, while the decision to wave goodbye to Rick Stone is finally paying off for the Giants as Simon Woolford arrives with a side in hot form.
This will be a much better game than it might have been a month ago, and it will be a tough one to call. You always worry for the Dragons away from home though and I think Huddersfield will just edge it to make the semis.
Prediction: Huddersfield Giants 30-22 Catalans Dragons
Leeds Rhinos v Leigh Centurions (Fri, 7:35pm)
Leeds’ awful run shows no sign of coming to an end, with defeat at Catalans meaning they have lost five of their last six Super League games, and while injuries are piling up for them the players they have out there, who are all capable of performing, just look so short of confidence.
A last minute missed kick saw Leigh lose at the Bash to Toronto, a first defeat for Kieron Purtill after eleven consecutive wins. They will be disappointed by that but I don’t think that it will affect them too much in the build-up to this one.
They knocked out Salford in the last round, but Leeds will still be a tougher test. It should be a very close game at Featherstone, but I would still have to go for Leeds to just – just – win.
Prediction: Leeds Rhinos 22-20 Leigh Centurions
Warrington Wolves v Wigan Warriors (Sat, 2:30pm)
The clash between these two sides promised so much at Magic, but instead we were treated to a dominant Wigan performance in the second half to win comfortably.
Since then Warrington have beaten Hull FC while Wigan went down to a defeat at Hull KR that nobody expected. Whether the announcement of Shaun Wane’s departure had an influence on that can only be speculated.
What is sure is that the Warriors will need to play much, much better this week. They won this match-up by the tightest of margins at this stage last year and I think that they will just about triumph again.
Prediction: Warrington Wolves 18-28 Wigan Warriors
St Helens v Hull FC (Sun, 3:30pm)
The table-toppers face the holders in another very tasty clash on Sunday. Saints were comfortable at Cas last weekend to win heavily, just as they did in the last round of the Cup, and they are a scary proposition for any side to face.
Hull FC have made the Challenge Cup their own in the last few years, but it will be a remarkable achievement to keep a winning run that stretches back to 2015 when you consider the ridiculous number of injuries that have obliterated their backline.
Saints beat Hull with ease earlier in the season, and I’m sure they will do the same this weekend to keep alive the quest for a clean-sweep of silverware.
Prediction: St Helens 34-12 Hull FC