Aaron Sutcliffe previews the 2020 Challenge Cup Final between Leeds Rhinos and Salford Red Devils. This is what we have to look forward to.
Leeds are playing in their first Challenge Cup final since 2015 when they beat Hull Kingston Rovers. They knocked out the Robins and Wigan Warriors on route to the Wembley showpiece.
The Rhinos have looked good since the restart, recording seven wins and four defeats in all competitions, putting themselves in contention for a top-four finish in Super League.
Salford Red Devils
Salford haven’t featured in a Challenge Cup since 1969 when they were beaten by Castleford. This campaign they have claimed impressive wins against Catalans Dragons and Warrington Wolves to reach their first Cup Final in 51 years.
The Red Devils have endured a difficult season after reaching last year’s Super League Grand Final against the odds but have impressed after the restart, winning six of their nine matches.
The Rhinos return to full strength, having rested the majority of their first-team squad in the mid-week Super League clash against Warrington, with only four players remaining in the side.
Richard Agar is without Cup-tied forward Bodene Thompson and is missing Harry Newman, Stevie Ward and Dom Crosby to long-term injuries but otherwise has a fully fit squad to choose from.
Leeds squad: Walker, T. Briscoe, Hurrell, Handley, Lui, Gale, Seumanufagai, Leeming, Prior, Mellor, Martin, Dwyer, L. Sutcliffe, Myler, Cuthbertson, Oledzki, Smith, L. Briscoe, Donaldson, A. Sutcliffe, Holroyd
The Red Devils also return to full strength, having rested their key players against Hull KR in the week, but will still be without Dan Sarginson and Jack Ormondroyd who are both self-isolating after testing positive for COVID earlier this week.
Ian Watson will be pleased to hear that the rest of his squad returned negative results following multiple rounds of testing, with Mark Flanagan and Lee Mossop both cleared to play after initially providing inconclusive results.
Salford squad: Evalds, Welham, Inu, Lolohea, Brown, Mossop, Lussick, Dudson, Lannon, Pauli, McCarthy, Ikahihifo, Burke, Yates, Atkin, Flanagan, Greenwood, Williams, Kear, Roberts, Watkins
Leeds have won both league meetings between the two sides this season, the last of which came in late August when the Rhinos hammered Salford 50-12 at the Halliwell Jones Stadium with Richie Myler and Ash Handley both scoring hat-tricks.
BATTLE TO WATCH
It should be a tasty battle in the centres on Saturday afternoon with the hard-hitting Konrad Hurrell coming up against former Leeds man Kallum Watkins.
Tongan international Hurrell is known for his power and has impressed for Leeds in Super League since arriving from Gold Coast Titans in 2019, scoring 14 tries last term, becoming a fan favourite at Headingley.
The former World All Stars centre has continued his fine form in 2020, scoring four tries in nine appearances and has formed a fine partnership with prolific wing Ash Handley which Salford will no doubt be wary of on Saturday afternoon.
Boyhood Salford fan Watkins won a host of honours during his 12-year stay with the Rhinos, including three Super League titles, two Challenge Cup’s and one World Club Challenge, meaning he has plenty of big game experience.
The England international scored his first Red Devils try in the semi-final win against Warrington and, after a tricky couple of years with injuries, is hoping to regain his best form that saw him become on the league’s best centres.
Date: Saturday 17th October
Venue: Wembley Stadium
Both teams deserve huge credit for reaching this stage of the competition in what should be a captivating Cup Final on Saturday afternoon.
Leeds are probably the slight favourites given their history in this competition but this one could go either way and will likely come down to who wants it more on the day and I fancy Salford to claim their first Cup success in over 50 years in a tight affair.