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26th July 2019, 14:56 | ChallengeCup

Coral Challenge Cup | Semi-Final Preview

Coral Challenge Cup | Semi-Final Preview

Hull FC, Warrington, Saints and Halifax looking towards Wembley...

Championship side Halifax RLFC last won the Challenge Cup in 1987, beating Saints 19-18 at Wembley, and will be looking for a repeat against the same opposition to claim the biggest upset in Rugby League history in their Coral Challenge Cup semi-final. 

Fax’ fans went into delirium when James Woodburn-Hall broke the Bradford line with less than ten minutes remaining to book their place at the University of Bolton Stadium, and now they know they are just 80 minutes from rewriting Rugby League history.  

While they could etch their name in Rugby League folklore, the Halifax camp are feeling ‘no pressure’ according to Jacob Fairbank. 

“We’ve got a really strong tight-knit group and we believe we can do it. I’m not sure anyone outside of our camp believes we can but that doesn’t matter to us. 

“We want to go out there and enjoy ourselves but also test ourselves against the best. I’ll be coming up against the England front-row which will be a great experience. 

“The emotions after beating Bradford were crazy and I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like if we were to beat St Helens – it would be unbelievable.” 

St Helens Head Coach Justin Holbrook didn’t shy away from the fact he was happy to draw Halifax ahead of the semi-finals and – whilst not overlooking the opposition – has had Wembley at the forefront of his mind since joining back in 2017. 

“It’s been 12 years since St Helens got to a Challenge Cup final and played at Wembley and that has been in my thoughts since I first came to the club. 

“Everyone in the town has grown up with the Challenge Cup and it means a lot to the people of St Helens. I’ve had people tell me their child is now 14 and they’re yet to watch St Helens at Wembley.” 

Winger Tommy Makinson – who has featured in the Super League Grand Final, World Club Challenge and won last season’s Golden Boot – also has his eyes on Wembley to add to his ever-growing list of big game appearances.

“Very few players get to play at Wembley, but the greats of the game become great because of the trophies they lift, and we want to bring the trophy home to St Helens.”  

While St Helens head into Saturday as clear favourites the first semi-final offers a much more even match-up as Super League’s 2nd placed side Warrington Wolves face 3rd placed Hull FC. 

Both sides have had their fair share of Wembley trips, with Hull FC winning back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017, while Warrington have made the trip to the capital on five occasions in the past decade.

With the sides so evenly matched, both Steve Price and Lee Radford will be looking to their key men to light up the University of Bolton Stadium and guide them to Wembley.  

Price said: “In big games you need your most experienced players to step up and set the platform which allows your one to 17 give their best performance.  

“We’ve got a lot of experienced players who’ve played on the big stage whether it be at international level or in Grand Finals and we’re going to need them to use that experience in spades this week. 

“They’ve got an experienced hooker in Danny Houghton, Marc Sneyd who can put the ball anywhere and then Albert Kelly and Jake Connor who can play a little bit of ad lib. 

“We’ve had some good battles with them over the last 18 months and we’re really looking forward to Saturday.”  

Hull FC boss Radford added: “The league table suggests that the sides are really well matched and we’ve both won one game apiece against each other this season.

“Both teams will be looking to their big game players to stand up and whichever team takes their opportunities will come away with the spoils.  

“I don’t think you can pinpoint one Warrington player you need to keep quiet because if you try and do a job on one another will take control, so we need to do a job on them all and that’s what these big games are about.”