Rugby League

1895 Cup

9 May 2024

AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Semi-Finals Preview

AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Semi-Finals Preview

It’s Semi-Final time as we return to AB Sundecks 1895 Cup action this week, with four Betfred Championship teams setting their sights on a trip to the Wembley Stadium on Saturday 8 June. 

Both ties will kick off at 3pm on Sunday, with Bradford Bulls hosting Wakefield Trinity at Bartercard Odsal Stadium and Sheffield Eagles travelling to face York Knights at the LNER Community Stadium.

It’s a Round 1 rematch for Bradford and Wakefield who have already met in the Championship competition this year. Trinity won comfortably 42-12 in the league’s opening match at a sold out DIY Kitchens Stadium in March, but it is expected to be a much tougher test this time around.

The Bulls have won their last eight home meetings with Wakefield, where Trinity haven’t tasted victory at Odsal since September 2006. It is no secret that Bradford’s ground can be a fine fortress on its day - although Eamon O’Carroll’s men have only managed to conjure up two wins on home soil this year.

Bradford come into this cup clash on the back of a strong win away at Swinton last weekend. They also defeated the Lions in the 1895 Cup Quarter-Finals with an emphatic finish which ultimately booked their spot in the semis.

This is the Bulls’ first ever 1895 Cup semi-final, with just 80 minutes separating themselves and Wembley. Bradford may have won the Challenge Cup five times in their history, but only one of these triumphs occurred at Wembley in 1948.

Their most recent Challenge Cup successes in 2000 and 2003 were played at Murrayfield and The Millenium Stadium, meaning that many of the Bulls’ current fan base are yet to experience the Wembley dream.

Daryl Powell’s Wakefield head into this weekend’s semi-final with a perfect record of seven wins from seven in the Championship, having scored 252 points and conceding just 72. The side enter Sunday’s match following a convincing away win at Sheffield, who are also semi-finalists, and a gutsy victory over Barrow Raiders in the quarter-finals.

Trinity have visited old Wembley a total of six times in their history, including their most dominant and successful period in the early 1960s – claiming three cup titles in four years.

Perhaps the club is also renowned for their appearance in the 1968 Watersplash Final, in which Leeds defeated Trinity 11-10 in the most dramatic of circumstances in atrocious weather conditions. Their last Wembley appearance, however, came in 1979 - but Trinity were defeated 12-3 by former ‘Cup Kings’ Widnes Vikings.

It has been 45 years since Wakefield walked out at Wembley’s big stage. As current league leaders in the Championship with clear ambitions outlined for 2024, will they be able to overcome a bold Bradford?

For two players in particular, there could be back-to-back Wembley appearances on the cards. Lachlan Walmsley, of Wakefield, was an integral part in the Halifax side who were victors in the 1895 Cup Final last year, with Aidan McGowan, now of Bradford, also playing on the losing side for Batley.

Will either of these players have a major influence on Sunday?

The second semi-final tie will see inaugural 1895 Cup winners Sheffield Eagles visit York Knights.

The Eagles last enjoyed Wembley success in 2019, when they were part of the competition’s founding year – and went on to beat Widnes Vikings, 36-18. They came close to another Final appearance in 2022 but lost out to Leigh in the semi-finals.

There are a number of Sheffield players from the 2019 Final who are still a part of today’s squad, including the Ray French Award winner Anthony Thackeray. If there’s anyone who can gear his team up for a game of knock out rugby league that it’s the stalwart half-back. His partner in the halves, Cory Aston, is also set to make his 200th career appearance in Sunday’s semi-final and will hoping he can mark it with a special win.

Mark Aston’s men were unbeaten in this year’s Championship until the recent Round 7, where they lost at home to Wakefield. They have impressed so far in 2024 and progressed to the semis after beating last year’s finalists Batley.

Where their form with the Knights is concerned, Sheffield have already made a trip to the LNER Community Stadium once already this season, in which they won 16-32 in a Round 4 Betfred Challenge Cup match.

York have endured a poor start in the 2024 Championship, having picked up just one win from seven. They progressed through the 1895 Cup group stages having finished as the best second placed team in Group 3, behind Wakefield, before beating League One’s Oldham for a place in the quarter-finals.

York have made two Wembley appearances in their history – most recently in 2021, when they made it via the 1895 Cup competition. Their final opponents Featherstone, however, would prove too strong as they were defeated in 34-41 high-scoring affair. They came within touching distance again in 2023 but couldn’t quite overcome Batley in semis.

It will be three semi-finals in four years for the York outfit – but will they find their way back to Wembley again?


AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Semi-Final ties:

Bradford Bulls v Wakefield Trinity, Bartercard Odsal Stadium (K.O. 3pm)

York Knights v Sheffield Eagles, LNER Community Stadium (K.O. 3pm)


Tickets are still available for both semi-final ties and can be purchased via the home clubs' official websites.