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Challenge Cup Semi Final Match Preview: Leeds - 14th July 2012 at Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield
Posted by cherryandwhite on July 13 2012 - 04:15

Leeds Rhinos v Wigan Warriors - Carnegie Challenge Cup Semi Final
Saturday 14th July 2012. Kick Off 5:30pm at Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield.

Match Preview

Nice to play Leeds in the Challenge Cup isn't it. I mean it's not like this is our fifth meeting in the last six seasons in the cup, so it's nice to play them.

But enough of the sarcasm. Serious business is on the table and amazingly we are just 80 minutes from a return trip to Wembley. That just doesn't feel right to me and that perhaps is the problem with the Challenge Cup at the moment? I mean last year the cup matches against Warrington, St Helens and then Leeds at Wembley all came within a six week spell. Momentum built up and it felt very special.

This year nine weeks have past since the Quarter Final victory over St Helens and unlike last years victory at that stage, it was a match best forgotten in truth. It just doesn't feel like a big cup match is upon us.

Granted, I understand the Olympics are an issue for scheduling. The BBC will be tied up for a whole two weeks covering that, but why can't we be more flexible with the scheduling of the cup final? I mean when it gets played on 25th August the Premier League season will be back in flow and the press attention will be fully on that.

Why not play it this weekend? What else is happening on Saturday Afternoon? BBC are covering Scottish Open Golf, an event they are dropping next year and are only really giving token gesture coverage to. Quick look at Sky's schedules for Saturday shows coverage of "Leicestershire v Gloucestershire" cricket, "Fish 'O' Mania" and "Stormers v Rebels" Penalty Goal Kicking from Cape Town. Theirs no Formula One this weekend or Test Cricket, so why not use this to our advantage and have our showpiece game at a time when hardly anything else is happening?

Another example. BBC Radio 5 Live (the main AM station, not the digital Sports Extra) are doing full match commentary of this game, yet they didn't even do that for the final last year. I know full well they are only covering this because theirs bugger all else on but that's my point. Are we not wasting a massive opportunity to showcase our sport and big occasion? Perhaps we are doing it anyway. This Semi Final is on BBC TWO after all but a match at a more than half empty Galpharm Stadium isn't a showpiece at a full Wembley is it?

Anyway, one thing is clear ahead of this match and that is that Leeds fans clearly don't fancy this. They may have won four league titles in the last five years, but the Challenge Cup is a painful competition for them. They've lost seven of their last eight Challenge Cup Final appearances with the one win being the easiest ever cup final victory when they beat London 56-12 in 1999.

So they've never really had a proper cup final victory for ages. It is perhaps for that reason why a Leeds fans I talk to on Twitter (@gingerkev - he's not Ginger or called Kevin but that's his twitter name) just couldn't get his head round my argument last year that having won the league in 2010, the Challenge Cup was the trophy I wanted us to win for us in 2011. Leeds haven't had a tight, sweaty Wembley victory since 1978 whilst Wigan have won the cup 11 times since that year! Easy then to see the difference in attitudes. Don't get me wrong I'd rather us win the Grand Final than Wembley this year but I won't turn my nose up at a Wembley repeat!

The reason I say that Leeds don't fancy this is because I'm told that whilst over 5,000 Wigan fans will be making the cross Pennines journey to Galpharm Stadium on Saturday, Leeds are likely to have about 25-30% less than that. The overall attendance will get panned but I think the Wigan effort of more than 5,000 is quite good considering the modern day attitude and dis-respect the Challenge Cup recieves in it's scheduling.

If I'm honest though, that low Leeds following worries me a bit. A non expectant crowd and an underdog mentality can often work in a clubs favour. Huddersfield for example produced that kind of success when beating Leeds (2006) and St Helens (2009) in Cup Semi Finals. Castleford almost did it last year also when they took Leeds to Extra Time before losing to a Golden Penalty Goal.

Then again, I just cannot see Wigan going in to the game with a wrong attitude. Not with a coach like Shaun Wane. It's no coincidence to me that our away form has been so awesome since he become involved with the first team.

Wigan also get stronger with Josh Charnley, Paul Prescott, Mike McIlorum and most importantly for me Jeff Lima all in contention to return after missing the Wakefield trip. I still worry about Sean O'Loughlin at Stand Off and goal kicking but it is certainly still a strong squad.

The Rhinos meanwhile are finding form the pundits are all telling us after they've won their last four in a row. Absolute Bollocks is my response to that. Don't get  me wrong, beating us on Saturday would constitute them finding form but reality is they've beat 11th, 12th and 14th in the table whilst also seeing off a Hull side that is on it's arse with injuries. Three of those games were at Headingley as well.

I mean last Friday they comfortably beat Hull but for me the Leeds side in the pomp of 2007, 2008 and 2009 would have smashed them with 40 or 50 points. Of course two points earned is two points earned, whether you win by 1 point or 60 points, but I'm absolutely convinced they will have to improve a hell of a lot on their recent form to beat us.

For example the 58-12 win they earned at London looks a very good score on paper, but it was only 24-12 after 60 minutes before they scored six tries in the final quarter. That's London who have only won 5 of their last 42 league matches that they took a long time in breaking down.

You've got to question mark the Leeds defence also. We scored 9 tries at Headingley last month and I can't recall an easier victory there. They let Wakefield score seven against them as well whilst also letting Castleford score four.

So my basic conclusion here is that if Leeds are going to play like they have been doing in recent times, then I think Wigan can only beat themselves. If Leeds want to win they, like I said, are going to have to produce a much improved display to win because I just can't see Wigan playing badly. The Rhinos have arguably got to play better than anything they've produced previously under Brian McDermott and I include the Grand Final success.

The question I suppose is whether Leeds can produce it in a one off environment. History says they can. They won the Grand Final last year after all, despite a regular season as average as this current one. But they didn't go through Wigan in doing so and really you have to go back almost three and half years ago to March 2009 to find a result that showed Leeds did a proper impressive job in beating us.

The big game against  last year was at Wembley, and yes we got a bit of luck with that forward pass for Lima's second try, but no one can argue surely against us being the better team that day? At 16-0 I think we were a try away from making that a very messy day for Leeds. Letting them score two tries in three minutes just before half time was a valuable lesson that hopefully we've learned from.

I suspect that cup final memories might play a part in Leeds tactics. They won't want us to get away to a fast start. In fact, I think they will want to slow the game down as much as possible. They would love heavy rain I think and a referee that lets them slow down the ruck. But if Wigan are allowed to play with speed, we'll kill them like we did at Headingley the other week. They couldn't handle us that night and remember we had no Gareth Hock, Harrison Hansen or Lee Mossop in the pack then either.

All in all I am confident, but not over confident. I do have a nagging doubt that Leeds on their day can cause an upset in a one off. They have the extra incentive as a squad of never having won this competition and that can sometimes count for a lot. You don't win four titles in five years by sheer fluke either but if Wigan play at their top level and respect possession, I just can't see enough class and forward dominance in Leeds squad to overcome that.

Let's just hope we are all flapping over, and queuing for, Wembley tickets come Sunday Morning!

19 Man Squad

IN:l Josh Charnley, Mike McIlorum, Jeff Lima, Jack Hughes
OUT:l Logan Tomkins, Tom Spencer, Iain Thornley, Matty Smith

Sam Tomkins, Josh Charnley, Darrell Goulding, George Carmont, Brett Finch, Michael McIlorum, Lee Mossop, Harrison Hansen, Gareth Hock, Sean O'Loughlin, Jeff Lima, Liam Farrell, Chris Tuson, Epalahame Lauaki, Ben Flower, Anthony Gelling, Jack Hughes, Dom Crosby, Jack Murphy.

NOTE:l Wigan have changed the squad from the original list with Paul Presoctt
NOTE:l Wigan have since changed the squad from the original list with Paul Prescott being replaced by Jack Murphy.

IN:l Kylie Leuluai
OUT:l Richard Moore

Ben Jones-Bishop, Kallum Watkins, Zak Hardaker, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Kevin Sinfield, Brett Delaney, Ryan Bailey, Ian Kirke, Chris Clarkson, Weller Hauraki, Darrell Griffin, Stevie Ward, Shaun Lunt

Match Referee

Ben Thaler (Wakefield) - Age 30
First Pro Game: Leigh 84 York 1 - 1st July 2001
First Super League Game: London 70 Leigh 16 - 29th May 2005
First Wigan Game: Wigan 38 Hull FC 16 - 15th September 2006

Wigan's Record when this referee is appointed

Wigan have Won 21 and Lost 4 (2 draws) from 27 appointments.
This Season: Won 3 and Lost 0 from 3 appointments.

Video Referee

Steve Ganson

Challenge Cup Head to Head Records

Overall Played 29 Wigan 15 Wins Leeds 13 Wins 1 Draw

Full List of Previous Challenge Cup Ties

Date Round Home Team Away Team  
1898-1899 Round 2 Leeds 03 Wigan 00
1910-1911 Quarter Final Leeds 04 Wigan 13
1912-1913 Round 1 Wigan 38 Leeds 00
1924-1925 Round 2 Leeds 02 Wigan 00
1925-1926 Round 2 Leeds 17 Wigan 10
1926-1927 Round 2 Leeds 13 Wigan 03
1937-1938 Round 1 Leeds 27 Wigan 04
1943-1944 SF 1st Leg Leeds 10 Wigan 05
1943-1944 SF 2nd Leg Wigan 11 Leeds 04 (Agg 16-14)
1946-1947 Quarter Final Wigan 00 Leeds 05
1947-1948 Round 2 Wigan 17 Leeds 03
1949-1950 Round 2 Leeds 07 Wigan 02
1956-1957 Round 1 Leeds 13 Wigan 11
1958-1959 Round 1 Wigan 12 Leeds 05
1959-1960 Round 2 Wigan 14 Leeds 11
1960-1961 Round 1 Leeds 05 Wigan 05
1960-1961 R1 Replay Wigan 32 Leeds 07
1962-1963 Round 2 Wigan 20 Leeds 11
1965-1966 Semi Final Wigan 07 Leeds 02 (Fartown)
1967-1968 Semi Final Leeds 25 Wigan 04 (Swinton)
1972-1973 Round 1 Leeds 11 Wigan 25
1987-1988 Round 2 Wigan 30 Leeds 14
1993-1994 Final Wigan 26 Leeds 16 (Wembley)
1994-1995 Final Wigan 30 Leeds 10 (Wembley)
1999 Round 4 Leeds 28 Wigan 18
2007 Round 5 Leeds 18 Wigan 22
2008 Quarter Final Leeds 23 Wigan 16
2010 Quarter Final Leeds 12 Wigan 10
2011 Final Wigan 28 Leeds 18 (Wembley)

Ticket Details

Stand ConAdultsiors Concessions
John Smiths Stand (Unreserved - End) ?20 ?10
Direct Golf Stand (Reserved Sideline) ?28/?22/?20 ?15/?12/?11

UK TV Coverage

The Match is televised Live on BBC TWO and the BBC HD Channel from 5:15pm. Clare Balding presents the action whilst Dave Woods & Jonathan Davies are the commentary team.

Post Match Forum follows from 7:30pm on the Red Button via Sky & Cable (Page 3001) or via Channel 301 on Freeview Boxes.

International TV Coverage (All Times Local)

Middle East LIVE Friday 8:30pm (UAE) OSN Sports 2 HD
Australia LIVE Late Sat 2:30am (Sydney) Eurosport HD
USA LIVE Saturday 12:30pm (Eastern) Fox Soccer Plus HD
New Zealand Delay Sunday 6:45am (2 Hour Delay) Maori Television HD

Local Radio Commentary

BBC Radio 5 Live - National Radio Commentary on the main network (909/693 Medium Wave) from 5:30pm.

102.4 Wish FM - Building up from 5:00pm to Full Match Commentary from Mark Wilson.

BBC Manchester (95.1FM) - Building up from 4:00pm to Full Match Commentary from Phil Kinsella & Jack Dearden

AT VENUE: BBC Radio Leeds (92.4FM) - On Air from 5:00pm building up to full match commentary from James Deighton & Huddersfield Prop Eorl Crabtree.

Weather Forecast

Possible Light Rain Showers around 4pm but mainly dry.

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