The Challenge Cup takes place this weekend with four intriguing quarter-final clashes, starting with Salford Red Devils against Wakefield Wildcats on Thursday.
The Wildcats have already done the double over Salford in the Super League this season and head to the AJ Bell Stadium seeking a second successive Challenge Cup semi-final appearance.
Both sides have exceeded expectations this term after disappointing campaigns last year. The Red Devils had to battle against relegation after finishing in the bottom four, while Wakefield came in eighth but were in no position to fight for a Grand Final spot.
It is a completely different story this year however, as Salford are second in the standings and Trinity are in a strong position as they sit fifth, just a point behind fourth placed Hull FC.
Salford are the 20/49 favourites but Wakefield at 9/5 could be the way to go in this one. They’ve already beaten their hosts twice, including a win by a 10-point margin at the AJ Bell earlier this month, and it could be argued they will have the greater desire – as Salford seem fully focused on their Super League bid.
On Friday, Leeds Rhinos take on the last remaining Championship side Featherstone and it is hard to envisage anything other than a victory for the Super League outfit, who boast home advantage.
We’ve had one major upset this season when Swinton downed Huddersfield earlier in the competition but another shock seems highly unlikely here, and the only real question is just how big will Leeds’ winning margin be.
The Rhinos are 15/4 to win the competition outright and that is worth some consideration, given that a semi-final place looks a certainty.
Saturday brings us what is arguably the standout tie of the last eight as out-of-form giants Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves meet at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
These two teams contested the Grand Final last season but on current form it is hard to see either reaching Old Trafford this year. Indeed, 10th placed Warrington face a huge battle to avoid a bottom four finish and having to fight the drop, while Wigan are clinging on in the top eight in seventh spot.
The two sides played out a 24-24 draw in May and have both lost all four games since. The Wire have been particularly poor over the course of those four games, scoring just 36 points and conceding a whopping 158 in the process.
Wigan, who at least have the excuse of some key injuries for their own slump, have been a bit more competitive but after shipping 50 in defeat to Leigh last time out they won’t be too confident heading to Warrington this weekend.
The Warriors are justifiably 1/2 favourites and Warrington are 6/4 to win, but the 16/1 on a draw appeals in this match up. Admittedly draws are fairly rare occurrences in rugby league, but with these two sides both struggling for form and in desperate need of a result we could see a close tie on Saturday.
We round off the weekend with Castleford Tigers against Hull FC on Sunday, with both of these teams having aspirations of a league and cup double this season, given their respective Super League positions. Cas lead the way after 18 games and hold a six-point advantage over Salford, while Hull FC are in fourth.
The Black and Whites beat the Tigers in the only meeting between the two so far this season back in April at the KCOM Stadium. Hull FC built up a big first half lead and survived a fight back from Castleford after the break to claim a win by two points, and it should be another fierce showdown on Sunday.
Castleford, the 12/5 Challenge Cup outright favourites, are 20/43 to win on Sunday and Hull are 8/5, with a draw 17/1. Given how close the league game was, and Hull FC’s impressive win at Salford last time out, it may be worth backing the hosts with a +6.5 handicap in this one at 10/13.