After the 'New Era' restructuring of the Challenge Cup, this weekend's sixth round saw the first entry of last season's Super League top eight which included Wembley finalists Leeds and Castleford while League One side York featured as the lowest ranked side.
Friday night saw a trio of games with the biggest surprise coming in Wigan's 'home' tie against Hull KR at Leigh Sports Village in drizzly conditions. Wigan opened the scoring on 14 minutes with a Matty Smith penalty for 2-0 before Maurice Blair crossed for the evening's first try on 19 minutes which Josh Mantellato converted for a 6-2 lead.
Joel Tomkins drew Wigan level three minutes before the break at 6-6 but Mantellato could have sent the Robins into the interval ahead with a last-gasp penalty but saw his effort drift wide. However, he redeemed his miss with a successful penalty eight minutes into the second half for 8-6 before Smith replied for Wigan to level at 8-8.
Mantellato restored the lead on the hour mark with another penalty for 10-8 before the second try of the evening came on 64 minutes as Joe Burgess's diving effort gave the Warriors a narrow 12-10 lead but Smith's failure to convert left the tie to close to call. However, the Robins spoiled the Warriors joy with five minutes left of the 80 as a Dan Sarginson error allowed Ken Sio to touchdown for a try which Mantellato improved for a 16-12 scoreline which proved to be enough to secure a place in the last eight.
In the first cross-league tie of the round, Super League side Warrington travelled to face Championship side Dewsbury with the Rams eager to stage a shock over the in-form Wolves.
Brad Dwyer opened the scoring for the Wolves on four minutes for 4-0 before James Delaney replied with a 12th minute penalty for the Rams to make it 4-2. Warrington took control with four tries in eight minutes as Ryan Atkins, Ashton Sims, Ben Currie and Declan Patton all registered efforts with Chris Bridge converting three of four attempts for 26-2.
Dewsbury claimed their first try of the evening on the half hour mark as Joel Farrell crossed with Delaney converting for 26-8 to give the Rams hopes of a comeback in the second half. However, such hopes were dashed within 11 minutes of the second half as Kevin Penny struck a brace and Bridge claimed a try while adding a single conversion at 40-8.
The Wolves wrapped up the comfortable victory with a try from Richie Myler before Ben Currie added his second try with Bridge converting both for 52-8 but it was the Rams who had the last say on the scoreline as Delaney swept over a last-gasp penalty to move them to double figures at 52-10.
Friday's third tie saw League One side York travel to face Super League side St Helens with the City Knights looking to pull off potentially the biggest shock in the competition's history.
St Helens made a perfect start with Adam Swift scoring inside three minutes for 4-0 before Tom Makinson crossed on 12 minutes to extend the lead to 8-0. Makinson crossed for his second try on the half hour mark for 12-0 as the hosts built up the lead. Swift also claimed a second try five minutes later with Makinson converting for the first time for 18-0 before Mark Percival crossed in the final seconds of the half for a 22-0 half-time advantage.
Makinson completed his hat-trick and added a fourth score within 16 minutes of the second period as well as converting both effort for a huge 34-0 lead before Mark Flanagan's 68th minute try converted by Lewis Charnock breached the 40 point mark. Swift completed his hat-trick with six minutes remaining with Charnock's conversion making it 46-0 but the biggest cheer of the evening came as York avoided a nilling with Tyler Craig's try on 77 minutes which Adam Dent converted for a 46-6 final score.
Saturday's action saw two all-SL ties with the first featuring holders Leeds who hosted Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield with both sides eager to secure a win over their fierce rivals after drawing earlier in the season.
Two early tries from Kallum Watkins inside 12 minutes put the Rhinos ahead with Kevin Sinfield converting both for 12-0 before Ryan Hall and Paul Aiton added further scores before 22 minutes for 22-0. Huddersfield responded with a try from Kyle Wood on 36 minutes for a 22-4 half-time score.
Leeds ran riot in the second half with four tries in 16 minutes as Danny McGuire, Adam Cuthbertson crossed ahead of Ryan Hall's second try while Sinfield added a penalty and three conversions for a huge 42-4 lead. Huddersfield reduced the deficit with scores from Brett Ferres and Scott Grix with Danny Brough converting both for 42-16 but the Rhinos ensured their title defence continued with a 77th minute effort from Carl Ablett with Sinfield converting for a 48-16 final score.
The second game of the afternoon saw last season's runners-up Castleford make the trip to face fellow Super League side Hull FC with the Tigers keen to build on last year's run to the final.
However, the Tigers hopes suffered an early dent as Hull raced into a 16-0 lead inside 17 minutes with a Curtis Naughton brace followed by a Mickey Paea effort with Marc Sneyd converting two of three efforts. Ashley Gibson got the Tigers off the mark with a 33rd minute try before James Clare and Mike McMeeken added efforts shortly after the interval with Luke Gale converting once for 16-14.
Jordan Rankin pushed the hosts to 20 points on 62 minutes before Sneyd added a penalty for 22-14 with 12 minutes remaining before Naughton's third try sealed the win on 72 minutes with Sneyd converting for 28-14 before Rankin's second effort and Yeaman's last-gasp try completed the rout with Sneyd converting both for a 40-14 final score.
Sunday afternoon saw the final three ties of the round with the trio featuring Super League v Championship clashes, the first saw SL basement boys Wakefield host Champ table toppers Leigh with the Centurions looking for back-to-back wins over top flight sides.
Wakefield started superbly with Chris Riley opening the scoring inside eight minutes with Craig Hall converting for 6-0 before a brace from Joe Arundel either side of a Nick Scruton effort put the hosts in control with Hall's conversions putting them in control at 22-0. Leigh fought back with a try from Ryan Brierley on 34 minute which Martin Ridyard converted for 22-6 before Hall scored a penalty on the hooter for 24-6 at the interval.
Leigh cut the deficit inside seven minutes with Jonny Pownall's effort which Ridyard converted for 24-12 before two tries in as many minutes from Bob Beswick and Tom Armstrong saw the Centurions draw level after Ridyard's conversions made it 24 all.
Wakefield's regained the lead with a try from Jon Molloy on 62 minutes with Hall converting for 30-24 but Leigh battled back with a try from Sam Hopkins with 11 minutes remaining and with Ridyard converting, the sides were level at 30 all. Leigh completed a superb second half fightback by taking the lead for the first time as former Wildcats forward Oli Wilkes cross on 73 minutes with Ridyard converting to seal a majestic 36-30 triumph.
The second tie saw Super League side Widnes hosts Championship side Batley with the Vikings keen to avoid an upset in their pursuit of a consecutive semi final place while the Bulldogs hoped for a giant killing.
Widnes opened the scoring through Lloyd White on 19 minutes with Jack Owens converting for 6-0 but the lead was short lived as Batley levelled with Chris Rowe's effort and Scott Leatherbarrow's conversion for six all. The Vikings restored the lead with three tries in seven minutes before the interval as Patrick Ah Van crossed ahead of a Kevin Brown brace with Owens adding a conversion for 20-6.
Cameron Phelps extended the lead just five minutes after the break with Owens converting for 26-6 but Batley remained in the hunt with three tries in 15 minutes as Wayne Reittie claimed a brace either side of a try for Matty Fozzard with Leatherbarrow converting two of three attempts for 26-22. A tense last ten minutes saw Widnes hold firm to secure a narrow win and avoid a huge scare.
The final game of the round saw Super League side Catalans host Championship side Featherstone on Sunday evening with the Dragons wary of a slip-up to a Rovers side with aspirations of promotion to the top flight.
Featherstone's hopes were boosted early on as they opened the scoring on 10 minutes through Alex Foster with Remi Marginet converting for 6-0 before Stan Robin levelled for the Dragons with Thomas Bosc converting for six all on 13 minutes. Julian Bousquet and Luke Teasdale exchanged tries with Bosc and Marginet converting for 12 all. Elliot Whitehead restored the lead for the Dragons seven minutes before the interval with Bosc converting for an 18-12 half-time lead.
However, Catalans's suffered a blow with the dismissal of Jeff Lima on 48 minutes with Rovers taking an instant advantage as Jack Ormondroyd crossed with Marginet converting to level at 18-18 before Teasdale claimed his brace on 51 minutes to give 'Fev' the lead for the first time with Marginet converting for 24-18.
Catalans replied through Michael Oldfield with Bosc converting to level at 24-24 but Featherstone proved their original lead wasn't a fluke as they edged ahead on the hour mark through Sam Day's try which Marginet converted for 30-24. The Dragons were level again with nine minutes remaining as Morgan Escaré scored and Bosc converted for 30 all before Bosc added a converted try two minutes later for 36-30.
A tense finish saw Stan Robin kick a drop goal on 77 minutes before Ryan Verlinden gave Rovers hope in the final minute with a try but Marginet's refusal to convert in the final seconds left the final score at 37-34.