Ahead of a packed week in the Super League which will see games across six days, the Challenge Cup resumed at the quarter final stage as seven Super League sides and Championship leaders Leigh faced off across four days of action.
The round began on Thursday night at the KC Lightstream Stadium as Hull KR hosted Catalans Dragons with both sides eager to move closer to a dream trip to Wembley in August.
The Robins have been superb at home this season and they raced into a 24-0 lead inside 30 minutes with tries from Ken Sio, Kieran Dixon, Albert Kelly and Graeme Horne all perfectly converted by Josh Mantellato. Catalans responded with a try from Krisnan Inu who backed up his try scoring debut from last week on 35 minutes for 24-4. However, the Robins had time for one further score before the interval as Mantellato sealed a penalty goal on the hooter for 26-4.
Catalans reduced the deficit with two tries before the hour mark as in-form Zeb Taia crosses ahead of a second score for Inu with Scott Dureau converting just once for 26-14. The Robins halted the streak with a second score for Sio before an instant reply through Ian Henderson (Dureau conv) boosted the visitors hopes at 30-20.
The hosts seemed to be wary of a Dragons comeback and elected to go for goal from a 70th minute penalty which Mantellato converted for 32-20 and when Elliot Whitehead scored for the Dragons with three minutes remaining, Dureau's conversion closed the gap to six to set up a tight finish which saw the Robins hold on for a 32-26 win.
Friday night's action came from the KC Stadium as Hull FC hosted defending champions Leeds Rhinos with the Rhinos eager to replicate last year's success and FC hoping for a second semi final in three years.
A torrential downpour at the KC saw both sides struggle to make an impact in opening sets but Leeds got lucky with the opening try on six minutes through Joel Moon which Kevin Sinfield converted for 6-0. FC tried to respond but wasted chances with knock-ons near the Rhinos line before Sinfield utilised the bad conditions in choosing to convert a penalty goal for 8-0.
Both sides seemed to suffer to complete sets in the worsening weather and the only other points of the first half came in the final minute as Sinfield converted another penalty for a 10-0 lead at the interval. As the weather improved during half-time, Leeds struck first after the restart through Kallum Watkins with Sinfield converting for 16-0.
Hull came close with numerous attacking efforts but sadly it was Joe Westerman's unfortunate run of errors which saw them remain 16-0 behind going into the final ten minutes which saw a try from Zak Hardaker (Sinfield conv) for 22-0 before Sinfield added a third penalty for 24-0. Although their exit was already confirmed, Hull had the last say on the score with a 76th minute try from Jordan Abdull to avoid the nilling with Jordan Rankin converting for a 24-6 scoreline.
Wonderful Wolves End Centurions Charge
Saturday's action came from the Halliwell Jones Stadium as Super League and Championship faced off in the form of Warrington Wolves and Leigh Centurions with the visitors keen to secure a trio of top-flight upsets.
Warrington made the better start of the two sides with the opening try inside eight minutes through Ashton Sims with Gareth O'Brien converting for 6-0 but Leigh responded well with a try from Greg Worthington with Martin Ridyard converting to level at 6-6. Ben Currie and Ryan Brierley exchanged tries with O'Brien converting for the hosts for 12-6 before Ridyard's miss left the score at 12-10.
Greg McNally crossed for Leigh three minutes before the interval to put them ahead for the first time and send them into the break at 14-12. However, Warrington fought back majestically with three tries in 15 minutes after the restart including two stunning efforts from Kevin Penny ahead of George King's score with O'Brien and Ben Westwood adding a conversion each for 28-14.
Leigh cut the gap with a second score from the in-form Brierley with Ridyard converting for 28-20 but the effort was soon replied to by Ben Currie's second try which O'Brien converted for 34-20 and potentially sealed the win. However, Leigh remained in the hunt with a 72nd minute try from Tom Armstrong but a missed conversion attempt left them 10 points behind at 34-24 which is how the game ended.
The round came to a close on Sunday at Langtree Park as St Helens hosted Widnes Vikings with the Vikings aiming to reach the last four in consecutive year while Saints hoped for a first semi place since 2011.
St Helens opened the scoring inside six minutes through Adam Swift with Mark Percival converting for 6-0 but Widnes responded well with a try from Joe Mellor and resulting conversion from Danny Craven to level at 6-6. Percival added a penalty before scoring a self converted try for 14-6 on the half hour mark.
Matty Dawson increased the lead to 18-6 before a try from Craven and conversion from Patrick Ah Van cut the gap to six points at 18-12 going into the interval. Ah Van crossed just four minutes after the restart for 18-16 before Chris Dean gave the Vikings a narrow 20-18 lead on 52 minutes.
Kyle Amor restored the lead for the hosts (Percival conv) at 24-20 and Widnes seemed to drop off the intensity in defence as they let in Jordan Turner on 71 minutes for 28-20 with Percival sealing the win with a penalty and second self converted try in the final three minutes to confirm a 36-20 triumph.
The draw for the semi final saw a huge clash between Leeds Rhinos and St Helens come out with the second tie pitting Warrington Wolves against Hull Kingston Rovers in a similarly tough clash.