As the Super League takes a break between the regular season finale and the inaugural Super 8's phase, the Challenge Cup returned with the final four clubs facing off in the battle for a place at the show-piece Wembley final at the end of the month.
The first semi final took place on Friday night as holders Leeds Rhinos met St Helens at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington with the Saints keen to end a barren spell away from Wembley by ending the Rhinos' grasp on the title.
Both league meetings between the sides saw Leeds victorious with the Rhinos dominating after superb starts in the first 20 minutes of both games and Friday was no different as they led 8-0 inside 14 minutes. Zak Hardaker opened the scoring with a fifth minute try with Kevin Sinfield converting for 6-0 before adding a penalty nine minutes later.
Joel Moon extended the lead on 24 minutes with a try for 12-0 and with the interval drawing near, Saints avoided a first half nilling with a try from Mark Percival on 38 minutes making it 12-4 into the half-time break. Leeds replicated their first half start with a try just five minutes after the restart as Jamie Peacock battled over and with Sinfield converting, the Rhinos led 18-4.
St Helens battled back with two scores in four minutes as Andre Savelio crossed ahead of Percival's second effort with Luke Walsh adding a single conversion to cut the gap to 18-14. Leeds moved to 20 points when Kallum Watkins crossed on 67 minutes with a Sinfield conversion making it 24-14. Saints battled to cut the gap but were denied by a strong Rhinos back-line who kept up the ten point gap to secure back-to-back visits to Wembley and the potential of retaining their title.
The second semi saw Warrington Wolves and Hull Kingston Rovers face off at Headingley Carnegie Stadium , Leeds with the Wolves looking for a return to Wembley after a two year absence while the Robins looked for a first visit since 1986.
After failing to reach the top eight of Super League, the Robins were rank outsiders to progress and after a horror start from the kick-off, they went behind inside two minutes as Ryan Atkins crossed for the opening try for the Wolves with Gareth O'Brien converting for a 6-0 lead. Josh Mantellato cut the deficit with a clever try on 24 minutes for 6-4 before Ken Sio (Mantellato conv) put the Robins ahead at 10-6 just three minutes later.
Mantellato added a penalty goal just before the interval for a 12-6 lead into the half-time break with the Robins surge continuing into the second half as Kevin Larroyer crossed on 46 minutes with Mantellato's conversion extending the lead to 18-6 before the Robins winger added a penalty for 20-6 on 53 minutes.
Warrington battled back into contention with tries from Richie Myler and Ben Currie with O'Brien converting both scores for a narrow gap at 20-18 but the potential to complete the comeback was ended by a superb try late on by Shaun Lunt and Mantellato sealed a famous 26-18 triumph for the Robins who are just one win away from a dream place in the 2016 World Club Series.