Tetleys Challenge Cup: Widnes Vikings v Castleford Tigers preview
Last Updated: 09/08/14 1:16pm
Two teams bidding to reach their first Challenge Cup final in over 20 years meet on Sunday as the Widnes Vikings take on Castleford Tigers at Leigh Sports Village.
Widnes’ last appearance at Wembley came in 1993 - a 20-14 loss to Wigan, while 12 months earlier the same opposition beat Castleford 28-12.
Castleford, who dumped the Warriors out in the quarter-finals, have enjoyed a fine season to date under coach Daryl Powell and sit fourth in the Super League ladder.
The Vikings have beaten the likes of Widnes Vikings, Salford Red Devils and Keighley Cougars en route to the semi-finals under Denis Betts, while they toppled Hull KR in league action on Sunday.
The Tigers have already beaten the Vikings twice this season, Castleford following up a 34-22 victory at home with a 40-20 success at the Select Security Stadium in July.
Betts has made two changes to the squad that beat the Robins last weekend. Paddy Flynn and Alex Gerrard come in, with Phil Joseph and Patrick Ah Van making way.
Widnes’ Jon Clarke knows all about Challenge Cup finals having played in the 1999 and 2010 one for London and Warrington respectively.
“I think I’m more excited than the younger lads are to be honest!” he told the Liverpool Echo. “I think you get more excited because you know what’s there and how much enjoyment and satisfaction you can get out of getting to that final.
“It’s obviously great for the young boys that are coming through too. I think it’s just a case of holding your nerve this weekend; that’s usually what semi-finals are down to.”
Powell has been forced to re-jig his 19-man squad with both Justin Carney and Weller Hauraki suspended for Sunday’s mouth-watering clash.
Winger James Clare is expected to replace Carney out wide. The Australian try-scoring machine is suspended for a dangerous throw on London’s Thomas Minns.
Lynch and Daryl Clark are also back for the Tigers, after both were rested for last weekend’s victory against the Broncos.
Powell, 49, tasted Challenge Cup glory as a player with Leeds in 1999 and he admits leading his local team Castleford out at Wembley on August 23 would be a moment to savour.
He added: "It would be special. This is a club I supported as a teenager. I never played here so to be a coach here has been immense anyway, and it'd be a pretty special moment to be able to do that.
"Of course when you get to a final you want to win them. But that's for another time. The key thing for us is to just perform to our potential and give ourselves a chance of getting over the top of Widnes."