Rugby League talking points: Championship clubs vie for Challenge Cup semi-finals
By Sky Sports Rugby League
Last Updated: 13/05/19 7:20pm
Bradford Bulls and Halifax's runs in the Coral Challenge Cup, Leeds Rhinos' woes and the NRL's Magic Round all feature in this week's talking points.
Championship clubs eye cup semis
There is guaranteed to be one Championship team in the semi-finals of this year's Challenge Cup after Bradford Bulls and Halifax were drawn to face each other at Odsal in the last eight.
The Bulls secured their place in the final with a memorable upset at home to Super League strugglers and West Yorkshire rivals Leeds Rhinos on Saturday, holding on for a 24-22 win as the visitors fought back from eight points down at half-time.
Halifax, meanwhile, overcame fellow Championship side Dewsbury Rams 34-6 on the road on Friday evening and Bulls head coach John Kear, who guided Sheffield Eagles and Hull FC to Challenge Cup triumphs in 1998 and 2005 respectively, was delighted for both clubs.
"We wanted to play at home again and I'm happy to play Halifax, just as I'm sure Halifax will be happy to play us," Kear said.
"Whoever wins, it will be fantastic for a Championship team to play in the semi-finals.
"It's what the cup is about, they have thrown up some great ties."
Where now for Leeds?
While Bradford were celebrating a giant-killing, vanquished Leeds were again left doing more soul-searching as their stuttering season went from bad to worse.
Caretaker head coach Richard Agar and his players must pick themselves up quickly from that defeat, with Castleford Tigers visiting Headingley this Thursday in Super League for a match which marks the official opening of the new North Stand.
There are still more questions than answer for the Rhinos following the decision to sack head coach David Furner just six months into a three-year contract last week - a view echoed by Leeds great and Sky Sports rugby league expert Barrie McDermott.
"The timing of it, only time will tell if it's right," McDermott said.
"There are big questions and a lot of the answers will become evident over the next few weeks."
Catalans wait on Tomkins injury
Challenge Cup holders Catalans Dragons safely progressed to the quarter-finals by vanquishing League One side Doncaster 62-6, but it was not all plain sailing.
The French side lost Sam Tomkins just before the half-hour mark after he suffered back injury. The 30-year-old now faces a wait to see whether or not he will be able to play in this Saturday's historic clash against former club Wigan Warriors in Barcelona.
That match is not the first time the Catalans have ventured over the border into Spain, having played Warrington Wolves in front of over 18,000 fans at Barcelona's Olympic Stadium in 2009.
This year's return sees them head to the iconic Nou Camp - a venue they have already visited in a non-playing capacity after being invited to parade the Challenge Cup at half-time during Barcelona's home game with Girona last September.
Toronto set sights on star signings
The ambitions of Toronto Wolfpack show no signs of abating, with the Canadian side now turning their attention to trying to lure big names from rugby union over in their quest to establish themselves in Super League.
Currently four points clear at the top of the Championship after missing out on promotion to London Broncos last year, the Wolfpack have a history of bringing in big-name signings from league.
Fuifui Moimoi, Ashton Sims and, most recently, Jon Wilkin are just some of those to have pulled on a Toronto shirt past and present, but director of rugby Brian Noble and head coach Brian McDermott are now casting their net further afield.
That includes targeting star signings from the 15-man code, with All Blacks star and former league player Sonny Bill Williams among those linked with a switch to the Wolfpack.
"I personally would love to see Sonny Bill Williams in a Toronto Wolfpack shirt," owner David Argyle said.
"Obviously it comes down to what both Brians say and how it works out and, of course, it comes down to what Sonny Bill says."
NRL feels the Magic - but at a cost
Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium played host to the NRL's first Magic Round last week, with eight matches spread over four days on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The event proved a hit with the fans, with nearly 135,000 filling into the ground over the course of the four days, and is set to return to Suncorp Stadium in 2020.
On the field, however, it was a bruising round of matches for the clubs though as most were affected by injuries - including hosts Brisbane Broncos likely losing centre Jack Bird for the rest of the season after he sustained an ACL tear in Friday's 26-10 win over Manly Sea Eagles.
Closer to home, the teams in the Championship and Super League are preparing for their own annual gatherings at a single venue.
The Championship's Summer Bash returns to Blackpool this weekend, while Super League's Magic Weekend breaks new ground on May 25 and 26 when Liverpool's Anfield home welcomes the 12 clubs.