Castleford v Widnes
Following Tuesday evenings disciplinary hearings, Castleford will go into the game missing arguably two of their more influential players in Weller Hauraki and Justin Carney, the former having lost an appeal against his ban for striking with the knee and Carney, who had pleaded guilty to making a Grade B dangerous throw on London Broncos’ Thomas Minns last weekend, the very same game in which he scored a hatrick of tries.
Understandably, Tigers fans are up in arms about the bans, given that Leeds skipper Kevin Sinfield actually head-butted Luke Dorn and it was only cited as a grade C offence, allowing him with his exemplary record in the past to only miss two games with an early guilty plea.
As it is, Castleford will still field a strong side, one that has for some been the surprise package in the top flight this season.
Widnes Vikings on the other hand have no such problems and actually welcome back Kevin Brown following an injury scare. Brown, who suffered a knock two weeks ago and was thought to be a doubt. The form of ex-Huddersfield man Brown has been key to Widnes’ rise to eighth in the table, although a recent dip in form had seen Hull KR close to within a point, but the Vikings victory over the Robins last weekend has seen the gap increase to three points.
Chemics face Castleford Tigers in an eagerly anticipated semi-final at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday, and Betts is hopeful that his men will be in the best shape possible to go and claim a spot at Wembley. “We have to put all our focus on getting over this massive game, putting a really strong performance in, and dealing with what we can deal with, and getting on and performing the best we can,” he said “My job this week is to prepare the side and put them in the best possible shape to get to the start line and let them go. “This is a great rugby league town, it’s a massive thing for them. The Cup has always been held dear over the years. The ‘Cup Kings’ of the 1980s, and the great teams that played, players like Andy Gregory, Kurt Sorensen – they’ve got some fantastic history at this place. “But we’re writing our own history at the moment. We had to start again a couple of years ago, but we’re still aware of what our tradition is, and what this town is, and what it means to have a great rugby league side in this town.
Both clubs will beat the eager to put on a show for the packed Leigh sports village and also for the viewing audience on BBC 2 in the UK
The game on Sunday between the two is a sell-out, meaning a capacity crowd of 12,005 will be in attendance at Leigh Sports Village, eager to see which team will make it to Wembley for the first time in over twenty years. “It is fantastic to see the last remaining tickets get snapped up,” said RFL Marketing Director Mark Foster. “These fans are clearly hungry for what is sure to be a fascinating semi-final tie. Leigh Sports Village is a top-quality venue and I anticipate an electric atmosphere on Sunday. The fans of both Widnes and Castleford are incredibly passionate, so we can expect the decibel levels to be sky high”
Warrington v Leeds
Leeds and England skipper Kevin Sinfield will return from his two game suspension to lead the Rhinos in yet another semi-final for the club he has served since 1997. The Rhinos have not lifted the cup for 15 years and have lost three finals in the last four years. Sinfield has publicly stated that the team are firmly focused on the game against Warrington and no further, although adding to their tally of six grand final wins must seem like a dream they will never fulfil given their record in finals since 1999.
Sinfield is rightly disappointed in himself for his behaviour, but is determined to show the Leeds fans that he is fit, focused and ready to lead the rhinos on to another Wembley appearance.
Warrington have had a steady build up, and Ben Westwood is relishing the tie. “We all look forward to these kinds of games as rugby league players. We’ve been fortunate over the last few years to play in some really big games. “We’ve got some experience in our team, some older heads who’ve been in this situation, and we look forward to all a good tough game. “Hopefully we’ll do a good job and come out winners.” Westwood is well aware of the threat posed by many of the Rhinos’ star names. “Leeds have got some dangerous players,” he said. “Rob Burrow has always been a threat all his life. But he’s been really good for them since he’s come back from his injury. “They’ve got Kevin Sinfield who’s coming back from his first ever ban, so he’ll be looking to repay his mates for being missing. “Jamie Peacock’s played in numerous finals and semi-finals. He’ll bring all his experience for the young guys there. “So they’ve got players who can be dangerous and hurt you, but so have we. We’ll be looking to do a pretty good job on them, and hopefully it’ll be good enough.”
Leeds were beaten last week by already relegated Bradford Bulls. Westwood knows that form goes out the window when it comes to cup clashes. “I’m not reading anything into the Bradford game, I know they had a few players missing, and rested a few,” he said. “Form goes out the window when it comes to the big games. Anyone can win in these. “It’s just down to whoever performs well on the day. “Both teams will want to perform well, and it’s a question of who comes out on