Leigh Leopards boss Adrian Lam isn’t interested in any ‘favourites’ tagline heading into their Challenge Cup semi-final against St Helens on Saturday, and has praised their trophy-laden opponents.
Taking Super League by storm after promotion from the Championship in 2022, the Leythers are second on the ladder as we approach the business end of the season. Their cup exploits so far have also seen them reach the weekend’s last-four showdown against the Saints.
Not since 1987 has any Leigh side reached the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, and not since 1971 – when they last won it – has any Leigh side gone all the way and won it.
Adrian Lam on ‘favourites’ tag
While the Leopards have shocked the vast majority with their performances, St Helens haven’t hit the heights we’ve known them to in recent years.
Last Thursday’s defeat to Catalans Dragons was a seventh of the year in Super League for Paul Wellens’ side. No Saints side has lost as many as that in a whole season since 2017, and they sit fourth, four points behind Saturday’s opponents Leigh.
Regardless, Papua New Guinean Lam won’t be talking about being favourites inside their camp this week. He said: “I don’t look at it that way. I’m not the sort of coach to say they are favourites or we’re favourites, we’ve just got to make sure we take care of ourselves and look after ourselves.
“As coach, you’ve got to prepare best against the opposition, but you’ve got to make sure that you deliver the gameplan you have.
“For me, it is about making sure we get an 80-minute performance of our best during the season and give ourselves a chance in the back end of the game.”
Leigh Leopards boss has high praise for St Helens
Despite their position in Super League, St Helens still have the best defensive record in the competition. They’ve conceded just 259 points in 18 games.
The Red Vee have also won eight of their last 10 matches in all competitions, losing only to Catalans and Hull FC, who they had beaten just a few days prior in the cup.
Leigh chief Lam praised Wellens’ men, saying: “They’ve certainly been one of the form teams over the last six weeks, without a doubt. The games they have lost they were in it right until the death too, so they are probably the team to beat at the moment as in form and getting a few players back.
“I’m hearing there are a few of their senior players coming back for the weekend which is perfect for us. The last time we played them we did win, they were down on confidence a little bit at the start of the season, so we got them at a good time and this will be a tough game, we’re aware of that.
“We are playing the best team in the world currently and with that also presents an excitement around the club, the town and the team. We are going to go there with our absolute all and leave nothing.”
Leopards look to pounce in attack
At the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Saturday, Super League’s best defence will go up against the second best attack the competition has to offer at the moment.
Going forward, Lam’s men are only bettered in terms of posting points by league leaders Catalans, with the Leopards currently on 458.
In winning 12 of their last 13, only three times have the Leythers failed to post a tally of 30 or above, and one of those – in victory over Hull FC – saw them hit 28.
Lam knows that must continue come the weekend, adding: “We’ve got a philosophy of adjustment when needs be. I don’t want to give too much away but we adjust ever so slightly to whoever we’re playing, and you’ve got to be flexible with the way you attack depending on who you’re playing against.
“We know the challenge ahead of us, don’t worry about that, we understand it’s a massive mountain the climb. With the season, the way it’s been rolling, who knows if we can just turn up and give our absolute all.
“I think we’ve done that every week this year, we’ve been in every game at some stage and even the ones we lost I think there have been times when we could have won them, so if we can just be the consistent side that we’ve been this year, I know we’ll give ourselves a chance.”