Preview: Gateshead v St Helens (Sat)

The Challenge Cup reaches the quarter-final stage this weekend with seven teams looking to knock St Helens off their perch.

Saints face a banana skin tie at Championship side Gateshead looking to extend their extraordinary run in the competition, which they have won for the past three seasons. The holders have named a strong squad for the match at Gateshead International Stadium, but there are places for youngsters Chris Dean, Matty Ashurst and Jonny Lomax.

Thunder, the only non-Super League side left in the competition, are without inspirational hooker Andrew Henderson, who has returned home to Australia following the death of his final. But despite his absence, stand-off Neil Thorman believes Thunder can cause an upset.

He said: “We know we are capable of beating teams. We have put good performances together, we just need a good 80 minutes and anything can happen.

“It’s a dream come true for any local player, even playing in the Championship you don’t expect to play in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup, it’s usually a place for the Super League teams.

“We’ve been lucky enough and played well enough to get through to this game and we’re playing one of the best teams in the world.”

The game will bring back memories of Thunder’s Super League days, when they defeated Saints twice in their only season in the top flight.

Assistant Chris Hood, who was at the club back in 1999, said: “It’s the club’s biggest game for 10 years. It’s bringing a Super League team back to Gateshead, and I personally feel that’s what we should be having here. It’s what some people have been battling for over a number of years.

“The amount of people that have come into the office or been on the phone ordering tickets that are rugby league fans in the region has been amazing. It should be a very special day.”

Gateshead were boosted last week with the news that recent signings Nick Youngquest, Paul Franze and Kris Kahler are eligible for the tie, despite having played for French club Pia in an earlier round.

Thunder defeated Oldham 34-16 to reach the quarters in a game which was played at Darlington FC’s Northern Echo Arena. They also triumphed over Championship rivals Doncaster (32-16) and Whitehaven (42-38) in the previous rounds.

St Helens thumped Catalans 42-8 in the fifth round in a repeat of the 2007 final, having defeated close rivals Leeds 22-18 at Headingley in the previous round.

St Helens: 1. Paul Wellens, 3. Matt Gidley, 6. Leon Pryce, 7. Sean Long, 9. Keiron Cunningham, 10. James Graham, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Chris Flannery, 14. James Roby, 15. Bryn Hargreaves, 16. Tony Puletua, 17. Paul Clough. 18. Kyle Eastmond, 19. Chris Dean, 21. Gary Wheeler, 23. Maurie Fa’asavalu, 28. Matty Ashurst, 30. Jonny Lomax, 31. Jake Emmitt.

Gateshead (from): 1. Ben McAlpine, 2. Danny Wilson, 3. Kevin Neighbour, 4. Dylan Nash, 5. Stewart Sanderson, 6. Neil Thorman, 7. Luke Branighan, 8. Jason Payne, 9. Andrew Henderson, 10. Tabuan Cakacaka, 12. Michael Knowles, 13, Russ Aitken, 14. Ryan Clarke, 15. Matthew Barron, 16. Puna Rasaubale, 17. Chris Parker, 18. Robin Peers, 19. Nick Youngquest, 20. Dave Vernon, 21. Ryan McBride, 22. Jamie Russo, 23. Jonny Scott, 24. Paul Franze, 25. Kris Kahler, 26. Crawford Matthews, 27. Scott Woods, 28. Mark Dack, 29. Rhys Clarke, 30. Stephen Welton, 32. Jamie Cording, 33. Sam Crowther, 34. Dean Andrews.

Saturday, Gateshead International Stadium, 6pm kick off.

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