Ranking five of this weekend’s Challenge Cup ties in order of possible upsets

Ben Olawumi
Matt Moylan, Caleb Aekins, Challenge Cup trophy, Matt Peet, Mark Aston

Matt Moylan (Leigh Leopards, top left circle) & Caleb Aekins (Featherstone Rovers, bottom left circle) and Matt Peet (Wigan Warriors, top right circle) & Mark Aston (Sheffield Eagles, bottom right circle) will meet in the Challenge Cup Sixth Round

The Challenge Cup, like any good cup competition, always brings about the opportunity for ‘David v Goliath’ clashes and the possibilities of upsets.

Of course, nowadays, Super League teams only enter the cup in Round 6 and by that point, there are only four clubs from outside the top tier remaining.

Because of that, it’s inevitable that some Super League clubs end up paired against one another from the off, making an ‘upset’ essentially a non-goer.

This year, all four non-Super League clubs involved in this weekend’s sixth round come from the Championship in the shape of Batley Bulldogs, Featherstone Rovers, Halifax Panthers & Sheffield Eagles.

Below, we’ve ranked those four – along with newly-promoted London Broncos – based upon the chances of them causing an upset and getting through to the quarter-final stage.

Championship side York made it into the last eight in 2023, though to do so, they saw off then-second tier outfit London in Round 6.

Ranking five of this weekend’s Challenge Cup ties in order of possible upset

5. Wigan Warriors v Sheffield Eagles

Sheffield Eagles 1998
Sheffield Eagles celebrate their 1998 Challenge Cup triumph

Sadly for Sheffield, we don’t rate their chances of an upset, and that’s not because of anything they’ve done either! The Eagles – under long-serving boss Mark Aston, who won the Lance Todd Trophy in the famous 1998 Challenge Cup final win over Wigan – are flying high.

They’ve excelled in both cup competitions so far this season, also reaching the 1895 Cup semi-finals where only York stand in the way of a Wembley trip, and beat heavily favoured Toulouse Olympique last weekend to kickstart their league campaign.

Opponents Wigan however are world champions for a reason, capable of beating pretty much anybody in Super League even when not at their best, as we saw last week against Salford Red Devils. For Matt Peet’s men to exit the Challenge Cup, something is going to have to go very wrong on Friday evening.

4. Halifax Panthers v Catalans Dragons

It’s a very similar story – at least in our opinion – come Sunday in the final game of Round 6 when Halifax host Catalans. This game being at The Shay is a bit of a help for the hosts, but not much.

Fax haven’t done too much wrong so far this year after Liam Finn took the reins during the off-season. After losing their opener in the 1895 Cup to Oldham, a result which ultimately denied them a place in the knockouts, the Panthers have been flawless results wise since.

Catalans though just look far too strong for Sunday’s hosts to cause them any issues, and that’s before the Dragons have really got out of first gear in 2024. We saw Steve McNamara’s side have an off day at Leeds Rhinos a few weeks back, but their performance that day would still have been enough to see off Fax.

3. Warrington Wolves v London Broncos

Warrington Wolves, London Broncos
Warrington Wolves and London Broncos meet for the second week running

Us putting London in this list is far from us labelling them a ‘Championship’ team, but a win over Warrington on Saturday would certainly be an upset based upon last weekend’s Super League meeting down in the capital.

The Broncos have looked capable of scoring points so far this season, but their defence has left a lot to be desired following promotion, it has to be said. Warrington meanwhile have enjoyed a tremendous start to life under Sam Burgess, even after their opening round defeat at Catalans.

Burgess’ side have been convincing in all four wins since, and we’re sure they’d fancy a first Wembley trip since 2019 come June. Chances of an upset here? Limited, maybe a little less limited if Warrington rotate. But certainly better chances than the two Championship sides already mentioned.

2. Leigh Leopards v Featherstone Rovers

A throwback to the 2022 Championship promotion race, albeit with these two clubs in very different positions than two years ago.

Leigh, of course, are the reigning Challenge Cup holders and have come on leaps and bounds since their promotion, rebranding and earning a spot in the Super League play-offs last year. Featherstone meanwhile failed to gain promotion again in 2023, and now have huge issues off the field with a weaker team on it.

We expect Leigh will win this one, but with their injuries considered, the ‘magic of the cup’, their renewed rivalry with Fev & the Rovers’ positive form in recent weeks all thrown in, you just never know, do you?

1. Batley Bulldogs v Castleford Tigers

Craig Lingard
Ex-Batley Bulldogs boss Craig Lingard returns to Mount Pleasant with Castleford Tigers this weekend

The Craig Lingard derby. This by far and away offers the biggest chance of an upset this weekend, with the Tigers rocking following a woeful start to the Super League season, still winless and having been absolutely thumped more often than not, losing all bar one game by a minimum of 22 points.

It wouldn’t be the first time a Batley side have upset the odds, as now-Cas boss Lingard knows very well having masterminded some huge results in recent years for the Bulldogs before departing at the end of last season.

Assistant Mark Moxon stepped up to take the hotseat following his exit, and his side have started 2024 reasonably well, beating Featherstone in the 1895 Cup but losing out narrowly to them in the first game of the Championship season last weekend.

If there is going to be an upset this weekend, and if we were betting people, this is where our money would go.