Road to Wembley: Hitting a Super League club for the first time

Our Road to Wembley visits a Super League club for the first time as Keighley travel to Widnes in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.

We started back in February with the game closest to Love Rugby League’s base, when Woolston Rovers were beaten 20-6 at home by Elland.

Elland were then defeated in the second round 12-6 by Wath Brow Hornets, who went on to lose 42-0 against Keighley at Cougar Park.

With the introduction of the Super League teams in round four, Keighley managed to avoid them all, drawing Barrow at home, and duly dispatching them 54-28.

Another all-Championship tie was to follow in round five, as the Cougars won 33-20 at Swinton to set up a last eight clash with the Vikings, who have beaten Halifax and Salford away from home to get to this stage.

Given the increasing gap between Super League and the Championship, which the RFL are attempting to bridge next season with the controversial re-structuring plans, Keighley haven’t been given much chance of progression any further on the Road to Wembley, but Widnes will be wary of a potential upset.

In what may well be a first for rugby league’s oldest competition, Keighley will be without their player-coach Paul March, who is still serving a two-month stadium ban for comments he made to a match official. In an even more bizarre twist, the former Wakefield man almost joined Championship One side Hemel Stags on loan earlier this week, before the RFL blocked the move.

His absence is likely to be added to by several other key players, including the likes of James Craven and Ash Lindsay, as the Cougars prioritise their league campaign over unlikely cup progress.

The aforementioned re-structure means Keighley have to finish in the Championship‘s top nine come the end of the season, and they have a crucial match against one of the nearest rivals in Whitehaven on Tuesday night.

For Widnes, they will be pleased to have landed the best possible draw – a home tie against the lowest-ranked team left in the competition – and their fans will no doubt be reminiscing about their past cup glories in the 1970s and 80s.

Their coach Denis Betts also has a fine cup pedigree, winning it seven times during his playing days with Wigan.

Although Betts is still without captain Jon Clarke and scrum-half Joe Mellor through injury, he has named his strongest available squad, including in-form stand-off Kevin Brown and Danny Tickle.

The quarter-final at the Select Security Stadium is live on Sky Sports.

Widnes squad: Dave Allen, Kevin Brown, Paul Clough, Danny Craven, Chris Dean, Danny Galea, Alex Gerrard, Tom Gilmore, Rhys Hanbury, Declan Hulme, Willie Isa, Paul Johnson, Ben Kavanagh, Adam Lawton, Macgraff Leuluai, Stefan Marsh, Jack Owens, Danny Tickle, Lloyd White.

Keighley squad: Richie Barnett, Neil Cherryholme, Gavin Duffy, Charlie Eccleston, Lewis Graham, Luke Haigh, Sean Hesketh, Sean Kelly, Scott Law, Jack Lee, Josh Lynam, Ryan Patchett, Ross Peltier, Oliver Pursglove, Ben Sagar, Jesse Sheriffe, Jode Sheriffe, Ben Stead, Daley Williams.

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