If you listened to the pundits, the bookies and the neutral fans, then there was only one side who would be lifting the Challenge Cup at the end of eighty Wembley minutes, runaway league leaders St Helens. But this is the Cup, and it’s a funny old thing, and anything could happen.

Warrington are the side with the recent Challenge Cup pedigree having figured in five finals, winning three since, since Saints were last represented in this auspicious event. The top two sides in Super League met in the first final of the year, with many believing that they will also meet at Old Trafford in October.

This was the fourth meeting between these two sides in 2019 with Saints having emerged victorious on every occasion, the most recent being a 30-12 win just over a fortnight ago. Both sides ran onto the sun baked field with the neutrals hoping that it would be more competitive than it appeared on paper.

It wouldn’t be a Challenge Cup final weekend without the now traditional Friday Night Lights encounter at London Skolars, this season the opposition being Betfred League One fourth placed side Hunslet.

The 4G pitch at the New River Stadium in Wood Green, a ten mile drive around the North Circular, always attracts a good following of diehard Rugby League supporters down in the nationals capital to make a weekend of it.

But two important league points were up for grabs as Hunslet looked to cement their play-off spot while a loss would spell the end of the Skolars chase for the play-offs and the second promotion spot for another season.

This weekend’s Betfred Championship fixtures were overshadowed by the tragic death of Archie Bruce the young Batley Bulldogs player who was found dead in his hotel room in the early hours of Sunday morning, following his debut against Toulouse Olympique XIII in the south of France on Saturday evening. The whole of the rugby league community grieves with Archie’s family and the Bulldogs.

Saturday’s other game saw relegated Rochdale travel to Toronto, while the rest of the games took place on Sunday afternoon.

Leigh and Widnes met at the LSV while, on paper,  the game of the afternoon was  fourth placed York City Knights against the Featherstone Rovers. Sheffield were at home to Barrow, Halifax travelled to Swinton and there was a local derby in Dewsbury where Bradford were the visitors.

If today’s encounter between relegation prospects Hull KR and Wakefield Trinity wasn’t already important enough, yesterdays shock win for the London Broncos in the south of France made it doubly so.

Just four games remain in the 2019 season and a win for either of these sides, who entered the game level on league ladder points, would be a massive step towards safety for 2020. A loss, on the other hand, would leave them deeply mired in the relegation dogfight.

KR were bolstered by the returns of Mitch Garbutt, Craig Hall, Kane Linnett and importantly Danny McGuire. Trinity gave a debut for loan signing Chris Green from Hull.

The Super League team currently at the bar and taking a slurp from their glass in the ‘Last Chance Saloon’ are the London Broncos. The have travelled to the heat of the South of France to take on a Catalans Dragons who have an eye on a top five position and a play-off finish.

The Broncos had already beaten the Dragons in Perpignan and the home side took a big beating at London’s fellow strugglers the Leeds Rhinos last weekend. The bookies were favouring a home win but Danny Ward’s side knew that a win would keep them in touch with their fellow fighters to avoid the relegation spot.

The home side made a few changes in the pack after last weeks loss but London named the same starting thirteen who took the points on their last vist to the Stade Gilbert Brutus.

Warrington Wolves, without a league win in over a month, knew that the ideal preparation for next weekends Challenge Cup Cup Final would be a big win against fourth placed Wigan Warriors at the DW Stadium.

The Warriors knew that a win would lift them level on points with their opponents, and into third place with just a handful of games left until the play-offs.

Both coaches made a number of changes with Tom Lineham returning for the Wolves after suspension, with a second game for loan signing Matty Smith against the side for which he made 139 appearances. The Warriors were without Ben Flower and Joe Burgess.

With St Helens already crowned as minor premiers, and with the Challenge Cup final and Grand Final play-offs just around the corner, they could be forgiven for easing off the gas. The Rhinos hoped that they could continue a two game winning run, which has lifted them out of the immediate danger of relegation.

Another win would see the Rhinos within a couple of points of safety and they also went into the game needing an eighteen points winning margin to get back to a positive points difference, worth an extra point in the bottom of the table shakedown.

The only change for the Rhinos was on the bench with Nathan Peteru brought in to replace the suspended Brad Singleton who was sent off against the Catalans Dragons last weekend and received a two game ban. Saints have Morgan Knowles back but are without Alex Walmsley, Lachlan Coote and James Roby.

Laura Wright has been announced as the singer of Jerusalem at this seasons Grand Final at Old Trafford. The twenty-nine year old, who has sold more than a million albums, sang at the 2016 and 2017  Grand Finals and will be warmly welcomed back in 2019.  Full Story, and what it means to the players, here:

Round twenty-four of the Betfred Championship was spread over two days as Toulouse travelled to Widnes, and York made the trip to Toronto for Saturday’s fixtures.

The remaining games took place on Sunday with Leigh looking for a big win at relegated Rochdale, Sheffield seeking to keep their play-off hopes alive against Halifax, and Featherstone Rovers needing the crucial two points at home against Featherstone.

Elsewhere, the Bulls were in Barrow knowing that the two points were essential for their remote hopes of the top five, while the heavy woollen derby between Batley and Dewsbury was a ‘dead rubber’.

For the Leigh Centurions, this afternoons encounter with already relegated Rochdale Hornets was all about registering a big score to improve their points difference in the hope of securing a home play-off game in the Qualifying Final at the end of the season.

As well as confirming their place in the play-offs, a win would lift the Leigh side up to third, above a Yorks City Knights side which took a hammering against the Toronto Wolfpack last night, and level on points with Toulouse Olympique XIII. The best that Rochdale could achieve is eleventh, still a relegation place, and that would take a miracle after they have only recorded one victory in 2019.

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