CASTLEFORD TIGERS’ recent signing Larne Patrick believes the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup is a wide open race.
Last year’s runners-up Hull KR are already out and Patrick reckons the 11 First Utility Super League clubs in sixth-round action this weekend will all fancy their chances.
The 27-year-old second-row or prop, who joined Tigers from Huddersfield Giants last month, is set to return after an ankle injury in tomorrow’s BBC-televised tie at home to Salford Red Devils.
The winners of that will be just two more victories away from Wembley.
And Patrick said: “It’s not just the top-four any more, anyone’s a contender.
“You can’t really rule out anyone.
“There’s probably going to be some shock results this weekend, but we have just got to focus on ourselves, turn up and play our best.”
Patrick described tomorrow’s tie as a “massive game” and he added: “It is knockout and we don’t want to be having weekends off, we want to get to the final.
“Certainly Cas have got the team to do it. It’s a matter of self-belief.
“We believe we are good enough and it starts this weekend.
“You can’t guarantee who’s going to win at the minute; it is quite a level playing field and you don’t go into games majorly confident.
“You expect a tough game and we are expecting that on Saturday.”
Patrick was a member of the Wigan team surprisingly beaten by Hull KR at this stage last year and is keen to put that memory behind him.
“The Challenge Cup is a massive thing,” he added.
“It is different to the league, it is more special, but it will be a tough game against Salford.
“They are no longer a bottom team. They are confident and they play some good rugby, so we have to make sure our defence – which hasn’t been the best – is a lot better.”
Tigers are aiming to end a run of two successive home defeats, including a 58-16 thashing by Hull KR in his debut two weeks ago.
“It wasn’t the best, it was a debut to remember for the wrong reasons,” the Welsh international said of his baptism of fire.
“But we showed a good turnaround last week against St Helens.
“It still wasn’t good enough, but I think how we went about it and how we reacted to the loss against Hull KR was a positive and hopefully we can go into this weekend and improve on that again and get the win.”
Luke Dorn, Junior Moors and Jake Webster are set to return from injury tomorrow and Ryan Boyle is also in contention, with Andy Lynch, Will Maher and Conor Fitzsimons dropping out from last week’s team.
Lynch has undergone surgery on a broken leg and will be sidelined for up to 12 weeks. Patrick said: “He is a massive loss for us.
“All the forwards are going to have to up their game that bit more, but we are all up for that challenge.”