I DON’T normally watch the Challenge Cup draw.
I usually prefer to hear about it afterwards, but I watched this time and did have a chuckle to myself when it almost went pear-shaped.
It wouldn’t be rugby league without something comical happening. When one of the balls came out with no number on I thought they might have to re-do the whole thing, but fortunately it was just that one and they got away with it.
I remember Tulsen Tollett, who was presenting the draw on the BBC News Channel, from his playing days and I thought he handled it pretty well.
I say unfortunately they didn’t have to re-do it, but to be honest I wouldn’t have minded a re-draw after we got Huddersfield Giants.
The good thing is, we are at home. Everybody says it, but that is the thing you want in any Cup draw. Huddersfield are a good team. They beat us in the Cup a couple of years ago and they’ve been our bogey team over recent seasons, until we got a win over them a couple of months ago.
We are going to be playing them twice in three weeks, so that will be interesting. It might add a bit of spice to the league game next Thursday.
We tend to go from week to week so we won’t give the Cup game much thought for a week or two, but it is always exciting when the Challenge Cup comes around and we are determined to do well in a competition we won last year. You never get tired of winning things. Once you’ve got your hands on a trophy and experienced the final and everything that goes with it, you just want to do it again and again.
We aren’t thinking about defending the trophy; we want to attack it, play some good rugby and hopefully go all the way again.
It’s no secret we set our stall out to win it last year. To be honest, our league form did suffer because of it and I don’t think we’ll be doing that again, but we definitely want to experience the feeling we had last August.
Huddersfield are one of the harder ties we could have got, but I don’t spend much time worrying about Cup draws. It is what it is and you just have to get on with it.
With the new format, which means the top-eight Super League teams come in at round six, there’s a lot less chance of drawing one of the lower division teams.
We always seem to get a tough draw against a Super League side and, being honest, it would have been nice to play somebody from the Championship or League One at home – though Leigh probably gave us our toughest game in the competition last year.
It’s a shame there’s not going to be as many David versus Goliath ties under the new format. It’s good for a lower league team to experience playing a Super League outfit and it boosts their bank balance as well.
I think St Helens will have been pretty pleased to draw York, but it will be a good adventure for the City Knights and the same for Featherstone at Catalans and Batley away to Widnes.
There’s some good ties in the sixth round. Castleford going to Hull should be a cracker and I also like the look of Hull KR away against Wigan. Hull KR are are a good team and they’ve already beaten Wigan this year, so I think they will fancy their chances.
We’re one of the televised ties (Saturday, May 16, kick-off 2.30pm), along with Wakefield at home to Leigh. And maybe that’s the most intriguing game (Sunday, May 17, kick-off 2.15pm). Wakey did a good job against Halifax last week and – no disrespect to Fax – it was good to see them end their losing run and Ian Kirke get a couple of tries on his debut. We know how good a side Leigh are and they proved it again when they beat Salford last weekend.
And everybody likes the prospect of an upset – and I don’t mean Wakey winning – so it’ll be interesting to see how that one pans out.
BRIAN MAC isn’t letting us look at the table. It’s nice to have a big gap at the top, but there’s still a long way to go in the regular season and nothing is won at this time of the year.
Or to put it another way, it’s all right getting into pole position, but the big challenge is staying there.
We had a good win at Saints and we are definitely in a good place, but we came in for training on Monday and had a double session, so we are working as hard as we have ever done.
We’re not being overworked; the coaches and conditioning staff are smart with what they do and they know when to push us and when to ease off, but we definitely won’t be taking our foot off the gas. Once you do that you can come unstuck very quickly, so as far as we’re concerned, we are just carrying on and trying to get better.
It is a case of trying to get our performance right and let everything else take care of itself. We have got two huge games coming up, with Warrington at home tonight and then a trip to Huddersfield in six days’ time.
If we can win both of those we have got a 10-day turnaround to Widnes and we’ll be in a good position.
Warrington would probably admit they aren’t playing as well as they can at the moment, but they beat us last month and we know what they are capable of when they get their game together. We aren’t talking about revenge after the last time, we just want to play better and do ourselves justice.
It would be good to get the points in Kevin Sinfield’s 500th game. That is an amazing achievement. Kev’s coming up with some massive numbers at the moment with his points-scoring feats and for him to be at the top of the game for so long – considering how physical the sport is at the moment and the way it has changed since he started – is credit to him and how professional he is.