We look at some storylines to follow in the sixth round of this year’s Betfred Challenge Cup as the 12 Betfred Super League clubs enter the competition…

Eagles dare to dream of 1998 repeat

When the draw for the sixth round of this year’s competition was made, it paired together two sides who were involved in what proved to be arguably the greatest final upset in Challenge Cup history.

Much has changed since Sheffield Eagles beat Wigan Warriors 17-8 at Wembley in 1998. While Wigan come into this tie as reigning Super League champions and winners of last month’s World Club Challenge, Sheffield have not played in the top division since 1999 following an ill-fated merger with Huddersfield Giants and being reborn as a separate entity.

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Betfred Challenge Cup 2024 sixth-round fixtures

Friday, March 22 Hull KR vs Salford Red Devils 8pm
Leeds Rhinos vs St Helens 8pm
Wigan Warriors vs Sheffield Eagles 8pm
Saturday, March 23 Huddersfield Giants vs Hull FC 2pm
Leigh Leopards vs Featherstone Rovers 2pm
Batley Bulldogs vs Castleford Tigers 3pm
Warrington Wolves vs London Broncos 5.30pm
Sunday, March 23 Halifax Panthers vs Catalans Dragons 3pm

Mark Aston, awarded the Lance Todd Trophy in that final, is Sheffield head coach these days and has played a huge role in keeping the club going during the intervening years – and now his son Cory, who plays at half-back for the Eagles, is dreaming of what would be an even more stunning upset.

“I’m sure my dad wouldn’t like to admit it, but it would be bigger than ’98 if we did win,” Aston junior told The Mirror ahead of Friday evening’s match at the DW Stadium. “It was obviously a big challenge to beat Wigan on that day, but Sheffield were in Super League.

“I obviously don’t remember much about ’98 and my mum told me I slept the entirety of the second half, but it’s been a massive story growing up and I have heard them all. There are famous photos of me on my dad’s shoulders which, if we did get the job done, it’d be good to recreate with my lad.”

Of other Championship clubs to have made it through to the last 16, last year’s 1895 Cup runners-up Batley Bulldogs welcome former head coach Craig Lingard back to the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium with Castleford Tigers on Saturday and will be aiming to ensure the Super League side remain winless in 2024.

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Former New Zealand international and Hull KR assistant coach Shaun Kenny-Dowall joins Jenna Brooks and Jon Wilkin on this week’s episode of The Bench podcast

The team which beat the Bulldogs at Wembley last year and were Challenge Cup semi-finalists as recently as 2019, Halifax Panthers, host last year’s Super League Grand Final runners-up and 2018 winners Catalans Dragons on Sunday.

How will last year’s finalists fare?

Leigh Leopards and Hull KR produced a Challenge Cup final for the ages in 2023, with the Lancashire side eventually triumphing 17-16 thanks to Lance Todd Trophy winner Lachlan Lam’s drop goal in golden-point extra-time.

Both sides have had differing fortunes this year though, with the Robins once again in the top six of the Super League table, while Leigh have only won one of their four games in Super League so far this year.

That victory, however, came last week as they trounced Hull FC 54-4 at the MKM Stadium and head coach Adrian Lam knows how important that result was as they prepare for a trip to Championship outfit Featherstone Rovers in the Challenge Cup sixth round.

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Highlights of Leigh Leopards’ win over Hull FC in the Betfred Super League

“We needed that from our key players,” Lam said. “It’s always tough to come here and win, especially off the back of none out of three.

“We’ve sort of allowed a couple of soft tries in the first three games this season. To hold them only to four at home was going to be difficult.

“Sometimes when you’re in a bit of a rut, we will take a lot of confidence out of that.”

Hull KR, meanwhile, host a Salford Red Devils side on who have already beaten them 17-10 in Round 3 of the Super League season, and will be without star England half-back Mikey Lewis after he failed a head injury assessment in last week’s win away to Huddersfield.

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Highlights as Hull KR beat Huddersfield Giants in the Betfred Super League

Head coach Willie Peters is confident his side, which also reached the Super League play-off semi-finals last year, are making good progress going into Friday night’s game.

“I think we’re on track to being the team that we want to be,” Peters said. “We’re certainly not the finished product – there’s areas [against Huddersfield] we need to improve on.

“When you look at teams like Wigan and St Helens, they find ways to win when they’re not playing at their best and that’s what we need to get to. When things aren’t going our way, we need to win ugly.”

Saints and Rhinos set to meet again

Having faced off in Super League at AMT Headingley last Friday, Leeds Rhinos and St Helens now clash in the Challenge Cup at the same venue on Friday evening.

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Highlights of last week’s Betfred Super League match at AMT Headingley between Leeds Rhinos and St Helens

Saints emerged victorious in that match after fighting back from 8-0 down for their fourth win of the season so far and head coach Paul Wellens demanded improvements ahead of the rematch.

“We need to be better from our intent and how we start the game, because we very quickly lost control and it took us some time to win it back,” Wellens said.

“I thought as a collective our intent around our defensive work at the start wasn’t where it needed to be, but what was there was a willingness to scramble and work hard for each other.”

The clubs have both tasted Wembley glory in recent years, with 14-time winners Leeds triumphing in the behind-closed-doors final in 2020 and St Helens lifting the trophy for the 13th time the following year.

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Highlights as Warrington Wolves thumped winless London Broncos 58-4 to move top of the Betfred Super League

Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith, whose father Brian coached Bradford Bulls to the 1996 Challenge Cup final where they lost to Saints, acknowledged their opponents’ strengths but knows last week’s result counts for nothing.

“They’re a very good team and showed some differences in how they’ve played to previous seasons,” Smith said. “They played very well, and they needed to, to be beat us.

“No two games are the same, so we’re looking to start again and adjust to any tweaks they make and make a few of our own.”

Warrington Wolves and London Broncos face a swift rematch as well after Sam Burgess’ side triumphed 58-4 in Wimbledon last Sunday, with this week’s meeting being played at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Saturday evening.

The other all-Super League tie of the round sees 2022 runners-up Huddersfield Giants at home to Hull FC on Saturday afternoon as the Black and Whites, back-to-back cup winners in 2016 and 2017, seek to end their disappointing start to the season.

Remaining 2024 Challenge Cup round dates

Quarter-finals: April 11-14.

Semi-finals: May 18-19 (Neutral venues TBC).

Final: June 8 (Wembley Stadium).

Watch every match of the 2024 Betfred Super League season, including Rivals Round, Magic Weekend, the play-offs, and men’s, women’s and wheelchair Grand Finals, live on Sky Sports. Also stream with NOW.