10 August 2023

The key battles that could separate Leigh and Hull KR in the Challenge Cup final

10 August 2023

Saturday’s improbable Betfred Challenge Cup final at Wembley pits Willie Peters’ exciting and expansive Hull KR against a Leigh side led by Adrian Lam who have taken this season by storm.

For Rovers it means a chance to erase the memories of their last final appearance in 2015 when they were hammered 50-0 by Leeds – whilst Leigh’s last involvement in the sport’s showpiece event came way back in 1971.

Here, the PA news agency picks out the four key areas which could determine whether Peters’ men or Lam’s in-form Leopards emerge with the trophy.

Hooker: Jez Litten v Edwin Ipape

A revelation in Leigh’s promotion-winning 2022 campaign, Ipape has extended his explosive brand of running and tackling into the top-flight, relishing his role in a settled spine and proceeding to cement his place as one of the best number nines in the business. Litten’s role at Rovers – which he often splits with the more experienced Matt Parcell – may be more understated but is deceptively effective. Litten’s ability to speed up the ruck in the later stages of gruelling games could prove a pivotal factor against Leigh’s bulky pack.

Halves: Brad Schneider v Lachlan Lam

The 22-year-old Schneider has reignited Rovers’ season since his arrival on a short-term deal from Canberra. The Australian kicked two consecutive golden point winners in his first two games, including last month’s semi-final win over Wigan, when his his kicking accuracy and strong running game was plain to see. Alongside Ipape, Lam has effectively orchestrated his side’s surge towards the summit this season, a cool-headed distributor whose 20 assists so far are testament to his status as one of 2023’s stand-out performers.

Threequarters: Shaun Kenny-Dowall v Josh Charnley

Out wide most eyes will be on Rovers winger Ryan Hall, who looks set to start for the first time since limping off in the semi-final warm-up. But Rovers’ fate may rest with talismanic skipper Kenny-Dowall, not only for his swashbuckling forward forays but the inspiration he is giving team-mates who wish to send him into retirement on a high. Leigh are a little lighter in the threequarters department but boast a potentially match-winning card in arrow-like winger Charnley, second only in tries scored (22) and metres gained to Catalans’ Tom Johnstone so far this season.

Forwards: Elliot Minchella v John Asiata

Leigh captain Asiata may be best known for his uncompromising tackle technique but it is his leadership qualities and skills with the ball – he has made more carries than any other forward this season – that might provide the crucial components at Wembley. Rovers’ key forward threat arrives in the shape of their free-ranging 13 Minchella, the Bradford man whose constant driving of his side’s line speed is key.

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