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Challenge Cup final preview: Leigh Leopards v Hull KR

Rugby League has needed an underdog story in recent years, and Leigh Leopards are one win away from rewriting their place in the Challenge Cup history books as they prepare to face Hull KR at Wembley on Saturday.

After topping the Championship standings in 2022, Leigh beat York City Knights and Batley Bulldogs to earn their place in Super League.

They were expected to return to the second tier at the first attempt, but Adrian Lam's side have quashed any such pre-season predictions and have a realistic chance of winning the domestic double this year.

Willie Peters' Rovers are standing in their way and they will be determined to do their fans proud, with the Robins having lost 50-0 to Leeds Rhinos in their previous Challenge Cup final appearance in 2015.

WhatLeigh Leopards v Hull KR
WhereWembley Stadium, London
When15:00, Saturday 12th August
How to watchBBC One
OddsLeigh 4/7, Tie 20/1, Hull KR 6/4

Momentum with the Leopards

Leigh made a flying start to the season under Lam, but critics and, in fairness, their own supporters were always expecting them to tail off and struggle.

The Leopards have continued to defy the odds however and they seem to be relishing the underdog tag, and relegation was not a possibility after the first few months of the season.

Leigh are third in the Super League table, level on points with second-placed Wigan, and they are only behind the Warriors on points difference.

Lam's troops are four points behind league leaders Catalans Dragons and they could soon secure their play-off spot.

Only Catalans and Wigan, the best two teams in Super League, have been able to beat Leigh since April and it is hard to overlook that record.

Leigh have shown they can handle the big occasion all season and they are 10/11 to cover the -4 handicap.

Robins may regret final preparations

Leigh warmed up for Saturday's showpiece by beating Leeds Rhinos at Headingley for the first time since 1984.

Their 13-6 win was one for the history books, but it did not come as a total surprise after Lam named the strongest squad possible for the clash.

The former Wigan coach was expected to make some tweaks to his team, but he decided to keep his players in rhythm, which was the opposite method to that utilised by Peters.

Peters named a young and inexperienced side, handing debuts to several academy prospects, with his team falling to a 64-6 defeat at Wigan as a result.

Hull KR fans will not have been shocked or disappointed, but after a week without playing, there is no guarantee that they will be firing on all cylinders.

Winger Ryan Hall is racing to be fit for Saturday's final and the Robins may not be back to their best on such a big day for the club.

If they start slow, they will be punished by a classy Leigh team and the Leopards are 4/6 to win the first half.

Nerves sure to play their part

The sport of Rugby League will benefit from either of these two sides winning, giving hope to some of the smaller clubs that anything is possible.

Hull KR were humbled on their last trip to the capital for such an occasion and their players will be eager to give their fans a day to remember, while Leigh last won the Challenge Cup in 1971.

It would be ideal if both teams played with freedom and a care-free attitude, but that is easier said than done.

Many of the players will be featuring on the big stage for the first time and it is bound to affect them across the 80 minutes.

Leigh have won both meetings between the two sides this season, but only one of those wins was comfortable, with the clash in March finishing 30-25 to the Leopards.

With nerves expected in both camps on a career-defining day, backing 33-53 total points at 8/11 seems a sensible ploy.

Only one of the last four meetings between the two sides contained over 50 points, so expect another low-scoring affair this weekend.

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