Northern Rail Cup ambassador Robbie Hunter Paul previews the quarter-finals.
Don’t you just love it when other people make you seem like an expert?
I have to say a big ‘thank you’ to all the teams that have made the quarter-finals because all the teams I mentioned in my first column as the ‘teams to watch’ have all made the play-offs.
OK, OK, I know they are all the traditionally strong teams but never the less they have all still made me look like I know what I’m talking about.
Sadly for me the quarters are when this job of ‘being an expert’ gets a lot trickier. I reckon the 2012 Northern Rail Cup quarter-finals will be the toughest play-offs we have seen in this tournament to date. So let’s have a look at the match ups.
Halifax V Barrow Raiders
First up Barrow will be travelling to The Shay to take on Karl Harrison’s Halifax. On paper you would have to say that the lads from Calderdale will be going into this game as favourites.
The titanic battle of last year’s NRC final loss will still be a sore point for many of their stars that played in that game and I’m sure that the disappointment of last year will be a motivating factor to drive them to get back to Bloomfield Road again.
Sheffield Eagles V Hunslet Hawks
Sheffield Eagles will look to make early season success continue when they face up against the Hunslet Hawks.
Sheffield coach, Mark Aston, has plenty of experience under his belt winning silverware at the highest level. He has built a solid core to his Eagles squad and they would have grown in confidence after playing in last year’s Championship final. I am sure a trip to the seaside will prove to the city of Sheffield they are a new force to be reckoned with.
Keighley Cougars V Featherstone Rovers
This is a real tricky one. In the past you may have fallen guilty of completely writing Keighley out of this game, but head coach, Jason Demetriou has really put together a quality team and though they still need a little bit of time to polish what they are delivering they can certainly push any team on their day.
In the recent past Fev has been the most dominant team in the competition making back to back Championship finals, winning it in 2011. The NRC has been the one competition that has eluded them though and I’m sure coach Darryl Powell will have his sights trained on Blackpool.
The real danger from Featherstone is the draw is at Cougar Park as it can be tough place for any away team to win at.
Leigh Centurions V Batley Bulldogs
This is the big one for me. Obviously being a former Centurions player my instincts are to go with the home team but as Batley confidently showed in the opening round of the league, last year’s NRC winners Leigh, are going to have to be consistent for a full 80 if they going to progress through to the semis.
I believe the Bulldogs will go into this game as favourites and the Centurions are going to have to use a shield wall mentality of ‘everyone working together’ consistently if they are going to successfully defend the title.
As stated earlier this NRC is shaping up to be the tightest and most exciting in many years. So keep an eye on the teams’ league form and may the best teams win.
Northern Rail Cup Ambassador