Leigh coach Paul Rowley has played down his high-flying side’s chances of producing another Ladbrokes Challenge Cup shock this weekend.
The Kingstone Press Championship leaders have already dumped out two Super League teams en route to the quarter-finals and are eyeing another top-flight scalp in an eagerly-anticipated derby at Warrington on Saturday.
Confidence abounds among Centurions fans with the club’s initial ticket allocation of 3,500 having been snapped up and many more likely to make the eight-mile journey to the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Their optimism is fuelled by almost two years of outstanding results. The Centurions have lost just once this season as they push for promotion on the back of last year’s title success and Warrington’s recent wobbles - three defeats in four - have further boosted hopes.
Leigh also pushed Leeds close in the cup last season but Rowley is not getting carried away, wary that the odds remain on the side of Warrington, three times winners of the competition since 2009.
“We’re in good form and we want to take that into the game,” said Rowley, whose side saw off Salford and Wakefield in the previous two rounds. “But we will have to be unbelievably good to topple Warrington and we are hoping they have another off day, like they have had one or two of late.
“I can’t see it to be honest. They have got a fully-fit squad and their big guns back, but we’re looking forward to the challenge. We will have between 4,000 and 5,000 away supporters. That is phenomenal support and we want to to do them proud.”
Leigh have been exhilarating at times this season - running up more than 50 points on six occasions - but for all their positive rugby, have also acquired a reputation for playing a more physical game.
Wolves coach Tony Smith alluded to as much this week by instructing his side to focus on their own game as they attempt to reverse their recent slump.
“We just need to play rugby and not get dragged into anything else,” Smith said. “I think that has been a distraction for a lot of teams. If we remain disciplined we will be okay.
“We have got a great affinity with the Challenge Cup and have had success before. We are looking forward to it.”
Leigh’s disciplinary record is not flattering, having amassed 15 sin-binnings, three red cards and suspensions totalling 14 games this season.
But Rowley claims it is unfair to focus on this, feeling his side’s reputation is going before them.
He said: “Last week we had a man sin-binned for no reason and the referee came back and said it was the wrong call. The week before, a wrong call. If you look at our last game against Sheffield we showed brilliant control in every department, including discipline.”
Saturday’s tie is about more than a smaller club trying to overcome more glamorous neighbours for the first time since 1988.
There are a number of sub-plots in play, including Rowley coming up against his former Huddersfield coach Smith. The pair apparently fell out during hooker Micky Higham’s recent transfer from Warrington to Leigh, although the terms of the deal mean the veteran forward will not be a factor this weekend.
Another intriguing element sees Warrington and England prop Chris Hill face his former club for the first time since leaving in 2012.
“I’ve been looking forward to it since the draw,” said 27-year-old Hill, who lives between the two towns in Lowton. “I’ve got Leigh fans in my street and if we nip into Leigh my wife gets collared. It’s all good fun.
“They’ve got some dangerous players and we have got to be on our game.”
The pressure is on Warrington to deliver and it emerged this week the squad had held a ‘clear-the-air’ meeting after last Friday’s heavy loss at Hull KR.
“There were words said but that’s all in-house,” Hill said. “Tony had his say and the lads had their say. Now we come up with solutions and move on.”