Leigh need

Leigh Leopards returned to Super League with a host of new signings which have gelled together to make them one of the most formidable sides in the competition this season
Leigh Leopards returned to Super League with a host of new signings which have gelled together to make them one of the most formidable sides in the competition this season
Venue: Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington Date: Saturday, 22 July Kick-off: 14:30 BST Coverage: Live coverage on BBC One, live radio commentary on BBC Local Radio and live text coverage on the BBC Sport website

Beating St Helens and reaching the Challenge Cup final would require “another level” of performance from Leigh Leopards, says boss Adrian Lam.

The newly promoted side have enjoyed a hugely successful return to the top flight and are second in Super League, ahead of reigning champions Saints.

Victory for Leigh at Warrington on Saturday would set up a first final appearance since 1971.

“We’re 80 minutes away from Wembley, which is a dream,” Lam said.

Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, he added: “But then you have to throw in the fact that we’ve got to beat the world champions. This is another level, but it’s something I’m looking forward to.”

Leigh come into the tie in the midst of an incredible run of just one defeat in their past 13 games in all competitions.

That solitary loss came against Super League leaders Catalans Dragons on 24 June but Lam has already masterminded a defeat of Saints, when they beat them 20-12 in the early stages of the 2023 campaign.

“As great as the dream is about being 80 minutes away from the final, our whole focus has got to be on this Saturday and tackle by tackle, set by set,” Lam added.

“Our focus is going to be making sure that we play each set out and not get too far ahead of ourselves.

“I know that if we turn up here and we give our absolute best, we will give ourselves every chance.”

‘We’re playing for each other’

Lam already has experience of leading his side to a victorious trip to the capital, having won the 1895 Cup at Tottenham last year in his first season with the club.

Since then they have gone from strength to strength as they coasted to promotion before going through a rebrand to adopt the Leopards moniker, with a wave of new signings for their return to Super League.

Whereas the sheer number of new faces may have led some to question whether they would link together well enough to even stay in the division, Leigh are on course not just to remain in the top flight but to burst into the play-offs too.

“I think a lot of the players that experienced that [winning the 1895 Cup] have found it certainly helped the team for the rest of that season,” Lam added.

“I’m hoping that experience will put them in good shape for this weekend, but we have also brought in 15 new faces as well that weren’t there at the time and we’ve worked really hard this year to make those players play together as a group.

“I think you can see that they’re playing for each other at times and they’re a very close bunch. They need to be like that on the weekend.”

‘Leigh momentum makes them dangerous’

St Helens have dominated the domestic game in the northern hemisphere for the past four seasons, under Justin Holbrook and then Kristian Woolf, but have had a mixed 2023.

Wellens began his tenure as Saints boss with a stunning World Club Challenge win over NRL premiers Penrith Panthers at the beginning of the season, but his side have suffered from inconsistent form ever since.

They remain in the play-off picture but must beat the in-form Leopards if they are to return to Wembley for the first time since 2021 and win a 14th Challenge Cup.

“They are a team with some momentum behind them which makes them dangerous,” Wellens told BBC Radio Merseyside.

“It’s a credit to them, the way they have handled the step up to Super League, and got results off the back of it.

“You look at us as a club who have played in a lot of big games, like World Club Challenges and Challenge Cups in recent times, and you look at Leigh who haven’t had that experience as a club.

“But you look at the playing roster and you look at the personnel within the group, they’ve got a lot of players who have all got big-game experience – whether it’s internationally or for clubs elsewhere.

“A large part of the success they have had this year is the fact that they have got a lot of players who understand what it’s like to play in big games.”

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