Challenge Cup semi-final: Can St Helens turn Leigh’s dream season into a nightmare?

Adrian Lam, head coach of Leigh Leopards. Image: George Wood/Getty ImagesAdrian Lam, head coach of Leigh Leopards. Image: George Wood/Getty Images
Adrian Lam, head coach of Leigh Leopards. Image: George Wood/Getty Images
Adrian Lam’s men are second in the Super League and 80 minutes away from a first Challenge Cup final appearance since 1971.

Leigh Leopards boss Adrian Lam is living a dream and fearful he may wake up any minute. But nothing could be further from the truth as the former Wigan head coach looks ahead to Saturday’s Rugby League Challenge Cup semi-final with 13-times winners St Helens.

Lam’s men, who are also currently lying second in the Betfred Super League table, have defied the odds this season and are only 80 minutes away from a first Challenge Cup final appearance since 1971.

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The 52-year-old Papua New Guinean is excited about the progress the club are making, even if it has taken him by surprise. He said: "I could not have imagined it. To think that we are here now and the victory against Salford with our backs against the wall, it has just been incredible and won with 11 players at times.

“The challenges and adversity that we have surpassed has certainly put us in a really good place and, whatever happens this year, we are excited by it, but we are building nicely as well for next year.

“That opportunity presents an excitement around the club, the town and the team and we are going to go there, give it our all and leave nothing on the ground.”

Leigh have won 12 of their last 13 matches in all competitions and sit two places above Saturday’s opponents St Helens in the league, having also claimed a 20-12 victory over them earlier in the season.

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But Lam does not believe his team are the favourites heading into the encounter at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

He said: “I don’t look at it that way. I just think that we have to take care of ourselves and as a coach we have to prepare the best ourselves and deliver the game plan we have.

“I’m just going to stick to our path. Over the last 19 rounds it has put us in a position to compete on Saturday and I’m proud of what we have done so far.”

St Helens will be without key players James Roby and Mark Percival after the pair suffered head injuries in their 12-14 defeat to Catalans Dragons on Thursday. Both players failed a head injury assessment and boss Paul Wellens accepts they will be a big miss.

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He said: “We are a better team with Mark Percival and James Roby, I don’t need to sit here and convince anybody of that. At the same time it offers up opportunities for players to come in and prove themselves and what we have done well in recent years when we have had success is (coped with) adversity and missing key players sometimes.

“It is something the group is very used to and it’s always a squad effort when you are successful and it is what we are going to need this weekend and the rest of the season as well.

“The mood has been great, we had a Thursday game which gives us a longer turn around to this, but the boys are excited about the week and what lies ahead.”

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