Swinton best of the minnows

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The Independent Online

Moving the Powergen Challenge Cup later into the rugby league season - the final this year will be in August, rather than the traditional May - will have a number of effects.

Moving the Powergen Challenge Cup later into the rugby league season - the final this year will be in August, rather than the traditional May - will have a number of effects.

Principally, it will stop the game's oldest competition feeling like a pre-season tournament and restore some of the gloss that has been missing in recent years.

There is one aspect of the cup's magic that will not be encouraged by the change, however. Giant-killing has never played as big a part as it does in the FA Cup, for instance, but it has always been lurking in the background. The seasons since the switch to summer rugby have been a window of opportunity for smaller clubs, as their season started earlier than Super League and they might just catch the big guns before they got into their stride.

Super League teams have now played eight games before getting embroiled in the cup, so the opportunities for catching one of them unawares have shrunk. There are six ties today which cast Super League clubs against National League opposition, and none of them look upset material.

Bradford, despite their uneven start to the season, should be good enough to win at Featherstone. Leigh have had a torrid start in Super League, but Batley do not look good enough to eliminate them. Hunslet are surely overmatched against London, and Wigan should have too much for Whitehaven.

That leaves two ties which seem to hold the most intriguing possibilities. Roch-dale Hornets have been scoring tries for fun in the Northern Rail Cup and could punish Salford if their Super League neighbours are not focused.Widnes have been unimpressive this season and could be vulnerable. On the face of itthey will have been relieved to draw a side from NL2, but Swinton's early-season form makes them the choice of several observers to go closest to causing an upset.

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