On the face of it, Wigan’s semi-final against the London Broncos could be one of the most one-sided in the history of the Challenge Cup.After all, the match at Leigh pits the side that was leading Super League until last weekend against the established back-markers.
Wigan will have had any complacency knocked out of them by defeat at St Helens on Monday and have already inflicted two heavy defeats on the Broncos this season. Yet those with long memories will recall Wigan being equally confident against the Catalan Dragons in 2007, only to fall to an embarrassing loss.
That was the year Chris Melling moved from Wigan to London, so he knows the dangers of thinking you only have to turn up in a semi.
“This is 80 minutes, a one-off game and we know anything can happen. Whoever turns up in the right frame of mind, having put everything in place during the week, will get the result,” he said.
Unlikely though that outcome sounds, Melling believes a visit to Wembley – where they lost to Leeds in 1999 – could be a vital catalyst for the future of the Broncos.
“I’ve spent the majority of my professional career here and I’ve seen first-hand the development of the junior game down here and the number of kids now playing the sport,” he said.
“Success for the team in London would be a massive milestone in that development. We’ve got the opportunity to rewrite the history books. More and more kids are buying into the game and if we can deliver success they will do so even more.”
Melling, a 29-year-old full-back turned back-rower, is joined in the Broncos squad by another ex-Wigan player, Liam Colbon, and the Wales international Rhodri Lloyd, who is on loan from the Warriors but has been given permission to play.
There will be no Michael Witt or Tony Clubb, however, as two of London’s most experienced players have failed fitness tests. They can, though, call upon their latest arrival from Australia, Jamie Soward, who is the sort of big-match player who could make an impact.
Wigan have Sam Tomkins, Sean O’Loughlin and Harrison Hansen back after being rested in the St Helens defeat.
Tomorrow’s second semi-final between Warrington and Hull is an altogether harder game to predict. Hull’s form has been too inconsistent to fathom this season, but they do have two league wins over the Wolves to encourage them. They hope to have Daniel Holdsworth back to play alongside Jacob Miller at half-back.
Adrian Morley, Ben Westwood and Paul Wood will all be back to bolster the pack for Warrington after being rested against Hull KR last week.