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Rugby League: Challenge Cup semi-finals were the best-ever [Aug. 12th, 2009|12:10 pm]
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Try as I might, I can't think of a better pair of Challenge Cup semi-finals than the ones we have just witnessed.

Certainly there are some unforgetable moments in the past; Steele Retchless' winner at Headingley and Joe Lydon's drop goal at Maine Road stand out for me.

But for quality over the 160 minutes, this year would be my best-ever. The combination of Warrington's purple patch and Wigan's stirring fight-back made the first semi a thriller.

As for the second, it just proved the modern truism that any game where St Helens are behind is a good game - and sometimes a great game.

I say this not in any anti-Saints way, just in recognition that nobody comes from behind like them. Any game in which their opposition get their noses in front has its own compelling narrative.

I had a funny feeling that both Warrington and HUddersfield were going to do it - especially the Giants who, it seemed to me, had reached the point where they can win big matches.

Of course, to do that you need big-match players and they had one in Brett Hodgson. There was a nice bit of confusion when the BBC named David Hodgson as man of the match; okay, he'd had a perfectly decent game, helping out with dummy half runs and that sort of thing, but he wasn't remotely in the class of his namesake.

The man who can't have been far behind was Kevin Brown, who was involved in everything and had perhaps the best game I've ever seen from him.

But the great thing in both Huddersfield and Warrington is that too different towns have the chance to get excited about going to Wembley.

They could produce a classic nip-and-tuck final - and don't forget I was right about the semis.