Richard Hercock: Keeping fingers crossed that we will have a White Rose final

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There is more chance, you would think, of England’s footballers winning the next World Cup than there is of a Yorkshire team being involved in next season’s FA Cup final.

However, I am going to stick my neck out and say that Yorkshire will have not one but two teams at Wembley – on August 25 this year, that is, for this season’s rugby league Challenge Cup final.

Now as Super League contains seven Yorkshire teams – 50 per cent of its membership – that should not be too much to ask.

That statistic is reflected in this weekend’s semi-final line-up as Leeds Rhinos play Wigan Warriors, while Huddersfield Giants are paired with Warrington Wolves.

But White Rose clubs, for some reason, do not have that good a record in the cup.

In fact, there has not been a Yorkshire winner since Paul Cooke’s late try, and Danny Brough’s conversion, gave Hull FC a 25-24 win over Leeds Rhinos in 2005.

The Giants have fallen twice (2006, 2009) at the final hurdle since as have Leeds (2010, 2011) while the Airlie Birds lost in 2008.

So an all-Yorkshire final between the Rhinos and Giants would guarantee Yorkshire folk something to cheer about this summer.

Unfortunately, the form book begs to differ.

For in Warrington and Wigan, their opponents are arguably the two best rugby league teams in England today.

Leeds may have gatecrashed the play-offs last season and won the Grand Final, but when it comes to being crowned Challenge Cup winners, the two teams from the ‘wrong’ side of the Pennines set the benchmark.

In a little twist, this weekend’s semi-finals are repeats of the finals from 2009 and 2011, when Tony Smith’s side beat Huddersfield and then last season when the Warriors edged out Leeds to chalk up back-to-back titles. So there is a hint of revenge in the air for the two Yorkshire clubs.

Brian McDermott’s side play Wigan tomorrow at the Galpharm Stadium and it would be only a minor shock if runaway leaders Warriors fell. For Leeds are a quality team, and on their day can beat anyone.

Where the real long odds will be, though, are on Sunday when Warrington play the Giants.

That is because Huddersfield’s season is imploding. Since they beat Bradford Bulls on April 22, the Giants’ season has been in major decline.

Just one win in eight league games – against strugglers London Broncos – has seen confidence drain from Nathan Brown’s side.

Losing at home to Salford was bad, slipping up at Widnes was hard to stomach, but Sunday’s 52-6 collapse at depleted Castleford Tigers even had owner Ken Davy issuing an apology to the fans.

So where has it all gone wrong for the Giants?

Well, never mind what anyone says, the public statements that both coach Nathan Brown and captain Kevin Brown have chosen to leave at the end of the season to join rivals in Super League cannot have helped.

When the two leaders in the camp – both on and off the pitch – have pledged their loyalty elsewhere, it is an obvious excuse when things start to go wrong.

I cannot think of any other reason why a Giants side packed full of quality could have fallen so hard in such a short space of time.

Huddersfield are down to seventh in Super League and if there malaise drags on much longer there must be serious questions over whether they will even make a top-eight finish.

So, nobody from outside of Huddersfield will be backing the Giants on Sunday.

But I just have a suspicion that a return to Wembley could be on the cards for Nathan Brown’s side courtesy of them atoning for that 25-16 defeat to Warrington three years ago.