Hull KR eye Challenge Cup repeat in Wigan rematch

Hull KR's Challenge Cup semi-final win against Wigan Warriors at Headingley in 2023 was the type of game that had everything.

Rip-roaring tries, a golden-point drop-goal winner, a controversial sending-off. Enough to leave laptop keyboards smoking in the press box and commentators left flat out by the drama.

Not that Robins' playmaking dynamo Mikey Lewis can recall it.

As he prepares to guide Rovers into Saturday's repeat of the tie at the same stage this time in Doncaster, live on BBC One from 13:15 BST, much of the match remains a blur. Not so much the celebrations though.

"I can remember Brad Schneider setting up for the drop-goal and as soon as it left his boot I thought - 'this is going over'," Lewis told BBC Sport.

"The fans started cheering and my first thought was 'I'm going to jump all over him'. Everyone came on, there were fans on the pitch - it was just mayhem.

"I can't remember much of the game because it was such an intense one, but I can remember being in the sheds afterwards and celebrating with that group of lads. That we were going to Wembley was an unreal feeling."

While the final was to end in disappointment, coincidentally thanks to a drop-goal winner from Leigh's Lachlan Lam, reaching a final showed the club from East Hull were on an upward curve.

Lewis is fully aware of the threat posed by Wigan, and that to savour such an emotion again will need Hull KR to be at their very best.

Mutual respect adds to the spice

Wigan got their revenge on Rovers for their cup exit when the two teams met at the DW Stadium in October 2023, booking their Grand Final spot.

Matt Peet's side went on to lift the trophy at Old Trafford, and then added the World Club Challenge crown at the start of this season.

However, that cup loss remains a rare moment under Peet where Wigan - who were the holders going into that game - failed to get the spoils in a major event.

Warriors captain and influential back-rower Liam Farrell has seen first hand just how the Robins, coached by ex-Wigan half-back Willie Peters, have matured into a genuine Super League force.

Just a couple of weeks ago in-form KR put Wigan away at Craven Park, with a display of defensive spirit and attacking verve.

"They're a club who are rapidly trying to move forward," Farrell told BBC Radio Manchester.

"They've made some great signings and their performances have matched that, and they're a club who last year performed really well and they've taken it to another level, outstanding talent with Mikey Lewis leading the way.

"But right in the front of our memory we had a tough game against them a few weeks ago so it's fresh in the moment. We've learned a hell of a lot from that game and [need to] make sure we fix it up."

The likeable Peet has enjoyed something of a Midas touch himself since taking over in 2022, steering Wigan to victory over Huddersfield when the Challenge Cup final was played at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Every possible team honour within domestic rugby league has followed since, but it is a pressure that the English literature graduate relishes.

"We understand there's an expectation but when you sign with certain clubs you have to embrace that," Peet said.

"We see it as a real positive that there's that expectation and it filters into everything you do on a daily basis."

Lewis and Robins ready to raise game

For Hull KR, Saturday's semi is a continuation of their 2024 Challenge Cup reunion tour, having knocked out Salford and their 2023 conquerors Leigh out en route already.

One-point hero Schneider is now in the NRL at Penrith, while inspirational captain from last year Shaun Kenny-Dowall will have to prompt from the sidelines as a coach.

The arrival of talent such as Joe Burgess, Tyrone May and Kelepi Tanginoa has added depth though to the class of 2024, and a semi-final presents an opportunity to show just what impact they have made.

Just as well, given the Wigan roll-call - Jai Field, Bevan French, Jake Wardle and Harry Smith to name four.

Lewis is the type of character though who thrives on this stage, and coming up against other elite talent.

"You've got to, they're world-class players," he added. "Us as a full team, it's not just me, we've got to step up and be on our A-game.

"We've got to take our performances to the next level to beat these type of teams.

"That's what were aiming for this week, we've got to be ready to go. It's about attitude now, it's all about performing and executing it now."

Hull KR and Wigan have already delivered one semi-final for the ages. Few would bet against them adding another to the annals.