The BBC cameras will be returning to Odsal Stadium in the Coral Challenge Cup quarter finals at the start of next month, after the all-Championship tie between Bradford Bulls and Halifax was selected for live coverage on Sunday June 2.
The shock sixth-round victory for John Kear’s Bulls against Leeds Rhinos attracted a peak viewing figure of 1.1 million at the weekend, and has secured the former Super League giants another BBC slot – this time at home to Halifax, who have also claimed a Super League scalp in this year’s competition by beating London Broncos in Round Five.
The West Yorkshire rivals will be battling to become the first non-Super League club to reach the semi finals of the Challenge Cup since Hull Kingston Rovers in 2006.
Sky Sports will focus on the two Hull clubs on consecutive nights for their two televised quarter finals, showing the 2016 and 2017 Wembley winners Hull FC against the Cup holders Catalans Dragons on Thursday May 30, and Hull KR versus Warrington Wolves on Friday May 31 (both 735pm kick-off).
The BBC’s live Saturday game will focus on the meeting of first and third in the Super League table as St Helens, aiming for their first Wembley appearance in more than a decade, host a Wakefield Trinity team who have not played in the Challenge Cup Final since they beat Widnes in 1979.
Confirmation of the quarter final schedule comes after a Sixth-Round weekend which produced the highest aggregate attendance for this stage of the competition since 2008 – with the Bradford-Leeds tie attracting the best match gate in the last 16 since 2015.
Mark Foster, the RFL’s Chief Commercial Officer, said:
“It’s been a great weekend for the Coral Challenge Cup, and a reminder of why the competition is so special for the game.
“The Bradford-Leeds tie on Saturday afternoon in particular generated a memorable occasion at Odsal which was seen by an excellent audience on BBC1 – and that was followed by two exciting ties yesterday at Warrington and Huddersfield, shown by the BBC and Sky Sports respectively, which took our aggregate viewing figures for the weekend beyond 2 million.
“It’s exciting for Bradford, Halifax and the Championship competition that the BBC will be back at Odsal for their quarter final, in the knowledge that the winners will become the first non-Super League club to reach the semi finals for 13 years.”
The RFL have also confirmed the implications of the progress made by Bradford and Halifax in the Coral Challenge Cup on the arrangements for the 1895 Cup, the new knockout competition for Championship and League One clubs that will also culminate in a Wembley final on Saturday August 24.
Both clubs will play their second-round 1895 Cup ties – Bradford at Barrow Raiders, and Halifax at home to Sheffield Eagles – on the Wednesday following the Challenge Cup quarter final (June 5).
If either Bradford or Halifax reach the semi finals of both the Coral Challenge Cup and the 1895 Cup, which are scheduled for consecutive days on July 27 and 28, their 1895 Cup semi final will be put back to the following Wednesday, July 31 – providing a second chance to reach Wembley if they lose the Challenge Cup semi final.
If Bradford or Halifax become the first lower division team to reach the Challenge Cup Final in the competition’s 123-year history, their place in the second 1895 Cup semi final will be taken by the losers of the first semi final.
Coral Challenge Cup quarter finals
Thursday May 30
Hull FC v Catalans Dragons (735pm, live on Sky Sports)
Friday May 31
Hull KR v Warrington Wolves (735pm, live on Sky Sports)
Saturday June 1
St Helens v Wakefield Trinity (315pm, live on BBC1)
Sunday June 2
Bradford Bulls v Halifax (245pm, live on BBC2, followed by semi final draw)