ENGLAND skipper Jamie Peacock accepts St Helens are favourites to win tomorrow’s Challenge Cup semi-final at the Galpharm Stadium – but he insists that’s fine as far as Leeds Rhinos are concerned.
Saints are on a 15-game winning run and haven’t lost a Challenge Cup tie since Hull beat them in a 2005 semi-final.
They are red-hot favourites at 7/4-on to win this weekend’s last-four clash between Super League’s top two teams, while Rhinos are 13/10 against reaching the final.
Peacock, a member of the Rhinos team which lost 26-12 to Saints at Headingley Carnegie last month, admits the holders are in sparkling form, but reckons Leeds have got what it takes to prise their grasp off the trophy.
“They are unbeaten for quite some time now and their form’s been red hot over the last couple of months – and particularly the last month or so,” said Peacock.
“They are the ones with the favourite’s tag and we are the underdogs. But I think that’s just paper talk before the game, once it comes down to it, it’s a whole different thing.”
Although Rhinos have won three of their last five meetings with Saints, Peacock feels previous results will count for nothing when they square up in Huddersfield.
“The last time we played them it was a convincing win for them, but we had a man sent off and there were some mitigating circumstances,” he added.
“It was a highly competitive game for a long period and there were some other factors within that game, but they deserved to win it.
“Our games against them have been close, apart from last year’s Grand Final. We’ve beaten them and they’ve also beaten us.
“It is a cliche, but it really is whoever’s the best on the day. Both teams are full of big-game players and these are the games we look forward to.”
Rhinos have won their last two games after a spell of three defeats in four matches and Peacock believes they are running back into form at the right time.
He continued: “We probably started to come out of the dip in the game against St Helens and we’ve been playing better since then.
“It was a great victory for us in France last Saturday and a great way to lead into this game. The staff have been smart looking after us and we’ll be good come Saturday.”
Peacock doesn't feel that Saturday's clash – which comes a day before Wakefield Trinity Wildcats take on Hull in the other semi – would have made an ideal final.
“It’s good to have different clubs in the Challenge Cup final,” he said.
“Whoever gets through, you’ll have seen a highly-competitive game.
“It is about us doing what we do well and not looking beyond that. We know what the big prize is, that doesn’t need to be spelled out.
“It is just a matter of us playing well in this game.”
Peacock knows that, whatever the result, his Rhinos are expected to have more backing from the fans on the big day.
Leeds yesterday announced they have sold out their allocation of tickets for the Galpharm clash.
However, there are still tickets available for the contest, which kicks off at the early time of 12.30pm.
They will remain on sale from the Galpharm Stadium ticket office until kick-off.
Those tickets still on offer are priced at £30 £20 and £18 for adults and £12, £8 and £5 for juniors.