York hope to avenge memory of recent loss during Challenge Cup clash with Leigh

York hope to avenge memory of recent loss during Challenge Cup clash with Leigh

York’s hopes of springing a major Challenge Cup upset over in-form Leigh on Sunday may appear slight but the Championship club head into the game determined to avenge the memory of a recent history-making mauling.

Amid a positive campaign in 2022 that ended in them securing an end-of-season play-off place, York succumbed to their heaviest-ever defeat against Leigh in August, a 100-4, 17-try reversal which still brings pain to those involved.

The Centurions – now Leopards – were in the midst of a big-spending surge into Super League where their upward trajectory has continued and they head into this weekend’s showdown in third place, two points off the summit after reeling off seven-straight wins.

Wakefield Trinity v Leigh Leopards – Betfred Super League Magic Weekend – St. James’ Park
In-form Leigh Leopards will target another big win at York (Richard Sellers/PA)

But Knights prop Ronan Michael, who played in both the three-figure drubbing and also the subsequent 70-10 play-off loss to the same team the following month, is undaunted by Sunday’s quarter-final and believes his side can draw on the hurt to help put things right.

“I feel like that defeat is one that defined me as a player, because you come out of it and you know you never want to be a part of something like that ever again,” Michael told the PA news agency.

“It’s not a case of dusting yourself off and preparing to go again next week. You’ve got to be accountable for what happened. You need to remember it and remember how bad it hurts, because it hurt a lot and it was embarrassing.”

Michael became the first Irish-born Super League player in over a decade when he made a solitary appearance for Huddersfield in 2020 and was a non-playing member of the Giants squad who watched from the stands as Ian Watson’s men came up short in last year’s final against Wigan.

Having completed a permanent switch to the Knights and shrugged off an ankle injury, Michael has been integral to a season of consolidation which has brought the added bonus of being the last non-Super League side left in the prestigious tournament.

Injuries have decimated Andrew Henderson’s squad, contributing to a run of three-straight defeats, and as they prepare to face Adrian Lam’s buoyant outfit they could be forgiven for fearing that another soul-sapping reversal is on the cards.

But the 22-year-old added: “I feel like everyone who experienced it took some ownership and responsibility from that loss. It was one of the worst moments of my career and a reminder of how quickly things can escalate.

“We stopped competing last time and this time we won’t stop competing. We’re a different team now, a tight-knit unit and I know that as long as we do keep competing, we are not going to let ourselves down again.”