10 community clubs lined up alongside 22 semi-professional ones in the third round of the Men’s Betfred Challenge Cup this weekend – and four of them progressed to Round 4 of Rugby League’s prestigious knock-out competition, including York Acorn who pulled off a stunning 18-10 win at League One Cornwall.
Acorn, or another National Conference League (NCL) side, could even go as far as Round 5 – and with it the enticing prospect of Super League opposition in Round 6 should they progress – after Wath Brow Hornets’ impressive 30-4 win at Stanningley earned the Cumbrian’s a trip to the York club in Round 4.
The other community clubs set for Round 4 action over the weekend of 24/25 February are Hunslet ARLFC, who enjoyed a comfortable 46-6 win at Lock Lane, and reigning Southern Conference champions Hammersmith Hills Hoists who won a titanic London derby against Wests Warriors 22-12.
Alas there were no fairytales for NCL Premier Division heavyweights Siddal and Thatto Heath, who enjoyed home advantage against Championship powerhouses Wakefield Trinity and Featherstone Rovers respectively, but came unstuck against the superior fitness and finishing power of their opponents. Siddal trailed only 6-12 at half-time, only for Trinity to score 58 points without reply in the second 40, while Featherstone Rovers were rarely troubled at Thatto Heath as they cruised to a 72-0 win.
The weekend’s two live-steamed matches – Barrow Raiders versus Oldham and Dewsbury Rams versus York Knights – certainly delivered the goods for armchair viewers, with both games in the balance until the closing stages. League One Oldham turned in a dominant second-half display to defeat the Raiders 22-10 at the Northern Competitions Stadium – a victory which puts them in Round 4 for the first time since 2008 and sets up an enticing trip to Swinton Lions who progressed 50-6 against NCL outfit West Hull.
Dewsbury Rams and York Knights delivered a classic at Rams Stadium, where the home side led 8-2 at half time and held out for a further 23 minutes after the break before the Knights finally drew level. The Rams continued to defy the odds – and give the visitors the occasional mighty fright – right up until the closing stages, when Nikau Williams finally put his side in front.
Elsewhere, Championship sides Batley Bulldogs, Bradford Bulls and Sheffield Eagles all enjoyed big wins over League One opposition. The Bulldogs beat Workington Town 48-18, scoring a point a minute in the first half to effectively put the game to bed by half-time at 40-0. Sheffield, meanwhile, routed Newcastle Thunder 88-12 to set up a visit to York Knights for one of the stand-out ties of Round 4. Bradford Bulls – the most recent Challenge Cup winners in Round 3 action this weekend having lifted the trophy back in 2003 – will be at home to Widnes Vikings in Round 4, having eased past North Wales Crusaders 48-2.
The Vikings were also handsome winners, defeating newly-promoted Doncaster 50-16 at the DCBL Stadium. And in Sunday’s other all-Championship tie, Whitehaven’s 4-32 loss at Halifax Panthers means that Cumbrian interest in the competition now rests with Wath Brow Hornets.
Finally, there were two all-League One encounters – and close ones too as Dan Nixon-inspired Rochdale Hornets came from behind to defeat Midlands Hurricanes 24-20, as did Keighley Cougars who trailed Hunslet 8-10 at half-time before second half tries from Ellis Robson (2) and Adam Ryder settled their nerves.
Betfred Challenge Cup Round 3 results
Barrow Raiders 10 Oldham 22
Batley Bulldogs 48 Workington 18
Bradford Bulls 48 North Wales Crusaders 2
Cornwall 10 York Acorn 18
Dewsbury Rams 8 York Knights 14
Halifax Panthers 32 Whitehaven 4
Hammersmith Hills Hoists 22 Wests Warriors 12
Hunslet 14 Keighley Cougars 22
Lock Lane 6 Hunslet ARLFC 46
Rochdale Hornets 24 Midlands Hurricanes 20
Sheffield Eagles 88 Newcastle Thunder 12
Stanningley 4 Wath Brow Hornets 30
Siddal 6 Wakefield Trinity 70
Swinton Lions 50 West Hull 6
Thatto Heath Crusaders 0 Featherstone Rovers 72
Widnes Vikings 50 Doncaster 16