11th April 2019, 09:00 | ChallengeCup
Thatto Heath Crusaders are looking to cause yet another Coral Challenge Cup upset as they prepare to host Dewsbury Rams in Round Five of the competition, in a fixture that will be livestreamed via BBC Sport.
The National Conference Premier Division side are now the last remaining amateur club left in this year’s competition and have already made an undeniable impact on the historic tournament.
Their dramatic 16-14 victory over League One side North Wales Crusaders in Round Four meant the St Helens-based side became the first amateur team to reach the 5th Round since Castleford Lock Lane’s exploits in 2016.
However, their journey has been much more than just that victory.
Founded in 1981, Thatto Heath Crusaders rapidly rose through the North West Counties ranks which soon brought a Premier Division Championship Trophy, St Helens Cup and a BARLA National Cup treble in the 1986-87 season.
Sustained success continued and the Club were eventually admitted into the National Conference League for the 2000-01 season. There inclusion was immediately justified as they came away with the National Conference Division 2 Championship title. In 2010, the Crusaders would earn promotion to the National Conference Premier Division.
Thatto Heath hit the ground running in the Premier Division and in 2011 became the first-ever team to win the Premier Division title immediately following a promotion from Division One. Their rapid rise culminated with a Premier Division Grand Final victory over Siddal.
The Crusaders have displayed Challenge Cup heroics previously in January 1996 when they recorded a famous victory 12-27 against then Second Division side Chorley Chieftains. This was the Club’s most iconic moment, possibly up until last month’s win over North Wales.
Each of their four games in this year’s competition have taken place at the Hattons Solicitors Crusaders Park which has become a fortress for this season’s surprise package.
Their route to the 5th Round began way back in January with a comfortable 32-6 victory over Stanningley before another convincing win against Leigh Miners Rangers, 36-6, a fortnight later. Thatto Heath’s 3rd Round victory was broadcast via BBC Sport and saw them earn a narrow 30-24 victory against fellow National Conference Premier Division side Rochdale Mayfield.
They would again steal the show in front of a live audience – this time on the Our League app - as they defeated League One North Wales Crusaders with tries from Lewis Foster, Connor Dwyer and Matty Norton.
The victory was inspired by Thatto Heath Crusaders Head Coach Richard Owen who admits there is a real buzz around the Club at the moment.
Speaking to BBC Radio Merseyside, Owen said: “It’s an exciting place to be at the minute. What the players are doing on the field brings the volunteers from all different areas of the Club together.
“To put the game on at home against North Wales Crusaders and now have the opportunity at home against Dewsbury shows it was a good job done by all with everyone clubbing together.
BBC Sport have chosen to stream Thatto Heath Crusaders 5thround tie with Dewsbury Rams on Sunday afternoon which ‘came as a surprise’ for Owen.
“It’s fantastic as I was expecting maybe a Bradford v Featherstone to be chosen instead.
“To have them streaming against Rochdale Mayfield was massive. I have a good friend who lives in Russia who was texting and tweeting throughout the game which was fantastic. For the BBC to come back Thatto Heath – a community club – will allow us to raise some finances and we’re looking forward to it.”
Owen firmly believes community clubs - such as Thatto Heath - are the bedrock of the game and hopes his sides hard work pays off with another Coral Challenge Cup upset this weekend against Betfred Championship opponents Dewsbury Rams.
“Without the community game we don’t have a professional game, in my opinion. These lads started back pre-season training on the 2ndJanuary, and they’ve worked really hard with run clubs on Wednesday nights, extra sessions on Saturday morning which they are combining with work, family and kids.
“The effort against North Wales Crusaders proved that. To see how they defended their try-line and hung in for each other in big spells of that game came from what they’ve been doing since January.
“This is my third year with the Club and what they supply in terms of facilities right through from the junior sections, open age, women’s and master’s teams. It’s managed really well and that pays off in the long run as you can see with a 5th round Challenge Cup draw at home it doesn’t just happen it takes hard work on and off the field.
Watch Thatto Heath Crusaders v Dewsbury Rams live this Sunday from 3pm exclusively on BBC Sport Online.
Tickets for the 2019 Coral Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, August 25 can be purchased by calling the Rugby League Ticket Office on 0844 856 1113 or by visiting www.rugby-league.com/tickets– Our League members get 5% off all tickets!