19th March 2021, 08:23 | challengecup
Round One of the 2021 Betfred Challenge Cup will see the introduction of Wales Rugby Union legend Gavin Henson to Rugby League as his West Wales Raiders side prepare to take on former ‘Cup Kings’ Widnes Vikings, in front of the BBC cameras on Sunday.
West Wales managed to lure Henson out of retirement to finally give Rugby League a shot in 2021 and he will partner 2011 Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel Rangi Chase in the halves, a partnership which the Raiders will be hoping turns their fortunes after two difficult seasons in Betfred League 1.
The Raiders earned their first-ever professional victory in 2019 thanks to a 44-16 win over Coventry Bears, but a Cup victory over Widnes would almost certainly surpass that. As for the Vikings, they head into the 2021 season under the stewardship of Simon Finnigan having brought in experienced campaigners such as Steve Tyrer, Paul Clough and Matt Cook to the club.
BBC Sport’s second fixture in their Sunday Betfred Challenge Cup double-header sees a huge all-Championship affair between Featherstone Rovers and Bradford Bulls. James Webster’s Rovers were victorious in both of their pre-season outings while Bradford fell to defeat to Swinton before a 22-18 win over Keighley in the Joe Phillips Memorial Trophy.
John Kear’s men are looking for their first away victory against Featherstone Rovers since a 40-4 Betfred Championship victory in March 2015, however the Bulls did knock Featherstone out of the competition back in 2019 thanks to a dramatic Jordan Lilley drop-goal in Golden Point Extra-Time.
The Betfred Challenge Cup schedule begins on Friday evening as Sheffield Eagles host York City Knights at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium, in a game which will be broadcast by The Sportsman.
York impressed – despite falling to defeat to Hull FC – in their pre-season outing and will be hopeful of progressing further to take the Betfred Challenge Cup to LNER Community Stadium for the first time in 2021. Sheffield have enjoyed this fixture in recent years winning nine of the ten meetings between the sides, however York notched the latest victory in July 2019.
The remaining five fixtures in Round One of the Betfred Challenge Cup will be broadcast on Our League with gameday passes available here.
Oldham and Barrow Raiders meet at 12:45pm on Saturday afternoon in the opening Our League fixture of the weekend. The Roughyeds have won their last 16 home fixtures against Barrow with the Raiders’ last away victory at Oldham coming way back in February 1981.
London Broncos and Keighley Cougars follow, in a fixture being played at Rosslyn Park. The Cougars are yet to earn an away victory against the Broncos, having lost each of their nine previous trips to face the capital club. It is the first meeting between the sides since 1995.
In a repeat of a 2018 and 2020 Round Four clash, Whitehaven welcome Dewsbury Rams to the Recreation Ground at 5:15pm on Saturday. The sides have one win apiece in their two recent Betfred Challenge Cup meetings in Cumbria.
The four-game Saturday marathon culminates with another all-Championship battle as Halifax Panthers – fresh from their off-season rebrand – face Batley Bulldogs. Halifax have won four of the last five meetings between the clubs, but the most recent fixture went the way of the Bulldogs in May 2019.
Swinton Lions and Newcastle Thunder close out the weekend on Sunday evening, live on Our League. Newcastle head into the game buoyed by their recent promotion to the Betfred Championship but the Lions have the edge in this fixture having won each of their last ten meetings with the Newcastle club, including each of their last six meetings at Swinton.
Sheffield Eagles v York City Knights – 7:45pm (Live on TheSportsman.com)
Oldham v Barrow Raiders – 12:45pm (Live on Our League)
London Broncos v Keighley Cougars – 3pm (Live on Our League)
Whitehaven v Dewsbury Rams – 5:15pm (Live on Our League)
Halifax Panthers v Batley Bulldogs – 7:30pm (Live on Our League)
West Wales Raiders v Widnes Vikings – 12:45pm (Live on BBC Sport)
Featherstone Rovers v Bradford Bulls – 3pm (Live on BBC Sport)
Swinton Lions v Newcastle Thunder – 5:15pm (Live on Our League)
Swinton Lions OR Newcastle Thunder v Oldham OR Barrow Raiders
Featherston Rovers OR Bradford Bulls v Halifax Panthers OR Batley Bulldogs
London Broncos OR Keighley Cougars v Sheffield Eagles OR York City Knights
West Wales Raiders OR Widnes Vikings v Whitehaven OR Dewsbury Rams