Whitehaven and Workington Town will meet in a cup competition for the first time since 2013 after drawing each other in the opening round of the League One Cup. Both Cumbrian sides suffered relegation from the Championship last season and as a result will compete in this season’s competition.
Reigning champions Keighley Cougars, who beat York City Knights in last year’s final at Bloomfield Road, will start their defence against Doncaster.
York will host North Wales Crusaders, who won the inaugural competition in 2015, in the opening round. Rochdale Mayfield will represent the National Conference League after winning the 2016 Premier League title and they will host Barrow Raiders in the first round.
League One’s newest side Toronto Wolfpack won’t compete in the tournament.
The first round sees the sides split into two pools with pool A containing ‘northern’ sides while pool B features the ‘southern’ sides. The games will be played on the weekend of 18th-19th February.
Here is the draw in full:
Rochdale Mayfield vs Barrow Raiders
Hunslet RLFC vs Newcastle Thunder
Keighley Cougars vs Doncaster RLFC
Whitehaven vs Workington Town
York City Knights vs North Wales Crusaders
Oxford RL vs Coventry Bears
South Wales Ironmen vs London Skolars
Hemel Stags vs University of Gloucestershire All Golds
Wigan St Patricks victory over 8th placed Egremont Rangers puts them top of the league one point clear of 2nd placed Castleford Lock Lane. Lock Lane’s shock loss to Wath Brow Hornets means they failed to keep top position meanwhile the Hornets moved off bottom spot. East Leeds also failed to claim top spot with their loss to Thatto Heath Crusaders. However the Crusaders still remain bottom of the Premier Division. Rochdale Mayfield’s 40-28 victory over Oulton Raiders means they climb into the play-off places meanwhile Oulton remain 10th. Hull Dockers and Leigh Miners Rangers remain in the play-off positions despite not playing. Siddal and West Hull also had fixtureless weekends meaning they stay in 7th and 9th respectively.
Elland 28 vs 18 Milford Marlins
Kells 36 vs 26 Saddleworth Rangers
Normanton Knights 34 vs 28 York Acorn
Shaw Cross Sharks 38 vs 10 Hunslet Warriors
Wigan St Judes 37 vs 38 Ince Rose Bridge
Ince Rose Bridge’s one point victory over Wigan St Judes means they continue to lead the way in Division One. Kells remain equal on points with Ince as they defeated bottom club Saddleworth. Normanton’s victory over York Acorn means they have overtaken their opponents and now sit in 4th behind Pilkington Recs who didn’t play this weekend. Shaw Cross Sharks put themselves into the play-off positions by beating Hunslet Warriors 38-10. Elland’s win against Milford means they are now three points clear of the Marlins and the relegation zone. Myton, Skirlaugh and Salford all didn’t play which means they are now 7th, 8th and 11th respectively.
Askam 10 vs 20 Blackbrook
Castleford Panthers 16 vs 40 Millom
Feathestone Lions 42 vs 16 Dewsbury Celtic
Oldham St Annes 18 vs 31 Huddersfield Underbank Rangers
Stanley Rangers 22 vs 32 Leigh East
Millom made it eight wins from eight as they beat bottom side Castleford Panthers. Featherstone and Leigh East wins mean they still sit equal in second place. Blackbrook remain one point behind in fourth after they beat 6th placed Askam. Underbank Rangers solidified their play-off position some more by defeating relegation threatened Oldham St Annes. Losses for Stanley and Dewsbury means they stay in 8th and 9th. Bradford Dudley Hill didn’t play but stay two points below the play-off spots.
Eastmoor Dragons 0 vs 56 Drighlington
Thornhill Trojans 40 vs 22 Wibsey Warriors
Thornhill’s win means they remain in second place four points behind league leaders Hunslet Club Parkside. Drighlington’s heavy defeat of Wibsey means they close the gap on the play-off spots and are one point behind 6th placed Woolston Rovers. Stanningley, Dewsbury Moor Maroons and Crosfields make up 3rd, 4th and 5th. Whilst Waterhead and Gateshead are both bottom on two points.
Leigh East moved level with Featherstone Lions in second place after their 24-20 victory over the Yorkshire side.
East managed to hold off a late surge of pressure from the visitors. Even with this result both sides still trail undefeated pace setters Millom who are atop the Division Two table by four points.
Martin Roden, Kori Barber, Jacob Sinclair and Josh Adu-Dwuuma all got on the scoresheet and helped the home side avenge recent defeats to Millom and Oldham St Annes.
It was Adu-Dwuuma’s late try which snatched victory for Leigh East after Featherstone had established a small lead for the first time in the match.
Featherstone scored three unanswered tries to pull in front after being 18-6 down. Dean Gamble, Reece Dyas and Brendan Gibbins managed to get the Lions back into the game after Josh Hardcastle’s try had leveled the match early on.
The home side were the first to score. Half-back Adam Holland put Curt Littlewood straight through a gap in the Lions defence. Littlewood found Roden who went under the sticks to get the game up and running.
Featherstone would soon reply however when Gibbins broke through the line on the back of a well executed attacking play. The quick hands eventually found their way to Hardcastle who powered over the final defender and planted the ball down.
This didn’t phase the hosts as they continued to build pressure on the Lions line which culminated in Barber’s try. Danny Grainey popped the ball up perfectly for the Australian forward to take and dive over.
Fellow Aussie Sinclair would be the next to get over for the home side. He battled through the Featherstone defence and went over in similar fashion to Barber.
Featherstone did pull a try back on the stroke of half time through Gamble. The Lions centre hit a short ball and forced his way through the East defence on the blind side. However the conversion attempt was unsuccessful meaning Leigh East went into the break 18-10 in front.
The away side began the second forty as they finished the first. They continued to throw the ball around as they had all day and it proved dividend when Dyas managed to stay in the field of play and get the Lions back within touching distance.
Featherstone carried on imposing themselves on the Leigh East line and finally got themselves in front ten minutes from time. A high kick came down under the sticks which Gibbins took well and scored with ease.
It looked as though the game was wrapped up for the Yorkshire side but East managed to show some fighting spirit of their own. The ball came out wide and eventually ended up in the hands of Adu-Dwuuma whose pace allowed him to step inside and crash over to give his side the victory.
In the end the game down to two extra conversions from Leigh East goalkicker Holland who had a perfect four from four record with the boot. In comparison with Ian Jackson’s two from four for the Lions.
Both sides will continue their battle for second place and their pursuit of Millom in a fortnights time. Leigh East visit mid table Stanley Rangers whilst Featherstone host Dewsbury Celtic.
Wins for Castleford Lock Lane and East Leeds means the sides are now level at the top of the Premier Division table with 11 points. Siddal and Hull Dockers victories mean they are now just one point behind the leaders. Wigan St Pats are also on 10 points despite their loss to midtable Rochdale Mayfield. A second consecutive defeat sees Leigh Miners drop to 6th in the league but still have two games in hand. Egremont move up to 8th with their victory. West Hull, Oulton, Thatto Heath and Wath Brow make up the bottom four spaces after they all lost this weekend.
Hunslet Warriors 8 vs 28 Normanton Knights
Ince Rose Bridge 36 vs 20 Salford City Roosters
Milford Marlins 26 vs 26 Myton Warriors
Pilkington Recs 34 vs 16 Elland
Saddleworth Rangers 21 vs 23 Wigan St Judes
Skirlaugh 6 vs 38 Shaw Cross Sharks
York Acorn 38 vs 12 Kells
Victory for Ince Rose Bridge means they now sit on top of the Division One table. Kells are still level with Ince despite their defeat to third place York Acorn. Kells have a game in hand however. Pilkington Recs remain in 4th place after their victory but Skirlaugh and Normanton do have games in hand. Shaw Cross’ win means they are now just outside the play-off places. Hunslet Warriors, Elland and Salford all remain in midtable after defeats this weekend. Myton also stay in the middle after they were held to a draw by 12th place Milford. Wigan St Jude’s earned their first victory of the season over fellow strugglers Saddleworth who remain pointless.
Blackbrook 62 vs 4 Castleford Panthers
Bradford Dudley Hill 52 vs 10 Stanley Rangers
Dewsbury Celtic 40 vs 20 Oldham St Annes
Leigh East 24 vs 20 Featherstone Lions
Millom 20 vs 12 Askam
Millom maintained their 100% record in the league as they narrowly defeated 6th place Askam. Leigh East are now level in second position with Featherstone after they beat them 24-20. Blackbrooks convincing victory means they stay in 4th. Underbank Rangers remain in 5th despite not playing as Bradford Dudley Hill defeated Stanley Rangers.Dewsbury Celtic put themselves three points clear of the relegation zone and Oldham St Anne’s with their 40-20 victory over them. Castleford Panthers are still yet to get off the mark in Division Two.
Dewsbury Moor Maroons 14 vs 40 Stanningley
Hunslet Club Parkside 78 vs 0 Eastmoor Dragons
Waterhead Warriors 28 vs 4 Gateshead Storm
Wibsey Warriors 14 vs 30 Crosfields
Woolston Rovers 6 vs 20 Thornhill Trojans
Hunslet Club Parkside’s hammering of Eastmoor means they have now won eight from eight and stay top of Division Three. Stanningley and Thornhill remain in 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Dewsbury lose ground on the pace setters after their loss. Crosfields victory sees them go above Woolston who lost. Drighlington are in 7th as they didn’t play this weekend. Wibsey and Eastmoor occupy 8th and 9th while Waterhead’s victory over Gateshead sees them go above the North East side who now sit bottom.
Earlier this week it was announced that Leigh Miners fourth round Challenge Cup tie against League One opponents Oxford would be moved from their home of Twist Lane to the Leigh Sports Village, home of local professional side Leigh Centurions.
The decision was made after Oxford raised concerns about Twist Lane hosting the game, complaints the RFL agreed with. There have been similar circumstances with Featherstone Lions and Normanton Knights who were drawn at ‘home’ however will now play their fixtures at the Big Fellas Stadium (Featherstone) and Rapid Solicitors Stadium (Wakefield), respectively.
It has not been made clear what these complaints are however it is hard to see what they could be. Twist Lane has a good tidy pitch as well as having a fantastic club and bar and would have no problem hosting a larger crowd than usual.
This move has led to a very frosty reception from both Leigh Miners and the amateur Rugby League community as a whole. Both see no reason as to why the fixture cannot be played at the Miners actual home ground. This is something that has become more and more common over recent times with Challenge Cup games often being moved to local professional team venues. In recent years Blackbrook, Milford and Hull Dockers have all been forced to move their games. In 2013 West Hull played a home tie at Wilderspool in Warrington! It looks as if the RFL want to take away ‘home advantage’ for the amateur sides in favour of their established clubs, if you can count Oxford as ‘established’.
Leigh Miners now have to pay £3000 to host the game at the LSV on Sunday. This has led to the formation of the 100 club by Leigh Miners which has seen locals and local business’ chip in to help them reach this target (A true insight into the Rugby League community). Twitter has been the source of backlash were many locals and Rugby League fans are disgruntled and disappointed with the RFL’s choice.
Surely with decisions like this the RFL has to look at themselves and wonder what has made them make such a poor judgement. By moving the game to the LSV it takes away a huge opportunity for Leigh Miners to bring in some revenue and in the long run improve facilities such as their home, the original issue here. Instead they now have to fork out £3000 in order to play in a competition which is meant to the be the most prestigious domestic trophy in Rugby League. £3000 to play a ‘home’ game against a semi-pro side which for any National Conference club is a big opportunity.
It was only last season when Wigan St Patricks came up against Leigh Centurions in the third round at the LSV. After the game St Pats reported they made just a grand total sum of £68 from their participation in the third round of the Challenge Cup. This led one of the most famous amateur clubs around to not participate in the competition for the first time in years. Yet it seems the RFL never batted an eyelid.
If there’s one thing I really hate doing it’s comparing Rugby League to Football however in this scenario surely we have to look at our sporting counterpart for inspiration. The FA Cup, the oldest and most famous domestic Football trophy in the world, and is it a wonder why. The competition invites teams from all over England, amateur and professional, to compete against one another and if a somewhat lesser amateur club is drawn at home, they play at home. For example in this years first round Warrington Town, from the eighth tier, hosted Exeter City in a huge televised game which brought substantial finance and time in the public eye to the club. Surprisingly Warrington also won which I’m sure playing at home in front of a large boisterous crowd helped towards.
Yes, while the gulf in class between amateur and professional may be less in Football than Rugby League surely the premise is the same.
Whilst the amount of clubs entering the Challenge Cup has remained steady with issues like this arising every year and the competition offering no financial or social benefits to amateur clubs it seems only a matter of time until we see more and more go the way of St Pats. And can you blame them?
It really is saddening to see the RFL go to these lengths just to keep there semi-pro and professional sides happy and neglecting the amateur sides – the sides who really keep British Rugby League going. The sides who produce the next stars, who give people Rugby to watch on a Saturday afternoon, and who bring communities and towns together.
While this decision is now, seemingly, set in stone I, for one, certainly hope the RFL look at how they have gone about this decision and rectify it in future years by allowing amateur sides to stage their ‘home’ games and allow them to bring in some revenue and build for the future. As for the game itself I’m sure many in the amateur Rugby League world, myself included, would love to see Miners pull off an upset, a feat not achieved since Siddal beat Doncaster in 2010.