The Harry Jepson Trophy will be contested for the 19th time this month, after first being awarded in 1997 to the Rugby League Conference champions North London Skolars.
The trophy, bearing the name of Harry Jepson OBE – a former president of the Rugby Football League, one of its longest-serving and most distinguished administrators and the current president of Ladbrokes Challenge Cup winners Leeds Rhinos – was, until 2011, presented to the Rugby League Conference winners but since has become a competition in its own right.
It is played for by the leading community club in each region outside Rugby League’s Yorkshire, North West and Cumbria strongholds.
This year, six teams from across the North East, Midlands and South line up for the crown, which is currently held by reigning champions South West London Chargers, who are again in the mix.
The final, a double header with the Conference League South Grand Final, will take place at Leafy Lane, the Corsham home of the Bath & Wiltshire Romans, and 95-year-old Jepson is already looking forward to making the near 500-mile journey to attend.
“I have been privileged to attend a number of the most prestigious occasions in the sport but this is the one I cherish the most,” he said.
“I have always been an expansionist and the thought of travelling to the South West to see a final in my name is an absolute highlight and delight, I can’t wait.
Jepson added, “I am continually astounded by the passion for and pleasure taken in the sport from people who have not been brought up with it when I meet them on such occasions.”
The Romans will be hoping to make a home appearance in the final, after having recorded a stellar debut year in the West of England League. Coached by British Army Rugby League player Tom Howley, they topped their table and backed it up with a 34-30 Grand Final win over local rivals Bristol Sonics.
Representing London, and the only side to have won the trophy back-to-back, the Chargers dispatched Colchester-based rivals Eastern Rhinos 46-6 in the London Grand Final to qualify.
Midlands champions Northampton Demons are no strangers to the Harry Jepson Trophy, having been runners up in 2012.
Bedford Tigers will represent the East of England League, having been all-conquering in their regional competition and beating St Ives Roosters in the regional decider.
Wallsend Eagles will make their debut after beating 2014 runners-up Jarrow Vikings 38-20, whilst the South East will be represented by Surrey Sharks.
There is an additional incentive to winning as the Harry Jepson Trophy champions will join the road to Wembley in 2016, with a prestigious entry into the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
HARRY JEPSON TROPHY 2015 – FIXTURES
Round 1: Saturday 5th September
South West London Chargers v Surrey Sharks
Northampton Demons v Wallsend Eagles (2pm, Sheffield Hallam University Sports Park)
Semi Finals: Saturday 12th September
Bath & Wiltshire Romans v Winner Game 1
Bedford Tigers v Winner Game 2
Final: Saturday 19th September
Winner Semi Final 1 v Winner Semi Final 2 (1pm, Leafy Lane, Corsham)
1997 North London Skolars
1998 Crawley Jets
1999 Chester Wolves
2000 Crawley Jets
2001 Teesside Steelers
2002 Coventry Bears
2003 Bridgend Blue Bulls
2004 Widnes Saints
2005 Bridgend Blue Bulls
2006 South London Storm
2007 St Albans Centurions
2008 Nottingham Outlaws
2009 West London Sharks
2010 St Albans Centurions
2011 Parkside Hawks
2012 London Skolars ‘A’
2013 South West London Chargers
2014 South West London Chargers