SIXTEEN amateur teams will head into action at the weekend just 80 minutes away from a tie with Kingstone Press League 1 opposition in the bid to progress on the Wembley trail.
Many eyes will be on Haydock, who are in the second round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup courtesy of a sensational success at Wath Brow Hornets in last week’s first round.
The St Helens outfit’s prize for that stunning victory is a home tie with Thornhill Trojans – who are themselves acutely aware of what it takes to prevail in knockout football, having won the Xamax BARLA National Cup last year – in Saturday’s second round.
One side that will fancy their chances of a tilt with the professionals is Fryston Warriors, the reigning Pennine League champions and Bartlett’s BARLA Yorkshire Cup holders.
The Castleford outfit are voraciously amassing a very big squad and have added former Wakefield, Castleford, Featherstone, Batley, Halifax and Keighley scrum-half Paul Handforth, who has transferred from his home village team, Methley Royals, to their roster. And the veteran’s know-how will test any League 1 opposition – if Fryston can dispose of London Chargers, who beat Bridgend 116-0 at the opening stage, in the capital.
While the Chargers will have the benefit of playing in the Smoke, Wests Warriors will head up the M1 for a tough challenge at Featherstone Lions.
Each of the other ties is an all-NCL affair. Myton Warriors host York Acorn, of Division One, while every other match pits Premier Division teams against each other.
Big crowds are expected at Kells, for the visit of Rochdale Mayfield; at Pilkingtons Recs, where champions Siddal are the visitors; at West Hull, who entertain Division One champions Thatto Heath Crusaders; and at Wigan St Patrick’s, who take on Cumbrians Egremont Rangers.
Siddal’s talismanic skipper Shaun Garrod has no worries about taking on a Pilks outfit that has, in recent months, perhaps enjoyed an advantage through playing on an artificial pitch at Ruskin Drive.
He said: “We won the NCL Grand Final on a similar pitch at Widnes last season, when we went from playing in a bog one week to playing on a 4G the next.
“In fact it makes for a fast-flowing match, which tends to suit our game.
“Recs are a good side though – they beat us once last year, and we beat them once, so it should be a battle royal.”
The tie is due to be streamlined live on the BBC Sport website and the footage will certainly be monitored closely by both camps as the rivals will square up again on the opening day of the NCL’s Premier Division season, on Saturday 4 March. Garrod said: “I think the pressure was on us more last season, because we’d reached the Grand Final the year before and lost.
“Now, having won it, the monkey’s off our back. We can go out in a more relaxed way, with no pressure, and try to stage a repeat.”
Saturday 11 February 2017
LADBROKES CHALLENGE CUP (ROUND TWO)
Featherstone Lions v Wests Warriors
Haydock v Thornhill Trojans
Kells v Rochdale Mayfield
London Chargers v Fryston Warriors
Pilkington Recs v Siddal
Myton Warriors v York Acorn
West Hull v Thatto Heath Crusaders
Wigan St Patrick’s v Egremont Rangers