Challenge Cup tie to shine a spotlight on amateur Rugby League in London and the south

THE third round of the Challenge Cup will shine a light on the amateur Rugby League scene in the south after the pairing of London rivals Hammersmith Hills Hoists and Wests Warriors.

The Southern Conference League rivals (Hills Hoists are the reigning champions after beating Wests 14-0 in September’s Grand Final at Hemel Stags) will square up at Chiswick RU Club, Hammersmith’s base in the west of the capital, this weekend.

A fourth-round trip to either Halifax Panthers or Whitehaven awaits the winners, adding even more spice to the crunch showdown.

The pair are among three survivors from the 20 amateur clubs who competed in the first round last month (the other, Leeds-based National Conference League Division One side Stanningley, coached by Huddersfield Giants player Ashton Golding, will host NCL top-flight team Wath Brow Hornets, from Cumbria).

Hills Hoists, a well-known rotary washing line brand down under, reflecting the club’s formation in 2008 by a group of travelling Australians, beat Medway Dragons (representing the Midlands and southern-based Harry Jepson Trophy), then in round two, West Bowling, who last year won promotion to the NCL Premier Division (the Bradford side were beaten 32-10 at Chiswick).

Wests Warriors, established in 2014 and based at the original Wasps RU Club in Acton, West London, overcame Yorkshire Men’s League champions Newsome Panthers, from Huddersfield, in the first round.

Then they took the prized scalp of visitors Rochdale Mayfield, who finished third in the NCL Premier Division last year, with centre Reiss Walker grabbing a hat-trick of tries in the 28-22 win.

The Wests line-up included former London Skolars forward Neil Thorman, the brother of ex-Super League halfback Chris Thorman, now coach of Newcastle Thunder, who visit Sheffield Eagles in round three.

Other Skolars old boys Jacob Thomas and brothers Judd and Mike Greenhalgh were also in the Wests side.

The encouraging progress of the London pair has led to calls for the RFL, whose strategic partners IMG have highlighted the importance of growing the game in the capital, to do more to raise the profile of the Southern Conference League.

This year’s nine-club SCL will feature London Skolars following their withdrawal from League One.

The Saturday-based competition starts on April 13 and, following play-off semi-finals on August 31, will climax in a Grand Final on September 7.

Bedford Tigers, Brentwood Eels, Bristol All Golds, Eastern Rhinos (from Colchester), Clapham-based London Chargers and North Herts Crusaders (Hitchin) are also involved.

Jared Warren, assistant to Hills Hoists coach Vince Spurr, told League Express: “We’re looking forward to both the cup tie and defending our SCL title.

“We were a bit disrupted following the pandemic, but we’ve built ourselves up again, and this bunch of blokes has really bought into our ethos.

“They have shown a lot of commitment to pre-season, and I think that was reflected by our win over West Bowling, who beat us comfortably when we played them in 2019.

“We can’t wait to play Wests, and with the incentive of playing a Championship team in round four, both sides will be up for it.”