Today saw the conclusion of Round 1 of the Challenge Cup. We were treated to three captivating cup ties headlined by an intriguing Yorkshire derby.
However, the first game of the day also piqued interest and wasn’t lacking class players as West Wales Raiders hosted Widnes Vikings. The Vikings were heavily fancied and had former Challenge Cup winner Matty Smith at scrum-half. His opposite number had similar pedigree however. Rangi Chase was the Raiders’ scrum-half and the 2011 Man of Steel had a superb start to the game carving open Widnes masterfully with a break that brought back memories of his try in the 2011 cup semi-final.
That was part of a superb end-to-end start that even saw the Raiders take the lead. Uraia Naulusala’s try gave them a 4-0 advantage. Sadly, the brilliant start to the game was sullied by the concerning injury to Widnes forward Callum O’Neil who was stretchered off. It didn’t fazed the Vikings however as they took the lead following a Shane Grady try.
The game’s decisive moment came in the 19th minute when West Wales’ Jamie Murphy was sent off. The Raiders then simply couldn’t cope with the Vikings and their extra man. Four tries in the next 20 minutes gave the Vikings a 28-4 halftime advantage. The man of the half was undoubtedly Jack Owens. Not only did he create a 100 metre try for Jake Spedding with a superb kick return but his third conversion left him as the club’s 10th highest ever points scorer and he celebrated shortly after with a try of his own before creating Spedding’s score.
6 more tries followed in the second half as Widnes racked up 58 points including hattricks for Steve Tyrer and Owens who ended the afternoon with 26 points as Widnes won 58-4.
Featherstone were similarly comprehensive in victory against Bradford. A strong first half showing from the Rovers left them 24-6 ahead thanks to tries from Connor Jones, Tom Minns, Ben Blackmore and James Harrison. Those tries came after Bradford had taken the lead through Reece Hamlett.
Bradford started the second half the better with a pair of tries to trim the lead down to 24-16. The first came from Hamlett who acrobatically finished in the corner before Dan Fleming scored Bradford’s third.
However, a second try from Harrison just before the hour mark sent Featherstone on their way to victory. 11 points in the final 20 minutes of the game followed as the Rovers wrapped up a 41-16 win and a place in the next round.
A dominant win looked on the cards for Swinton too especially when Mike Butt scored his second try right on the hooter to give the Lions a 16-0 halftime lead. However, an absorbing second half followed as Newcastle battled back. The two teams traded tries leaving Newcastle 22-6 behind with 15 minutes left. But a pair of late tries from Cian Tyrer and Sam Wilde gave the Thunder hope. However, as they pressed for an equaliser a last tackle kick was fielded by Rhodri Lloyd who then sent Geronimo Doyle away to score under the posts and win the game for Swinton 28-16.