The 2021 Challenge Cup has begun. The trophy Leeds won at Wembley last October is now up for grabs. And the journey to the capital and the Challenge Cup Final has started with Championship teams battling it out for a place in Round 2.
On Friday night we officially set off down the road to Wembley as Sheffield Eagles hosted York City Knights. The Knights remarkably boasted a lot of Challenge Cup Final experience with former cup winner and Wembley try scorer Ryan Atkins at centre, another Wembley scorer in Ben Jones-Bishop at fullback and two-time winner Danny Washbrook at second-row. In their squad is a Cup winner as recent as last year in the shape of Adam Cuthbertson however he didn’t play as York battered the 1998 winners 30-6.
York’s tries came from Kriss Brining, Jones-Bishop, Atkins and a brace from Perry Whiteley. Kieran Dixon – another man with Cup Final experience – kicked 5 goals. Sheffield’s only try was courtesy of Greg Burns.
Oldham exerted similar dominance over Barrow on Saturday as they ran out 20-6 winners against the Raiders. A good start gave Oldham a 12-0 advantage with tries from Lewis Charnock and Danny Langtree. However, a scintillating 60 yard try from Ryan Shaw gave Barrow hope. He converted his own score to leave the Raiders just 6 behind at halftime. However, Tommy Brierley’s try proved to be the game breaker as Oldham restored their 2-score advantage. Dan Abram rubbed further salt in the wound with a penalty to wrap up a 20-6 win.
A 24-10 win for London against Keighley just a couple of hours later saw them join Oldham in the next round and a step closer to Wembley. The Broncos were nearly unstoppable in the first 65 minutes storming 24-0 ahead thanks to tries from Gideon Boafa, Jacob Jones, Sam Davies and Romain Navarrate. There was a late flurry from the Cougars but their two tries barely put a dent in London’s control.
Then 12 man Whitehaven saw off Dewsbury 23-16 thanks to a late try and drop goal from Gregg McNally. Callum Phillips was sent off with 45 minutes to go for a spear tackle leaving Whitehaven a man down. Unsurprisingly, Dewsbury took charge levelling the scores before halftime. However, Whitehaven were dogged in the second half and took the lead twice before McNally sealed it with the 1-pointer.
Today’s Challenge Cup action concluded with a win for Batley against the newly named Halifax Panthers. The Bulldogs led 8-0 at the break after a try from Jack Logan and a pair of goals from Dale Morton. They extended their lead to 12 after the break but Halifax swiftly hit back meaning they were just 6 points behind with over 20 minutes to go. However, Ben Kaye then scored the clinching try for Batley before Ben White wrapped it up with a drop goal.