This weekend sees the return of the Challenge Cup and the magic is well and truly still alive. The Valentine’s Day draw made by Stefan Ratchford and Ryan Brierley see’s the inclusion of the League One clubs including the two teams relegated from the Championship last year, Workington Town and Whitehaven respectively.
But all eyes will be on the inclusion of the first transatlantic sports team in history enter the famous competition in the Toronto Wolfpack. Paul Rowley’s men head to Siddal for their first taste as a club of the Challenge Cup, the Canadian side will be playing their home games in the U.K for at least this season but that may change in time. The magic is well and truly alive for the only all amateur draw between the Wests Warriors and Haydock, how good would it be to see either of those sides draw a major Championship side in the next round such as Hull KR or Bradford? (Fingers crossed it’s Haydock, sshh).
Siddal v Toronto Wolfpack
The glamour tie of the round as history is made as the first Challenge Cup game for Toronto and due to this the game will be streamed live on the BBC sport website. Can the amateur Halifax outfit rain on their parade or will Paul Rowley’s men prove too classy? Last season’s Premier Division coach of the year, Gareth Greenwood coupled with the player of the year, Shaun Garrod may be able to give Toronto a bloody nose but the quality of the Canadians should shine through.
Prediction – Toronto Wolfpack
West Hull v Whitehaven
West Hull overcame Thatto Heath Crusaders to push on into the third round with a home tie against Whitehaven. Mark Hewitt’s men welcome the experienced Cumbrians who are coming off the back of a defeat to local rivals Workington Town. Last season’s Championship side were relegated and they will prove too good for the amateur Hull side, however, I would love to be proved wrong.
Prediction – Whitehaven
Wests Warriors v Haydock
London club and 2016 Harry Jepson Cup winners meet the North West Premier Division and Grand Final winners Haydock in the only all amateur tie. The game will be played at the New River Stadium on White Hart Lane, London, home of the London Skolars. The Yickers, coached by ex-Saint Chris Smith will be buoyed by their travelling supporters who will be travelling in numbers to ensure a good cup run as they did in 1998 and 2005. The Londoners have a decent Kiwi contingent but Haydock have England Lionhearts Danny Gee, Jordan Gibson and G.B police’s Darrell Rotherham in their ranks.
Prediction – Haydock
Fryston Warriors v Keighley Cougars
The Pennine League Champions welcome Keighley Cougars to Featherstone’s Post Office Road Stadium; former Cougars who now play for Fryston include the evergreen Paul Handforth and Jack Lee. Current League One Cup holders Keighley are on the back of a victory over Doncaster and will be looking strong to progress into the fourth-round draw.
Prediction – Keighley Cougars
Newcastle Thunder v Workington Town
Kingston Park in Newcastle play host to Workington Town, who last season were relegated from the Championship along with Whitehaven. Dave Clarkes men Captained by stalwart Jason Mossop and with new additions Phil Joseph, Stuart Howarth and Wigan loanees Kyle Shelford and Macauley Davies should prove too strong for the Geordies.
Prediction – Workington Town
Barrow Raiders v Rochdale Mayfield
Barrow, who last won the cup in the 1954-55 season will be looking to progress past amateur side Rochdale Mayfield. Barrow, who beat the Rochdale outfit 46-18 in the League One Cup last weekend will be looking again for the same result. Paul Crarey will be naming a strong side to face the Rochdale men as to avoid a cup upset, especially with the likes of Rochdales Zak Hartley on form.
Prediction – Barrow Raiders
Hemel Stags v London Skolars
The London derby is sure to whet the appetite of league lovers in the capital. Hemel Stags, last year’s League One wooden spoon winners have filed their ranks with a mix of experience and quality during the off season and should be looking to have a better season in League One this year. The Skolars have also signed quality with ex Brisbane Broncos Simona Vavega coupled with Jake Melling, the ex-England touch rugby player. Both teams were knocked out of the competition at this stage last year by amateur opponents so at least we will have a London team progressing into the next round, which is good for the game down in the big smoke.
Prediction – London Skolars
Gloucestershire All Golds v North Wales Crusaders
The All Golds welcome the Crusaders to the Prince of Wales stadium in Cheltenham for this clash. The All Golds are coming off the back of a decent win against the improved Hemel Stags whilst the Crusaders will be high on confidence after winning the closely contested 17-16 fixture over the York City Knights last weekend. Can Jack Hansen inspire the North Wales Crusaders to another cup win or can Steve Parry lead his team to victory, only time will tell in this close encounter.
Prediction – North Wales Crusaders
Doncaster v Myton Warriors
Myton Warriors, who beat pedigree outfit York Acorn in the last round travel from Hull to Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium, venue for recent International Rugby League fixtures. Doncaster’s pack. Containing Iafeta Palea’aesina, Jamie Thackray and Makali Aizue should prove too experienced and too powerful for Tony Spence and the lads, however, I’m sure the Hull lads will enjoy the experience.
Prediction – Doncaster
York City Knights v Egremont Rangers
James Fords men, still smarting from last week’s narrow loss to the North Wales Crusaders and from losing last year’s League One Cup final will have a point to prove against the amateur side Egremont. Ex-Whitehaven and now player-coach at Egremont, John-Paul Brocklebank will need to be firing on all cylinders physically and mentally to help his team spring an upset. Good wins against two strong outfits in the Army and Wigan St Pats have shown how good the Cumbrians are, but beating York should be a bridge too far.
Prediction – York City Knights
South Wales Ironmen v Oxford
Merthyr Tydfil is the venue for this clash, the South Wales outfit, previously names the Scorpions, will make history as they surpass the previous number of matches played by a professional rugby league side in South Wales, previously set by Ebbw Vale from 1907-1912. Both teams finished low down in League One last year but I think home advantage and the Welsh contingent of international players could just tip the balance. True Blues coach Tim Rumford is optimistic for the Oxford team this year and after last week’s narrow defeat to Coventry Bears this game could be the yard stick for the season ahead.
Prediction – South Wales Ironmen
Hunslet v Coventry Bears
The prodigal son, James Coyle, returns to Hunslet hoping to recreate past glories he had there as a player in 2014 when Hunslet were promoted. Also, the Yorkshire side will be hoping the get a win after being defeated by the Newcastle Thunder in the League One cup last week. Coventry Bears travel to the South Leeds Stadium on the back of a narrow defeat by Oxford last week, they will be hoping to make a better start this week, if they do make a good start they that could be the deciding factor. However, home advantage could be the difference.
Prediction – Hunslet