Challenge Cup: The last 13 times an amateur side stunned a semi-professional club in historic competition

Ben Olawumi

A walk down memory lane as Love Rugby League looks at the most recent 13 amateur sides to knock a semi-professional team out of the Challenge Cup - Alamy

Four community clubs are involved in the Fourth Round of the Challenge Cup this weekend, with two of them in Hammersmith Hills Hoists & Hunslet ARLFC having the chance to claim the scalp of a Championship side.

The other two – York Acorn & Wath Brow Hornets – were drawn against one another, so we’re guaranteed to have at least one community club in Round 5.

But for Southern Conference League outfit Hammersmith and National Conference League outfit Hunslet ARLFC, they must overcome second tier clubs to get their names in the hat for the Fifth Round.

And in terms of beating semi-professional clubs as a community team, perhaps unsurprisingly, there isn’t an incredibly long roll of honour.

Since the 1993/94 season, the first campaign in which the early rounds of the Challenge Cup were made up solely of amateur clubs, just 34 community outfits have successfully triumphed against a semi-professional side (i.e. second/third tier).

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Challenge Cup: The last 13 times an amateur side stunned a semi-professional club

Below, we take a look at the most recent 13, in chronological order…

Beverley ARLFC
April 2023: The mascot and youth players of Beverley ARLFC at a Hull derby between Super League sides FC & KR – Alamy

Not on the list but well worth a mention are Beverley, the Hull-based community club who became the first amateur side to defeat  a semi-professional opponent in 86 years when they won away against then-Second Division outfit Highfield (now obsolete) in 1995.

Beverley were also the club to achieve the feat prior, beating Ebbw Vale 7-2 at home way back in 1909!

From most recent down:

Cornwall 10-18 York Acorn (Round 3 – February 10, 2024)

Cornwall are the only semi-professional side knocked out by a community outfit this year, at least so far. In what was an ill-tempered contest throughout, the hosts saw Josh Hartshone sent off, with two further sin-bins apiece.

As already mentioned, Acorn host fellow National Conference League side Wath Brow Hornets in Round 4. That clash takes place today (February 24, 2pm kick-off).

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Cornwall 14-20 Rochdale Mayfield (Round 2 – February 25, 2023)

Then-newly formed Cornwall opted not to compete in the Challenge Cup in 2022, so accordingly have played only two games in the competition and both have ended in defeat to community clubs.

Rochdale Mayfield were their conquerors this time last year, and the Greater Manchester outfit would go on to make it through one more round before being defeated by then-Championship team Newcastle Thunder come Round 4.

London Skolars 6-28 Hunslet Club Parkside (Round 3 – February 12, 2022)

Another ‘expansion’ club who came unstuck against amateur opposition were Skolars in 2022, beaten by the club we now recognise as Hunslet ARLFC following Club Parkside’s merger with Hunslet Warriors that same year.

Club Parkside were comfortable winners in the capital, earning a home draw against Sheffield Eagles in the following round and exiting the competition with a 40-20 defeat.

Oldham 12-22 Lock Lane (Round 2 – January 30, 2022)

Sean Long’s Roughyeds may be flying now, but two years ago under the tutelage of Stuart Littler, they opened the season with defeat on home soil to Castleford-based community side Lock Lane in the Challenge Cup in front of just 361 fans.

Lock Lane
Lock Lane, Castleford – Alamy

Circa 500 would be in attendance at Lock Lane‘s Round 3 tie at home against Rochdale Hornets a few weeks later, when the Hornets ran out 28-12 victors.

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West Wales Raiders 8-30 Underbank Rangers (Round 3 – February 9, 2020)

Now obsolete, West Wales – then in League 1 – began 2020 with a cup exit to Huddersfield-based Underbank Rangers, comfortable beaten at home in Llanelli.

Before COVID came around in March and saw non-professional rugby league brought to a halt, Underbank managed to get their Round 4 clash against Bradford Bulls played out, beaten 22-0 by the Championship heavyweights at Odsal.

Thatto Heath Crusaders 16-14 North Wales Crusaders (Round 4 – March 30, 2019)

2019’s Fourth Round brought an absolute thriller in the clash of the Crusaders, and it was St Helens natives Thatto Heath who pipped their not-so-distant League 1 North Welsh neighbours to the post.

The community side led 10-4 at the break on home soil, and in front of more than 700 fans, edged it out despite a fightback from North Wales. Thatto Heath would go on to be knocked out in Round 5 by Dewsbury Rams.

Oxford 22-37 Lock Lane (Round 3 – February 28, 2016)

Another tale of woe in a club now being obsolete are Oxford, who folded at the end of the 2017 season. A year prior, they’d started the campaign off with a defeat to Lock Lane in the Challenge Cup.

The Castleford natives would make it to Round 5, when Championship side Halifax thumped them 80-4 at The Shay.

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Siddal 30-4 Newcastle Thunder (Round 3 – February 27, 2016)

Round 3 of the Challenge Cup in 2016 proved to be a memorable weekend for amateur clubs in the competition, with five sides progressing altogether, another of those being Siddal the day before Lock Lane.

The club entrance at Chevinedge (Siddal Sports and Community Centre), home to Siddal ARLFC – Alamy

All five wins for community sides came against teams competing in League 1 at the time, and Halifax-based Siddal comfortably swept aside Newcastle Thunder, beaten 48-20 by Rochdale in the next round.

Pilkington Recs 13-0 London Skolars (Round 3 – February 27, 2016)

Elsewhere that same day, Pilkington Recs claimed the scalp of the Skolars, who saw Erjon Dollapi sin-binned towards the end of a first half which ended scoreless.

Tries in the second 40 from brothers Kyran & Andrew Knapper – on either wing – which sandwiched a drop goal from Greg Smith sealed the deal for the St Helens-based community side, who were hammered 78-0 by Halifax in the Round 4 at Langtree Park.

Kells 12-6 Hemel Stags (Round 3 – February 27, 2016)

Cumbrian outfit Kells booked their spot in Round 4 the same day with victory over another club who are now obsolete in Hemel, then competing in the third tier. Contrastingly to the game above, all the scoring was done in the first half here, with neither team putting anything on the board in the second 40.

Kells would go on to exit the competition with a heavy 40-6 defeat at Oldham a few weeks later, conceding 20 points in each half against the Roughyeds at Bower Fold.

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Featherstone Lions 37-20 South Wales Scorpions (Round 3 – February 27, 2016)

Completing the quintet of community clubs to have beaten semi-professional opponents in 2016’s Third Round, Featherstone Lions overcame the then-known South Wales, who as already mentioned – after a few years as West Wales – are now obsolete.

On an afternoon which saw the Lions 20-4 to the good at the break, each side had a man sin-binned – Joe Fox for the hosts & Chris Davies for South Wales. And having progressed, the Lions were knocked out by Lock Lane in Round 4.

Leigh Miners Rangers 32-6 Oxford (Round 4 – March 21, 2015)

Oxford ‘s scalp was also claimed in 2015, Leigh Miners Rangers their conquerors on that occasion with just under 800 fans watching a dominant performance from the community club in person in the shadow of the Leigh Sports Village, with 16 unanswered points scored by the hosts in the second half.

Jack Farrimond, Tom Farrimond
Current Wigan Warriors starlet Jack Farrimond (Main Image)’s dad Tom (circle) featured in Leigh Miners’ Rangers Challenge Cup win against Oxford in 2015, coming off the bench as an interchange – Alamy

That victory earned them another home tie in Round 4 against then-League 1 York, when almost 1,200 watched on as the Knights ran out comfortable 44-14 winners.

Doncaster 0-26 Siddal (Round 3 – March 6, 2010)

For the 13th most recent cup upset involving a community club, you have to go back five more years to March 2010 when – following relegation from the Championship – Doncaster were thumped 26-0 at home by Siddal in an all-Yorkshire affair.

The following month in Round 4, Siddal would be knocked out by Batley Bulldogs, who won a game held at The Shay by a scoreline of 34-2, Gareth Blackburn’s penalty bringing the ‘hosts’ their only points of the day.

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