Up for the Cup: Third Round

The Powergen Challenge Cup third round saw the entrance of professional sides from LHF National Leagues One and Two, and also sides from France and Russia. The round pitted the English professional sides against the amateur and foreign teams, and upsets were always on the cards.

The inclement weather did affect the line up, and four fixtures had to be postponed. These were Swinton against Sheffield, West Bowling versus Keighley, Barrow against Widnes St Maries and Ovenden versus York.

One game which Workington Town will wish had never gone ahead was their tie with Thornhill Trojans. The Conference side pulled off the upset of the round against their NL2 opponents, taking a shock 8-6 lead in at the interval and holding on to win 16-12. The hero for the Trojans was Craig Holmes, scoring a try and kicking four goals.

Because of the complexities of the draw, four National League sides had to face each other. One of the resulting ties was postponed; the other went ahead as London Skolars welcomed Gateshead Thunder to New River Stadium. The two sides will be fighting at the bottom of NL2 this season, and London made an early mark with a 20-10 win.

Celtic Crusaders are a team on the up, reflecting the upward rise of Welsh rugby league in general, and were pleased to be drawn against Locomotiv Moscow in a tie that is an expansionists dream. The Crusaders continued their impressive early season form, and celebrated the mid-week launch of the WRL, with a crushing 64-4 win.

Not quite pulling off an upset, but several amateur teams gave an excellent account of themselves against professional opposition. One of these was Saddleworth Rangers, who took on Oldham in what was a mouth-watering local derby. The Roughyeds held only a slender 12-6 lead at the interval, and were pushed all the way, eventually winning 34-10.

Skirlaugh also impressed, giving Featherstone Rovers a scare before going down 36-10. Hunslet Hawks, Rochdale Hornets and Doncaster Lakers were also made to work hard for their passage into the next round, by East Hull, Leigh Miners Rangers and Shaw Cross Sharks respectively. Widnes Vikings had less trouble, but even in 38-0 their opponents, Hunslet Warriors, earned themselves a great deal of credit.

Other amateur sides did not run their opponents so closely, but their efforts still have to be admired. York Acorn were defeated 62-1 by Hull Kingston Rovers, while NL3 Bradford Dudley Hill lost 68-0 to Dewsbury Rams.

Last season's semi-finalists Toulouse made their way into the fourth round courtesy of a win over Blackpool Panthers for the second season running. However, this year the victory was nowhere near as emphatic, the Panthers losing narrowly 10-18.

Limoux were not as fortunate as Toulouse, but pushed Batley Bulldogs all the way, trailing by just twelve points at the break and eventually losing 24-10. Meanwhile, Pia were completely outclassed 72-0 by NL1 challengers Whitehaven, while Strela Kazan suffered the same treatment, 80-0, at the hands of fellow NL1 challengers Leigh Centurions.

The draw for round four is being made tomorrow night, and the sides that have won through, along with four sides who have yet to make it, will be looking either for a winnable game or a high profile tie with and engage Super League team. In particular, Thornhill Trojans, will be looking forward to what the draw will bring.

The cup so far has been excellent entertainment, and has lived up to its billing as one of the greatest sporting competitions in the world. And, make no mistake; it will only get better from here onwards.    

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