The Betfred Challenge Cup first round certainly didn’t disappoint over the weekend as British rugby league’s unique knockout competition threw up shocks, stunning tries and toe-to-toe match-ups, not least in Wigan as The Sportsman’s cameras watched Ince Rose Bridge reach the second round.
Ince travelled the short distance to Wigan St Patricks for a local derby, and after Harry Penny’s try in the first 30 seconds they led the game for all but four minutes. St Pats’ cause wasn’t helped by the first-half sending-off of Phil Glover for a head butt after getting up from a tackle with his side trailing 6-4, and Rose Bridge were quick to make the most as Peter Valentine scored the first of his hat-trick from a high kick on the last tackle.
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St Pats did make a proper fight of it though, turning that 12-4 deficit into a 16-12 lead shortly after half-time, with tries from Craig Thomas and Danny Ryding either side of the interval giving the 12 men a shock advantage. But once Callem Rodgers had broken down the left to score the visitors never looked back, and Valentine’s second and third tries gave them a 30-16 lead.
Connor Taylor’s late try for St Pats proved to be little more than a consolation although the home side kept going until the end in a thrilling, feisty encounter which kicked off The Sportsman’s run of at least 20 live rugby league games in 2023.
Elsewhere there were extraordinary scenes as Edinburgh Eagles and Saddleworth Rangers accidentally started the second half of their clash without a referee, while Great Britain Police provided arguably the shock of the round by seeing off NCL Division One side Featherstone Lions 20-6, with Jimmy Motum, Ryan Pickles and Mick Ostick among their try scorers.
In the Betfred Championship there was a statement win for Swinton Lions away to Batley Bulldogs in the second weekend of league action. After going down 18-6 at home to Newcastle Thunder in round one, the Lions registered an excellent 30-16 away win on Sunday at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium as the newly-promoted side came from 10 points down to beat last year’s Grand Finalists.
From 16-6 down, Swinton scored 24 unanswered points in the last 20 minutes to take the two competition points back to the north-west, Josh Eaves, Andy Badrock, Dan Abram and Ollie Olds crossing for a jubilant Lions outfit.
The expected front-runners, Toulouse Olympique and Featherstone Rovers, racked up home victories over Newcastle and Halifax Panthers respectively, while Sheffield Eagles, Widnes Vikings and London Broncos were also winners. York Knights and Bradford Bulls wrap up the weekend action on Monday night live in front of the Viaplay Sports cameras, with kick-off at 7:45pm.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject to Change