The Tetley’s Challenge Cup fourth round came to a close on Sunday, with dreams of silverware destroyed across the nation as 32 teams became 16 in rugby league’s oldest knockout competition.
With last-gasp victories and thrashings across the round, the Tetley’s Challenge Cup has given us the best drama that rugby league has to offer. As we approach the climax of the competition, that drama is set to continue.
Super League’s elite breezed through the round, setting up some interesting encounters in the last 16, as shown below.
|Tetley's Challenge Cup Last 16 Draw|
|Wigan Warriors||vs.||Hunslet Hawks|
|Leigh Centurions||vs.||Featherstone Rovers|
|Leeds Rhinos||vs.||St Helens|
|Salford Red Devils||vs.||Widnes Vikings|
|Bradford Bulls||vs.||Catalan Dragons|
|Swinton Lions||vs.||Keighley Cougars|
|Castleford Tigers||vs.||Sheffield Eagles|
The competitions lowest-placed team, Oldham Roughyeds, saw their Challenge Cup journey come to an end at the hands of Super League strugglers Bradford Bulls, as the club’s official Twitter feed reported:
Luke Gale stole the show at the Odsal Stadium with a 28-point haul in a match that Oldham never expected anything from—sitting two tiers below the Bulls in Championship 1.
Gale then took to Twitter to laud the performance of his side, and look forward to a fifth-round tie against Catalan Dragons:
The scrum-half was one of eight try scorers for Bradford, with Brett Kearney, Elliot Kear, Adam O’Brien, Danny Addy, Adam Henry, Jamie Foster and Dale Ferguson all going over.
Kenny Hughes crossed the whitewash for Oldham to give the travelling fans something to cheer about, but it was as one-sided an encounter as the Challenge Cup is likely to see this season.
Oldham coach Scott Taylor spoke to BBC Sport after his side’s brave performance at the Odsal, and was full of praise for the team:
The game itself was always going to finish with that kind of scoreline but the effort was outstanding and some of the stuff we did with the ball was very good. I wanted them to go and test themselves against a Super League side and enjoy it and that's what they did.
Elsewhere, there was a controversial win for St Helens away at Huddersfield Giants, with the Giants’ official Twitter feed showing the club’s frustration:
Danny Brough had a perfectly good drop goal ruled out late on, before Luke Walsh’s late kick put Saints in the fifth-round draw.
There were also wins for Leeds Rhinos, Leigh Centurions, Castleford Tigers, Doncaster, Keighley Cougars, Featherstone Rovers, Warrington Wolves, Hunslet Hawks, Widnes Vikings and Swinton Lions.
The Challenge Cup holders Wigan will take on Hunslet in the last 16, and the Warriors are well on course for back-to-back titles if their performances continue in the same vein.
Leeds Rhinos vs. St Helens is the pick of the fifth round, and Saints coach Nathan Brown said he’s looking forward to it, according to Ian Laybourn of the Daily Mail:
“At the end of the day you’ve got to beat them to get there. We’ve played a top side today [Huddersfield] and going to Leeds will be another great challenge for us.”
The Challenge Cup has already thrown up some hard-hitting, thrilling encounters, and as we approach the winter of the competition, there will undoubtedly be more to come.
Saturday saw one more match in the 2014 Tetley's Challenge Cup's fourth round, as the highly favoured Sheffield Eagles overcame a sloppy first half to record a dominant 70-28 win over London Skolars.
The hosts scored two tries withing the first ten minutes of the match via Michael Knowles and Misi Taulapapa, and further scores from Dominic Brambani and James Davey seemed to seal Skolars' fate early.
But Courtney Davies would score a try for the visitors within minutes of Brambani's score, as the Londoners started to grow into the match. Jack Blagbrough's score was immediately answered by Louis Robinson as the visitors looked hell-bent on preserving the 16-point gap. But a pair of late Brambani-goals wasn't enough to cope with a try from Quentin Lauulu-Togagae, as the score at the half was 30-12.
The second half further illustrated that gap, and two tries by Martin Smith for the visitors were of little consolation as Eagles kept scoring at an almost impossible rate. One fan figured the team was looking to end the game with a unique difference in points:
Brambani would finish with 11 goals and Balgborough would score two more tries as the hosts embarrassed their opponents by putting 70 points up on the board. Lauulu-Togagae, Loto Tagaloa, Jordan Burke, Pat Walker and Matt Garside all got their names on the score-sheet as well, and a late score from Lloyd O'Connor finalised the 70-28 finish.
The comfortable win has the Eagles advancing to Round Five, with the draw to be made after the remaining fourth-round ties have finished.
The Challenge cup will resume on Sunday with 12 more matches.
The 2014 Tetley's Challenge Cup's fourth round continued on Saturday with two more matches, as the London Broncos fell to the Catalan Dragons 40-24 before the Wigan Warriors pulled away in the second half in their 58-6 win over Dewsbury Rams.
The Broncos had lost their first seven Super League fixtures and were hoping for a good result against a Dragons squad that was similarly struggling, but the French hosts never truly allowed the Londoners to build any sort of rhythm an two early tries from Leon Pryce and Louis Anderson gave Dragons an early lead the team never relinquished.
Catalan had won their last eight meetings with the Broncos and easily made it nine in a row in their first Challenge Cup meeting, despite solid play from the visitors late in the first half. Thomas Bosc's try effectively ended any hopes of a comeback, and David Solomona's score a few minutes later was no more than a consolation prize.
The hosts scored several quick tries early in the second half and the match looked to be getting out of hand for Broncos, but several late scores gave the visitors a more respectable scoreline to go home with, as little comfort as that may be.
Daryl Millard, Antoni Maria, Morgan Escare and the inevitable Anderson all scored for the hosts in the second half, while Mason Caton-Brown, Ilies Macani and Nick Slyney provided the points for Broncos.
Dewsbury Rams hosted highly favoured Wigan Warriors looking for the upset and put forth a valliant first-half effort, but the visitors dominated the second half on their way to a big 58-6 win. Joe Burgess stole the show with four tries on the night, including the first two early in the match, but Dewsbury dug in and kept things close.
A score from Dale Morton early in the second gave the hosts hope, but the defending champions used their wealth of experience to keep things under control, and Burgess' third try of the match opened the floodgates.
Dan Sarginson, Iain Thornley, Matty Smith, George Williams and Blake Green all got on the scoreboard to set up a final scoreline that was overly harsh on an overmatched Rams squad that gave everything it could. As reported by the Challenge Cup's official Twitter acount, the fans treated their team to a well-deserved applause at the conclusion of the match:
With the wins, both teams can now look forward to Sunday's fifth-round draw which will take place after the remaining 13 Challenge Cup ties have been played out.
Play will resume on Saturday at 2. p.m. BST as Sheffield Eagles take on London Skolars, with the rest of the matches being played on Sunday, including the highly anticipated matchup between Huddersfield Giants and St Helens.
The fourth round of the Tetley's Challenge Cup began on Thursday evening as the Salford Red Devils travelled to Hull FC.
It was a repeat of the Super League fixture from just a week beforehand when the visitors had been blown away by the power of the home side. Red Devils coach Brian Noble had said after that game, per BBC Sport, "I can never guarantee the result at a place like this, but I certainly expect a whole lot better than that."
He certainly did get a lot better than that on Thursday night, in a match that was a magnificent advert for English rugby.
As so often with cup matches, the nature of a knockout competition brings the best out of both sides. So it proved Thursday as the Red Devils knocked out last year's beaten finalists in "Golden Point" extra time by a score of 37-36.
|Tetley's Challenge Cup 2014: Fourth Round, Updated Fixtures|
|Catalan Dragons vs. London Broncos||Friday, April 4||7:30 p.m. BST/2:30 pm. ET|
|Dewsbury vs. Wigan Warriors||Friday, April 4||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET|
|Sheffield vs. London Skolars||Saturday, April 5||2 p.m. BST/9 a.m. ET|
|Batley vs. Castleford Tigers||Sunday, April 6||2 p.m. BST/9 p.m. ET|
|Bradford Bulls vs. Oldham||Sunday, April 6||2 p.m. BST/9 p.m. ET|
|Doncaster vs. Hemel Stags||Sunday, April 6||2 p.m. BST/9 p.m. ET|
|Featherstone vs. North Wales Crusaders||Sunday, April 6||2 p.m. BST/9 p.m. ET|
|Halifax vs. Widnes Vikings||Sunday, April 6||2 p.m. BST/9 p.m. ET|
|Hull KR vs. Warrington Wolves||Sunday, April 6||2 p.m. BST/9 p.m. ET|
|Hunslet vs. Workington||Sunday, April 6||2 p.m. BST/9 p.m. ET|
|Keighley vs. Barrow||Sunday, April 6||2 p.m. BST/9 p.m. ET|
|Rochdale vs. Leigh||Sunday, April 6||2 p.m. BST/9 p.m. ET|
|Swinton vs. York||Sunday, April 6||2 p.m. BST/9 p.m. ET|
|Wakefield Wildcats vs. Leeds Rhinos||Sunday, April 6||2 p.m. BST/9 p.m. ET|
|Huddersfield Giants vs. St. Helens||Sunday, April 6||2:15 p.m. BST/9:15 a.m. ET|
Mark Goundrill noted that the locals had turned out in droves for the match, perhaps in expectation of another relatively easy home win:
The signs were ominous for Noble and the travelling Salford army once Joe Arundel had slid over in the corner with three minutes on the clock.
In truth, he should never have been able to ground the ball, but after displaying his athleticism to get between three covering Salford defenders, he deserved the score.
With Ben Crooks nailing the conversion from way out on the touchline, Noble might have been forgiven for thinking that another long night was in store.
An immediate riposte was required, and that is exactly what the visitors provided. Man-of-the-match Rangi Chase drew in the covering Hull defenders and dispatched a beautiful inch-perfect long-range pass to Francis Meli, who slid over the try line.
Jake Mullaney needed to replicate Crooks' excellence with the boot, and up to the challenge, he levelled the scores. Game on.
Within two minutes the game had turned completely on its head, Chase again the architect as he ripped through a static Hull defence. The little magician had struck, and with 11 minutes played, we had a game on our hands as the away side edged in front at 10-6.
Noble's more robust pack were holding their own in the heat of battle, and this was turning into a contest for the purist, even at such an early stage of proceedings.
As the game ebbed and flowed, and six tackles were exchanged, Hull tried their luck with a high punt.
Meli inexplicably watched as Arundel gathered the gift and went over. In hindsight, the Salford player will feel hugely embarrassed with a lack of contribution, and it's a wonder Noble didn't haul him off at that point.
Thankfully he didn't, because before half-time the Chase-Meli double act were at it again.
Weaving inside, Chase sold the dummy and a kick right into the corner fell to the gleeful Meli for his second try of the night.
Mullaney was hitting all the right notes with the conversions, and as we approached half-time, Salford were in the ascendency.
That was until Mullaney knocked on by his own try line, gifting a score to the home side. It was 16-18 at half-time in favour of the visitors, who certainly weren't there to make up the numbers this time.
Yet, within two-and-a-half minutes of the restart, the pendulum had swung again, great hands from Fetuli Talanoa taking him clear. A quick dart and a dash from Jordan Rankin and Hull were up by 10 points, Crooks continuing to kick everything.
Just as it seemed Hull were walking away with the match, Salford came right back into proceedings again, this time courtesy of Theo Fages. Junior Sa'u sprinted away for another score for the away side in a game that was turning into champagne rugby. You just couldn't take your eyes off it for a moment.
Jamie Shaul ensured a grandstand finish as his tries put the home side back in pole position for a fifth-round berth, but the visitors would not let it go.
Chief protagonist in one final monumental effort was Chase. His work ethic was outstanding throughout. The Kiwi simply ran the show for his side.
Deep into the last minute, Chase again worked the ball out wide to Meli to run in the score, again right on the line. It left Mullaney to convert from the touchline to take the game to golden point extra time.
Unbelievably, as the horn sounded, the ball sailed through the posts: 36-36.
Adam Beesley wanted to know why the game wasn't televised:
The first action of any note in that extra-time period was what looked like a nasty injury to Arundel, having gone up to collect a high ball from Chase. Although the stretcher came on for five minutes, Arundel was able to gingerly walk off but was clearly unable to play any extra part.
As each set of forwards went hunting for the extra point, Crooks' hands let him down at the crucial moment, and he dropped and knocked on.
It gave the away side a glorious opportunity to win the match, just eight metres out.
As the ball was worked for the drop goal, who else should get the opportunity to seal the game with the winning points? Chase yet again in the right place at the right time to win the game for Salford in one of the best games seen in these parts for years.
The contrast in the two Salford performances just a week apart is marked, and Noble now has something to work with.
In Chase, he has a player with the X-factor. A forager who makes things happen. If Salford are going to use this game as a platform, then their play has to be built around the kiwi.
Next up in the Super League are the Bradford Bulls, who occupy bottom place in the table, per SuperLeague.co.uk. Another win could see them rise as high as fifth in the table and push on from here.