The Betfred Challenge Cup threw up a good old-fashioned Yorkshire derby as Post Office Road played host to a clash between the two old enemies, Featherstone Rovers and the Bradford Bulls.
Rovers came into the game as strong favourites for the win and progress into the second round and a home game against the Batley Bulldogs, but with neither side having had a competitive run-out for over a year, it was a bit of a lottery.
There was just one place between these two sides in the final league table in 2019, Featherstone finishing fifth and the Bulls in sixth. The two sides met in the fifth round in 2019, the Bulls winning by golden point after a humdinger of a game.
Reece Hamlett broke the deadlock on ten minutes, driving in from five metres out after taking a looping pass in acres of space wide right. Danny Brough was accurate with the boot from the touchline for a 6-0 Bulls lead.
Featherstone went close on twenty, but Josh Hardcastle was taken out with a high tackle, the line begging, but three tackles later Connor Jones pushed his way over to score under the sticks. Craig Hall added the conversion to level the scores, it was a proper end-to-end blood-and-thunder cup tie.
Bradford should have been back in front on twenty-four but Pickersgill couldn’t ground the grubber and the ball bobbled dead in goal. Instead it was Featherstone who went straight down the other end with Thomas Minns stepping past the Bulls defenders to drop over the line. Hall added the conversion for a 12-6 lead.
Three minutes before the break an offload from Hall found Ben Blackmore in acres of space to go over for the third Fev try of the afternoon. Hall added the extras. Within a minute some fast play down the centre put James Harrison free down the middle to go in under the sticks and make the Hall goal a formality to give Featherstone a commanding 24-6 lead.
The Bulls grabbed a lifeline in the forty-seventh minute when Reece Hamlett grabbed his second, stretching to ground by the right-hand corner flag. Danny Brough was unable to add the conversion, the Bulls still fourteen adrift.
Craig Kopczak was held up over the line for Fev on fifty-two. Bradford moved the ball down the other end of the field and Scurr found his way over the line, burrowing under the Rovers defence to get the ball on the line. Brough added the simple conversion to narrow the arrears to eight points.
James Harrison responded immediately for Featherstone, spinning out of the tackle to roll over the line and get the ball on the ground for his brace. Hall made certain with the kick to steady the Featherstone ship.
It was a double whammy from the kick-off return then Dean Parata was on hand to take the pass from Dane Chisolm and go forty metres to score under the sticks. Hall kicked his sixth goal of the game for 36-16, the win now in the bag.
A great sixty metres solo try from Craig Hall, palming away two attempted tackles on his way to the line. Hall failed with his first conversion attempt of the afternoon, but it was past mattering.
On seventy-six Gareth Gale was sin-binned for slowing the play-the-ball but the twelve men grabbed a final point through a Hall drop goal for a 41-16 win.
Featherstone showed that they are going to be real contenders in the Championship in 2021 with a comprehensive win over another much-fancied Bradford side. Bradford did have their moments but Fev never really looked in any danger of failing to make cup progress. Featherstone will fancy their chances of beating the Batley Bulldogs next weekend, and making progress to hopefully face Super League opposition in the third round.
Featherstone Rovers: Hall (T, 6G, DG), Gale (SB on 76), Hardcastle, Minns (T), Blackmore (T), Brown, Chisolm, Lockwood, Jones (T), Kopczak, Halton, Day, Bussey. Subs: Parata (T), Harrison (2T), Cooper, Ferguson.
Bradford Bulls: Brown, Hamlett (2T), Evans, Oakes, Sanderson, Pickersgill, Brough (2G), Crossley, Doyle, Fleming, Gallagher, Rooks, Hallas. Subs: Walker, Scurr (T), Flanagan, England B.
Referee: Chris Kendall.