West Wales Raiders were handed a dream tie against Widnes Vikings when the draw for the first two rounds of the Betfred Challenge Cup was held this evening.
The Raiders, one of three teams from League 1 who joined 13 from the Championship in the First Round draw, have made two eyecatching signings in the former Wales rugby union international Gavin Henson, and the former England league international Rangi Chase.
Both could now make their Raiders debut next month against Widnes, seven-times Challenge Cup winners who also have strong links with Wales through the many rugby union internationals who came north to play for the club, such as Jonathan Davies, John Devereux and Paul Moriarty.
Two old West Yorkshire rivals with considerable Challenge Cup pedigree, Featherstone Rovers and Bradford Bulls, were drawn to play each other in the heavyweight tie of the round by Jon Wilkin, the former England and Great Britain international and four-times Cup winner with St Helens, who made the draw which was screened live by BBC Sport.
The draws for both the First and Second Rounds were held consecutively because they will be played on consecutive weekends in March – marking the first Rugby League action of 2021, and a return to action after more than a year of enforced inactivity for all 16 clubs involved.
The winners of the Featherstone-Bradford tie will face further West Yorkshire opposition in the Second Round, as they were drawn at home to the winners of another local derby between the renamed Halifax Panthers and Batley Bulldogs.
The winners of the West Wales versus Widnes tie will be at home to the winners of the First Round tie between Whitehaven and Dewsbury Rams.
The other two League 1 teams in the First Round have both been drawn away – Barrow Raiders travelling to Oldham, while Keighley Cougars will head south to face London Broncos.
The winners of the latter tie will be at home to the winners of another attractive tie between Sheffield Eagles and York City Knights, while the winners of the Oldham-Barrow tie will be away to either Swinton Lions or Newcastle Thunder.
The winners of the four Second Round ties will join the 12 Betfred Super League clubs in the Third Round in April – and will earn a second attempt to reach Wembley as they will also qualify for the semi finals of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup in June.
Days and times for kick-offs for the eight First Round ties will be confirmed as soon as possible, following discussions with clubs and the BBC about broadcast & streaming schedules.
Betfred Challenge Cup
First Round (ties to be played weekend of March 21): London Broncos v Keighley Cougars, Whitehaven v Dewsbury Rams, Oldham v Barrow Raiders, West Wales Raiders v Widnes Vikings, Swinton Lions v Newcastle Thunder, Halifax Panthers v Batley Bulldogs, Sheffield Eagles v York City Knights, Featherstone Rovers v Bradford Bulls.
Second Round (ties to be played weekend of March 28): Swinton Lions or Newcastle Thunder v Oldham or Barrow Raiders, Featherstone Rovers or Bradford Bulls v Halifax Panthers or Batley Bulldogs, London Broncos or Keighley Cougars v Sheffield Eagles or York City Knights, West Wales Raiders or Widnes Vikings v Whitehaven or Dewsbury Rams.*
Third Round (Four Second Round winners and 12 Betfred Super League clubs): Weekend of April 11
Quarter Finals: Weekend of May 9
Semi Finals: Weekend of June 5
Final: Saturday July 17 (Wembley Stadium)
*The four Second Round winners will also qualify for the semi finals of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup