OLDHAM eyes will be focused on the first round of the Betfred Challenge Cup on Saturday, January 15, and in particular on the tie between Lock Lane of Castleford and Thatto Heath of St Helens.
Roughyeds will play the winners at the Vestacare Stadium in round two over the weekend of Saturday/Sunday, January 29/30 (details still to come), having gone into action for the first time this year a week earlier with the visit of Super League side Wakefield Trinity to the Vestacare in a friendly on Saturday, January 22, 6pm kick-off.
As the home side, with their fans behind them, Lock Lane will be tough to best in round one, but Thatto Heath, current NCL champions, will fancy their chances of returning over the Pennines with a chance of pulling off a pro-am giant-killing act at Oldham, as they did in 2019 at North Wales Crusaders.
The popular and ground-breaking BBC streaming of the early rounds of the Betfred Challenge Cup will return when Orrell St James face the British Army at 12.30pm, also on Saturday January 15.
And that will be followed in the second round two weeks later by the all-League 1 meeting between Rochdale Hornets – for whom 2022 marks the centenary of their only Challenge Cup triumph in 1922 – and Midlands Hurricanes, who will be playing their first competitive fixture since the rebranding of the club this winter.
That tie will be played on Sunday January 30, with a 1pm kick-off at the Crown Oil Arena – and like the first round tie at Orrell, will be streamed live on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website and app.
The return of 28 community clubs and teams to the first round of the Betfred Challenge Cup is one of the features of the 2022 competition, after their Covid-enforced exclusion in 2021.
In the second round the 14 winners will be joined by 10 clubs from Betfred League 1, with the Betfred Championship clubs joining at the fourth-round stage in February, and the Betfred Super League clubs joining at the sixth round stage in March – when the BBC’s network coverage of the competition begins.
The British Army will be aiming for a repeat of their run to the fourth round when they last entered the Challenge Cup in 2020, and they battled to a hat-trick of hard-earned home wins at their Aldershot base against Oulton Raiders, Skirlaugh and Ince Rose Bridge, before losing at Rochdale Hornets.
However Orrell St James, who are one of many community clubs to have received substantial investment in their facilities from the CreatedBy Capital Grants Programme run jointly between the RFL and Rugby League World Cup 2021, will relish the opportunity to welcome the soldiers to their Bankes Avenue home on the outskirts of Wigan.
Rochdale Hornets, who were one of the 22 founding clubs of the Northern Union in 1895, secured their only Challenge Cup triumph in April 1922, beating Hull FC 10-9 at Headingley – seven years before the Final was played at Wembley for the first time.
Midlands Hurricanes will be a new name in Betfred League 1 in 2022, following fresh investment and an attempt to widen the appeal of the Coventry Bears club who have been flying the flag for Rugby League in the West Midlands since 1998.
Betfred Challenge Cup 2022
First Round (January 14-16)
- Bridgend Blue Bulls v Royal Navy (January 14, 7pm)
- Orrell St James v British Army (January 15, 12.30pm, live on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website and app)
- London Chargers v Ellenborough Rangers (January 15, Chiswick RUFC, 1pm)
- Edinburgh Eagles v York Acorn (January 15, 1.30pm)
- Thornhill Trojans v RAF (January 15, 1.30pm)
- West Hull v Upton (January 15, 1.30pm)
- Featherstone Lions v Hunslet Club Parkside (January 15, 2pm)
- Jarrow Vikings v Wests Warriors (January 15, Kingston Park, 2pm)
- Lock Lane v Thatto Heath Crusaders (January 15, 2pm)
- Galway Tribesmen v Pilkington Recs (at Pilkington, January 15, 2.30pm)
- Leigh Miners Rangers v Milford (January 15, 2.30pm)
- Rochdale Mayfield v Wigan St Patricks (January 15, 230pm)
- Siddal v Great Britain Police (January 15, 2.30pm)
- Bentley v Stanningley (January 16, 2pm, Wheatley Hills RUFC)
Second Round (January 29-30)
- Rochdale Hornets v Midlands Hurricanes (January 30, 1pm, live on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website and app)
- Edinburgh Eagles or York Acorn v Jarrow Vikings or Wests Warriors
- Doncaster v Thornhill or RAF
- Orrell St James or British Army v Bridgend Blue Bulls or Royal Navy
- Oldham v Lock Lane or Thatto Heath Crusaders
- Galway Tribesmen or Pilkington Recs v Siddal or Great Britain Police
- West Hull or Upton v Rochdale Mayfield or Wigan St Patricks
- Featherstone Lions or Hunslet Club Parkside v Bentley or Stanningley
- Hunslet v Keighley Cougars
- Leigh Miners Rangers or Milford v North Wales Crusaders
- West Wales Raiders v Swinton Lions
- London Skolars v London Chargers or Ellenborough Rangers
Third Round (6 ties) – February 12-13
Fourth Round (10 ties) – February 26-27 – Betfred Championship clubs enter
Fifth Round (5 ties) – March 12-13
Sixth Round (8 ties) – March 26-27 – Betfred Super League clubs enter
Quarter Finals – April 9-10
Semi Finals – Saturday May 7 at Elland Road, Leeds
Betfred Challenge Cup Final 2022 – Saturday May 28 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium