The Millpond Stadium in Featherstone was the venue as the second round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup pitted the Lions against St Helens side Thatto Heath Crusaders. It was a National Conference League division one side against a team from the premier with the visitors having the loftier berth for 2018 as defending Champions.


Thatto Heath came into the game as clear favourites as the top side in the competition prior to the entry of the Championship One sides, but home advantage would be in Featherstone’s favour.


It was a brutal opening ten minutes with end to end action and few errors. Featherstone hit the front through Joe Fox who powered his way three metres to the line off a short pass after aggressive runs at the Crusaders defence. Full back Ian Jackson hooked his attempt at goal.


What followed was a tumultuous battle with defences clearly on top. The Crusaders has the upper hand but strong tackling, and offensive panic in the Lions twenty, kept the score at 4-0 until the thirty-seventh minute when Jackson kicked a twenty metre penalty after a ball steal, increasing the home sides margin to six points. A one-pointer from Ian Jackson, from in front of the sticks, gave the underdogs a 7-0 lead at the change-over.


Eleven minutes after the restart Jack Jones was held up over the line, the third time that Thatto Heath had been denied a try by a resolute defence. Great Lions tackling on sixty denied Andy Lea when he seemed sure to score.


Niall Allen was red carded on sixty-three for kicking out against an opponent, making it an uphill challenge for the visitors.


On sixty-eight Joe Fox grabbed his second as Thatto Heath tried to come to terms with dropping to twelve men. The big second rower powered his way over to the jubilation of his team-mates but Jackson missed the conversion leaving his side 11-0 ahead.


Brad Ashurst gave the visitors some hope on seventy-four when he barged over the line from close range after a good break downfield, Bobbie Goulding added the extras for 11-6, and setting up a grandstand finish.


Gaz Williamson added the icing to the Lions cake when he found a way through the exhausted defence to dive over the line for the home sides third try of the afternoon. Jackson added the extras. In the dying seconds he kicked his second drop goal of the afternoon for an 18-6 victory to the underdogs.


There had been some desperate defence in the closing minutes from Featherstone but the breakaway try secured their victory and progression into the third round draw on Tuesday night. It was another great game between two dedicated and enthusiastic amateur sides. This was grass roots rugby at its most brutal and a great advert for the National Conference Leagues.


Featherstone Lions: Jackson I (2G, 2DG), Wilson, Gale, Battye, Garahan, Wandless, Perkins, Mawson, Gamble, Williamson (T), Fox (2T), Wilson, McAllister. Subs: Jackson L, Gibbins, Glassell, Gilbert.


Thatto Heath Crusaders: Lee, Flynn, Leicester, Saunders, Allen (SO), Jones, Goulding (G), Kenny, Heaketh, Naughton, Prendergast, Cox, Lea. Subs: Foster, Dudley, Ashurst (T), Kilgannon.


Half Time: 7-0.


Full Time: 18-6.


Referee: Matt Rosslee.


Attendance: .  


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