The first round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup threw together National League Premier Division side Rochdale Mayfield, against a Crosfields side from Warrington who play their rugby in National League Conference Division Two for the live streamed game on the BBC website. Forty-eight amateur sides were included in the first round, to be joined later in the competition by Championship and Super League teams.
Being played for the 115th time, the first being in 1896, the BBC have the screening rights and will be live streaming a game in each round up to and including the fifth round of the competition. From the sixth round onwards coverage will switch to BBC1 and BBC2 right through to the final at Wembley on the 25th August.
The game was played at a muddy Mayfield Sports Centre on the outskirts of Rochdale in front of a decent crowd.
Aidan Gleeson scored the Mayfield opener after Crosfields had spilled the ball on their own line. The big prop forward crashed onto a short ball and went over the line to ground. Zak Hartley added the conversion and the home side had an ideal start after an extensive period of pressure.
Liam Whaley was on hand to take a pass two minutes later and despite a last ditch Crosfields tackle he managed to ground by the uprights. Hartley kicked the conversion for 12-0, despite some possession for Crosfields the divisional gab between the sides was increasingly evident.
From a scrum on their own twenty Matthew Ashton won a foot race to pick up a kicked ball and slide over the line from five metres out for the third of the afternoon. Hartley was unable to add a third conversion.
Two penalties in quick succession for Crosfields saw Hayden James find Lewis Bani to crash over, but touch judge ruled out the try.
When Hartley intercepted a wayward pass just metres from his own line, he almost made it to the try line before being a last ditch tackle by Jordan Williams but the Crosfields second rower held on too long and was sin-binned for a professional foul. From the resulting penalty Cole Connolly jinked to the line to score and Hartley added the extras for 22-0.
After the early Mayfield onslaught, Crosfields edged their way back into the game and managed to stem the tide until the half-time hooter.
Ten minutes into the second half, Matty Barber from Crosfields was sin-binned after an altercation on the half way line. On twenty-three the Mayfield loose forward Paul Brearley was sin-binned for a professional foul close to his own line.
The second half was a war of attrition with very little to choose between the two sides. There were more penalties and handling errors than the opening twenty but neither side could break the whitewash until a minute from the end when Declan Sheridan managed to find a way through the Crosfields defence to ground under the sticks. Hartley added the extras for a 28-0 home victory to see Rochdale Mayfield into the hat for the second round.
Mayfield did all of the hard work in the opening twenty minutes and then eased off the gas and soaked up the Crosfields pressure. It was a rough and tough opening game on the road to Wembley that entertained the crowd in the ground and those watching the live stream on the BBC.
Rochdale Mayfield: Ashton (T), Hammer, Schofield, Wood, Sampson, Hartley (4G), Baker, Moore, Sheridan (T), Gleeson (T), Whaley (T), Marriott, Brearley (SB). Subs: Connolly (T), Hargreaves, Cella, Ellison.
Crosfields: Whittaker, Clutterbuck, Hull, Roper, Taylor, Reid J, Stanway, Barber (SB), James, Brown, Bani, Williams (SB), Clarke. Subs: Lee, Moore, Mahoney, Ansell.
Half Time: 22-0.
Full Time: 28-0.
Referee: Liam Stavely