A place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on the 28th May was up for grabs as Barrow Raiders hosted Featherstone Rovers in the first semi-final of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup in wall to wall sunshine on the Cumbria coast.
Featherstone are currently sat at the top of the Championship and remain unbeaten in the league in 2022 while their opponents, who have performed far better than most pundits would have predicted, are currently in sixth spot.
Barrow would be hoping for a better performance to the one that they put in when they were dominated by Featherstone in mid-April and went down by 58-6 in the game in West Yorkshire. Few gave the home side any hope of springing a surprise against Brian McDermott´s superstars.
A Morgan Smith dummy and step opened the scoring for Featherstone with just over five minutes on the clock after Featherstone had dominated the opening exchanges. Craig Hall added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
Barrow weren´t going to lie down and mounted a period of good pressure but a mistake, losing the ball from the back of their own scrum, put them back on the defensive.
On twenty-three an awful, telegraphed pass from Jarrad Stack went straight into the hands of Craig Hall for a walk-in try from twenty metres out. Hall was unable to add the conversion to his own try, Barrow unfortunate to be ten behind.
A Luke Briscoe knock-on on the half hour gave Barrow a set in the Featherstone twenty but they couldn´t find a way through the strong defence.
Five minutes of the half remained when Rovers gave the ball plenty of air as they moved across the width of the field with the ball ending up in the hands of Briscoe to go over on the right corner on the overlap for his hundredth career try. Hall added the conversion for 16-0, McDermott going into the sheds the happier coach.
Two minutes after the restart Featherstone were in again, this time down the left-hand side with John Davies crossing in way too much space from ten metres. Hall added another conversion from wide for 22-0, it was now a matter of how many Rovers would win by.
A Sammut 40-20 put Barrow on the front foot and on the fourth play the ball a Sammut pass put Dan Toal over to score by the right upright and give Sammut a simple conversion for 6-22.
It was all too easy on fifty-seven when Brett Ferres walked through a massive gap in the Barrow defence by the left post to touch down with ease and give Hall a simple conversion for 28-6.
On sixty-five Rovers were in again as he took and inside pass and ran the angle off a Briscoe pass to score under the sticks and give Hall his fifth conversion of the afternoon, Barrow looking out on their feet and a poor second best.
Great work by Bussey allowed him to find Kheirallah who had Ryan Jacks in support to go through in space and dot down by the uprights to give Hall yet another conversion for 40-6, it had become a rout.
On seventy-six Briscoe took a pass off a falling Ferres to score in the corner. Hall added the conversion from the touchline for 46-6.
While the outcome was never in doubt the home supporters would have hoped for a closer game than their players were able to deliver as Featherstone took the initiative early on and never let it go. Smith and Kheirallah controlled the game down the middle while Briscoe and Hall prospered down the wings. Should Leigh make it through in the second game it sets up a mouth-watering final in Tottenham.
Barrow Raiders: Cresswell, Ritson, Stack, Shaw, Carter, Sammut (G), Johnston, Brooks, Wood, Gillam, Hopkins, Morrow, Crellin. Subs: Mossop, Toal (T), Iaria, Eseh.
Featherstone Rovers: Kheirallah (T), Briscoe (2T), Leilua, Hellewell, Hall (T, 7G), Smith (T), Jacks (T), Kopczak, Wildie, Lockwood, Bussey, Davies (T), Moors. Subs: Jones, Ferres (T), Cooper, Sene-Lefeo.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 0-14, 0-16 : HT : 0-20, 0-22, 4-22, 6-22, 6-26, 6-28, 6-32, 6-34, 6-38, 6-40, 6-44, 6-46 : FT.
Referee: Tom Grant.