Two weeks into the new year and the Betfred Challenge Cup competition for 2022 was already well underway as two towns synonymous with Rugby League Rochdale and Wigan, saw lower league sides Rochdale Mayfield and Wigan St Patricks set out on the long path to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and this year’s Cup Final.
Rochdale ply their trade in the top flight of the National Conference League while St Patricks are a division below but it was the visitors who went into the game coached by a man with a massive Challenge Cup pedigree, Andy Gregory.
Both sides made early errors as they looked to push home an early advantage. Ten minutes in Declan Sheridan opened the scoring for Mayfield with quick feet in front of the uprights allowing him to evade the tacklers and dive over under the sticks. Zak Hartley added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
It was way too easy for Mayfield to add a second just three minutes later as Ieuan Higgs span out of four weak tackles to go over. Hartley added the conversion. And on sixteen the home side were in again with Hartley taking an inside pass from Higgs to go in again, this time under the uprights. A third goal for Hartley made it 18-0 after eighteen minutes.
St Patricks were awarded a penalty from the kick-off and in their first real foray into the Rochdale half, Jonathan Brown went low to score by the posts. Taylor Hyland added the conversion to reduce the arrears to twelve points.
On twenty-four the Wigan side were in again with Jack Williams-Sproat and Hyland added the conversion from the touchline for 12-18, St Patricks had managed to climb back into a game which had looked as though it was getting away from them.
Cole Connoly was sin-binned for a professional foul on twenty-eight to further add to Mayfield´s woes but it was the twelve men who next troubled the scorers with Higgs stretching behind himself to take the last pass before going in by the posts. Hartley added his fourth goal of the afternoon.
It took twenty minutes of the second half for Mayfield to extend their lead with Liam Whalley on hand to take the miss out pass from Connoly and score ten in from the touchline. Hartley was unable to add the conversion.
As play was disrupted in backfield, some pushing and shoving as tempers frayed, Connor Taylor broke for fifty metres before finding Hyland inside to cross and when he converted his own try it was 18-28 with fifteen minutes remaining on the clock.
Six out from the hooter a spectacular Williams-Sproat try, diving over the top of the Mayfield defenders, put the visitors back within six points of their hosts. Hyland was unable to add the conversion from the right touchline, but it had set up a grandstand finish.
Gifted with the opportunity for of a penalty kick on seventy-nine, Connoly kicked the goal to relieve the pressure as he stretched Mayfield´s lead to eight points.
On the hooter Hamlet was on hand to take a pass after a spiral kick from Connoly evaded the Wigan St Patricks defence to put the result beyond any doubt. Conolly added the conversion for 36-22, a comfortable win after a late scare.
Rochdale Mayfield: Bradley, Butterworth, McConachie, Donnelly, Connoly (SB on 28, 2G), Hurley, Hamlet (G), Hartley (T, 4G), Hargreaves, Higgs (2T), Whalley (T), Holden, Jackson. Subs: McDonald, McDaid, Moore, Sheridan (T).
Wigan St Patricks: Hyland (T, 3G), Williams-Sproat (2T), Williams, Meadows, Palma-Breheny, Higham J, McGoldrick, Hutton, Smith, Brown (T), Higham A, Taylor. Subs: Prior, Ireland, Swarbrick, Fisher.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, 16-0, 18-0, 18-4, 18-6, 18-10, 18-12, (SB), 22-12, 24-12 : HT : 28-12, 28-16, 28-18, 28-22, 30-22, 34-22, 36-22: FT.
Referee: Alan Billington.