It was one of the biggest afternoons in the history of National Conference side the Normanton Knights as they decamped from their home at Queen Elizabeth Drive to the much larger LD Nutrition Stadium in Featherstone to take on Championship side the Rochdale Hornets in the fourth round of the Challenge Cup.
Twenty places and two divisions separated the two sides and unsurprisingly the Hornets were the red hot favourites to progress into the fifth round and the inclusion of four of the sides from the top flight.
It was a freezing afternoon with a snow storm blowing in just before kick-off.
After early good signs from the Knights it was Rochdale who opened the scoring when Robert Massam broke down the middle of the field and went in under the sticks. Lewis Palfrey added the extra two and Normanton had to build again.
The Knights did well to soak up the Hornets pressure over the next quarter of an hour but Danny Yates eventually found his way through a tiring defence off a Cross pass to dive over for the second. Palfrey was unable to add the extras.
On twenty-for Palfrey found Kay to run the angle and walk in for a simple try. Palfrey added the extras and already it was looking like any thoughts of an upset could be banished. Normanton were getting chances but lacked some composure on the Rochdale line.
Normanton got their opening through Connor Wilson who took the pass ten metres out and burrowed under the Rochdale defence to ground over the line. Connor Taylor was unable to add the conversion and his side trailes by 4-16.
Just before the interval Brickhill put Massam over in the left corner for his second of the afternoon to open up a 20-4 lead. Palfrey was unable to add the extras and the sides went into the sheds with the Hornets having a comfortable lead.
The Hornets knocked on over the line on their first attack of the second half through Gregory but great tackling kept Rochdale at bay. As the half wore on the snow worsened it was Normanton who grabbed their second, another for Wilson, who broke the line and dived over on seventy-two minutes. Again the conversion was missed, the margin back to twelve points with just over six minutes remaining.
The conditions in the final five minutes were almost unplayable with settling snow and a blizzard rattling around the stadium. Neither side could get over as the game fizzled out to a Rochdale win, despite a superb effort in the second half from the National Conference side who won the second forty by 4-0.
The conditions weren’t conducive to open rugby but all credit to the two sides who gave it a go and served up a spectacle to the watching public.
Knights Scorers: Wilson (2T).
Hornets: Lepori, Kay (T), Hurst, Cross, Massam (2T), Palfrey (2G), Yates (T), Adamson, Moores, Mitchell, Middlehurst, Allen, Taira. Subs: Gregory, Tala, Mulkeen, Brickhill.
Referee: Gary Dolan.