Analysis: How Featherstone Rovers overcame York City Knights in a memorable 1895 Cup final at Wembley
It will probably be remembered as the Covid cup final, but after all the effort put into getting the game on, Featherstone Rovers’ Wembley showdown with York City Knights proved well worth the effort.
Rovers won a thrilling try-fest 41-34 on an afternoon which was a tremendous advert for the Betfred Championship and memorable on multiple levels.
Sixty one years after Hull’s Mike Smith achieved the feat, Rovers’ Joe Summers became the second player to make his senior debut at Wembley
And unlike Smith, who was on the beaten team in a Challenge Cup final against Wakefield Trinity, the back-rower came away with a winner’s medal, having been introduced off the bench in the final moments.
Winger Jacob Doyle, who - like Summers - joined Rovers from Castleford Tigers’ academy last September - had a wealth of experience by comparison, it being his second game.
Doyle missed an early chance, but came up with two fine finishes, either side of half-time, to bag a brace of tries.
Rovers captain James Lockwood had an eventful Wembley weekend.
Having travelled with the team to London on Friday, he got off the coach and straight on to the tube to Kings Cross to catch a train back to Wakefield, after his wife Stacey apparently went into labour.
No baby having appeared, he caught a 5.30am train back to the capital on the day of the game, lifted the trophy and then celebrated becoming a father for the second time.
Man of the match was full-back Craig Hall, who was also late joining up with the team after coming out of isolation on the day of the match.
He survived one shaky moment, when a mix-up gifted a try to York, but finished with 16 points from a try and six goals.
Rovers went into the final without several key players who tested positive for coronavirus in the days before it, as did coach James Webster.
His assistant Paul March took charge on the day, but the showpiece wasn’t confirmed as being on until York, who also had several cases, reported a clear round of testing on Saturday morning.
Given all the chaos and two depleted sides, the game might have fallen flat.
Instead, it was a cracker, an end-to-end spectacle which produced 13 tries in searing heat.
The third quarter was a remarkable period of rugby.
Rovers led 22-10 at half-time, but converted tries from Kris Brining - who appeared to drop the ball over the line - and Jason Bass levelled matters by the 52nd minute.
Hall edged Rovers back in front with a penalty goal and tries from Doyle, James Harrison and Hall made made it 40-22 on the hour.
Mikey Lewis’ touchdown kept York interested, but Dane Chisholm landed a drop goal, opening a 13-point gap, before Perry Whiteley responded with a length of the field interception and Kieran Dixon’s fifth goal completed the scoring.
In the first half, Chisholm and York’s Ben Jones-Bishop exchanged tries, then Craig Kopczak and Marcus Stock did the same.
Rovers led only 12-10 eight minutes before the interval, but went into the break in high spirits after Doyle and Nu Brown added tries.
Featherstone Rovers: Hall, Gale, Hardcastle, Davies, Doyle, Brown, Chisholm, Kopczak, Sweeting, Lockwood, Harrison, Ferres, McConnell. Subs Spence, Cooper, Field, Summers.
York City Knights: K Dixon, Jones-Bishop, Dow-Nikau, Bass, Whiteley, Lewis, Washbrook, R Dixon, Jubb, Teanby, Clarkson, Kirmond, Spears. Subs Brining, Stock, Cuthbertson, Scott.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).
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