Rugby Union: Lynx stay on safer ground

Dave Hadfield finds an amateur side who offered to host the professiona ls in the cup
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AT THE end of a typically turbulent week in rugby league, it should be a relief to turn to the traditional virtues of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup.

The weekend that brings professional clubs into competition with the surviving amateurs is a reminder of the different levels at which the code thrives. But in at least one tie there will be - perhaps especially to followers of Newcastle United and Stevenage Borough - an original twist.

When the amateurs of West Hull were drawn at second division Lancashire Lynx, their first reaction was to "do a Dalglish" in reverse by inviting the professionals to give up home advantage and play the match on Humberside, at Hull FC's Boulevard ground.

It was worth a try, but few could blame the Lynx for politely declining the offer. After all, it is only two years since the National Conference side beat both Highfield and York to become the first amateurs to advance into the last 16 at the expense of two senior clubs. Lancashire's coach, the former New Zealand Test prop Kevin Tamati, admits that West Hull's guaranteed following on Humberside would have made the switch financially advantageous.

"But, given our away record last season, it would have been suicide to play them there," he said. "I don't want it carving on my tombstone: 'Beaten by amateurs'."

That is not to say that the Preston-based side will automatically expect to win, even at Deepdale, but the odds are undeniably better. Other professional sides who should approach this third round with some trepidation include Doncaster and York.

Doncaster, whose existence is among the more precarious features of the professional divisions, have to contend with Featherstone Lions, who are unbeaten this season in the second division of the National Conference, whilst York, beaten by amateurs in the last two seasons, try to avoid an ignominious hat-trick against the Humberside club, Norland.

Folly Lane, whose clubhouse is next door to what was once Swinton's Station Road ground, now a housing estate, go to their old neighbours' present home at Gigg Lane, Bury, for a tie with an abundance of local resonance.

One professional side is destined to go out at the rebuilt Halton Stadium - Naughton Park as was - where Widnes play host to Oldham. "They are always a tough side in the cup and they have a lot of spirit since being re-formed," said the Widnes coach, Graeme West, who is relieved to have work permits that will allow him to play two new signings, the former South Sydney centre, Shane Vincent, and the Maori loose forward, Tani Hanihera, who was formerly with Carlisle.