Army second round Challenge Cup win 2018

Army v Kells Preview: Military Men On Cusp Of Rugby League History

The Army's rugby league players could make history this weekend by becoming the first forces side to reach the fourth round of the Challenge...

Army second round Challenge Cup win 2018

The Army's rugby league players could make history this weekend by becoming the first forces side to reach the fourth round of the Challenge Cup.

Forces Network Sports Editor Jon Knighton has been looking ahead to their game with National Conference League side Kells...

It's a long road from Aldershot to Old Arrowthwaite, the Whitehaven, Cumbria, home of Kells A.R.L.F.C.

But the Army's rugby league players know the journey could be worth it.

There is a place at stake in the fourth round of the Challenge Cup, something that has eluded them (and the Royal Navy and RAF teams) for the two decades they have been in the competition.

On the five previous occasions the Army has reached round three, it has come up against the brick wall of professional league sides.

Back in 2000, the Army met Rochdale Hornets, who won 66-6. The Hornets progressed to round five that year.

It took another eight seasons for the Army's players to get into round three again.

The Army kicked off its 2018 campaign with a 48-10 win over Milford Marlins

This time they met Oldham, who beat them 56-10. Not to be denied, the Army gritted its teeth the following season and again made it through to round three.

There they faced the might of Featherstone Rovers, one of the most famous clubs in rugby league.

Despite taking an early 2-0 lead, the Army players were swamped by the professionals, conceding 94 points by the end of the game.

Amazingly, two years later in 2011, the Army - who had beaten Featherstone Lions (an amateur club from the same small West Yorkshire village) in round two - drew Rovers again.

This time they lost 86-0 - an improvement, albeit a small one! 

Their last excursion into round three came in 2014 but again ended in defeat, the final results 62-12 against Doncaster.

Army rugby league Challenge Cup second round win 2018
Michael Hoyle's kicking was key in the second round

This time could be their first realistic chance of reaching the fourth round.

Kells have a great history themselves, having risen from the National Conference League Division Three to its Premier Division in successive seasons.

Between 2014 and 2016 its players made round three themselves and two years ago they reached the fourth round after beating Hemel Stags.

They came up against Oldham, losing 40-4.

For both teams, the Challenge Cup is really out of season. The Inter-Services rugby league competition is in September and for Kells the Conference campaign has not started yet.

Both, however, have had great results in this season's Ladbrokes Challenge Cup. 

The Army are top scorers after two rounds, amassing 74 points in their 48-10 win over Milford Marlins in the first round and the 26-14 victory over London Chargers in the second.

Kells have seen off the British Police 40-8 and Orrell St James 8-6 to get to the third round.

Unlike the Royal Navy and RAF, who both went out in heartbreaking fashion on golden extra-time drop goals, the Army's victories were never really in doubt.

That's something head coach Ben Taylor will be stressing in the all-too-brief time he spends with the full squad in Liverpool before they head to Cumbria.

The Army is quite capable of winning.

Army rugby league Challenge Cup second round win 2018
They may have seen off London Chargers - but can they now take the next step?

But why is making round four so important? The answer is simple. It sends them closer to the possibility of playing a Super League team. 

Four of them will join in round five, with the rest entering in round six. Before that, 11 Championship sides will enter the fray in the fourth round.

For the professional boys entering the Challenge Cup at this stage, it means dreaming of Wembley.

Just imagine the Army vs Warrington Wolves, St Helens, Castleford, Wigan or Hull FC. It's an unlikely, but mouthwatering and historic prospect!

The game kicks off at 2pm UK time on Saturday. Why not go along and support the Army?

Soldiers first, great sportsmen second...

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