Comeback Kings: RAF Beat Drighlington To Reach Challenge Cup Second Round

The RAF has come from behind to beat Drighlington 12-4, to win the team's first Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie in more than five years...

The RAF has come from behind to beat Drighlington 12-4, to win the team's first Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie in more than five years.

The Army was also successful in Aldershot, meaning two of the three British forces rugby league sides have made it through to the second round of the competition.

The Air Force players in action at RAF Cranwell, however, knew they'd have to out-tackle their opponents, who play in rugby league's sixth tier, while facing a stiff wind in the first half.

For the first quarter of an hour, they were virtually camped inside the visitors' half.

RAF rugby league Challenge Cup Win vs Drighlington 2018

They drove the ball forward time and again, only to be frustrated by some terrific defence from the West Yorkshire side.

Drighlington came into the came as the first half progressed, however, and the RAF had to defend their line on several occasions.

And just when it looked like the sides would be level 0-0 at half-time, the visitors struck with a well-worked Jake Dearden try, leaving Drighlington 4-0 up at the break.

But RAF heads didn't drop after so much first-half possession had yielded so little and virtually from the restart, they levelled things.

Some good work from Sam Breeze set up the slippery Cornell Barningham and Nathan Barker went over for a well-deserved try in the corner to level things up.

RAF rugby league Challenge Cup Win vs Drighlington 2018

The second half was as tight as the first had been, with no quarter given by either side.

Then there was a moment of inspiration from RAF scrum-half Barningham, who collected the ball and saw an opportunity.

The pace of the number 9 was superb as he left the visitors for dead and raced to the line, before Adam Flintham put the ball between the posts to extend the forces outfit's lead to 10-4.

Then, virtually on full-time, Drighlington gave away a penalty for a high tackle by Peter Everitt on Josh Scott.

Flintham duly took the opportunity to add another two points, leaving the final score 12-4 and sending the RAF through.


RAF skipper Senior Aircraftman Jake Starbuck told Forces Network: "They're a National [Conference League Division] Two team... and you could tell today.

"But I'm proud of our lads, very proud. We've not been in [the] second round for a while and today we really wanted to... and now we want to get even further."

RAF Rugby League chairman Wing Commander Lee Gordon, meanwhile, said: "We've played Drig quite a few times over the years now and it's always really close.

"We've got a great relationship between the clubs and to play them today and come out victorious in the Challenge Cup is phenomenal."

So the RAF go into the second-round draw and on this form, in the Air Force's centenary year, the team will fancy anyone on their home pitch.

RAF Air Commodore Dean Andrew, president of the Rugby Football League, the governing body of the sport in England, spoke to Jon Knighton on the eve of the second round draw. You can take a look below...

Elsewhere the Royal Navy suffered a heartbreaking 12-11 defeat at the hands of Normanton Knights in Portsmouth.

The scores were level at 11-11 after 80 minutes, but the Knights scored a 'golden' drop goal in extra time to go through (keep your eyes on Forces Network throughout the week for full highlights of that game).

The Army joins the RAF in the hat for round two of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup, however.

Its stars saw off Leeds-based Milford Marlins 48-10 in a feisty encounter at Aldershot.

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