Last seasons cup run to Wembley provided us with two frantic encounters full of excitement. The extra time victory over Catalans was followed by a breath taking finish against Warrington in the semi final. Salford over came the odds in both matches with a never say die attitude.
The final at Wembley was just as thrilling. Old enemy Leeds were the opposition in a match that hung in the balance to the very last second. Perhaps last season wasn’t meant to be. After a 51 year wait supporters were cruelly denied the chance of a life time. 2020 was a strange season and I suppose the crumb of comfort you can take from losing that final is that the search for the holy grail goes on. How agonising would it of been if Salford had of won the cup with no one there to celebrate and share it.
Our 2021 campaign is a home tie with Championship side Widnes. This round of fixtures has thrown up some really intriguing matches. York City Knights host Wigan. St.Helens face Leeds, Featherstone Rovers will be looking to cause an upset at home to Hull and our local neighbours Swinton Lions are playing Warrington. The Super League takes much of the limelight and razzmatazz of the Rugby League season but for me you can’t beat the history and magic of the Challenge cup. So many great finals, so many great players and so many great memories have been witnessed. Let’s hope their are many more in the future.
Challenge Cup record.
1900 Salford 11 Widnes 0 Semi Final played at Fartown
1908 Salford 15 Widnes 2 1st Round
1912 Widnes 3 Salford 8 1st Round
1969 Salford 20 Widnes 7 Quarter final
1980 Salford 8 Widnes 9 Quarter final
1989 Salford 14 Widnes 18 1st Round
1998 Widnes 6 Salford 48 5th Round
2014 Salford 20 Widnes 30 5th Round
They played for both.
There are quite a lot to be honest so I’ve selected a few from years gone by and some from not so long ago.
Richie Barnett, keith Bentley, Eric Prescott, Craig Coleman, Jason Critchley, John Duffy, Cliff Eccles, Ensene Famailo, Joe Famailo, Matt Gardner, Aaron Moule, Adrian Hadley, Karl Hammond, Tim Hartley, Gareth Hock, Rangi Chase, David Hulme, Craig Makin, Stephen Myler, Richie Myler, Stephen Nash, Gareth O Brien, Terry O Connor, Kieran O Loughlin, Lokeni Savelio, Trevor Stockley, Kevin Tamati, David Myers, Steve Tyrer and Phil Waring.
David Hulme, a legend at Widnes, also gave great service to Salford at the back end of his career.
A match to remember Sunday 1st March 1998.
Widnes 6 Salford 48
When the draw was made this looked a tricky tie for Andy Gregory’s Salford Reds. After a very solid first season in Super League in 1997 Salford had strengthen their squad and arrived at Naughton Park in confident mood. Widnes were in the First Division and despite being the cup kings of the 1980s the club had fallen on some hard times. Widnes had won the Challenge cup in 1975, 1979, 1981 and 1984. They had also been runners up in 1982 and 1993.
The deft handling skills of Josh White and Martin Crompton and the dazzling midfield running of Steve Blakeley were a constant thorn in the Vikings’ side as Salford ran in nine tries.
The game was over as a contest by half-time as the visitors built up a 24-0 lead. Tries from Bradbury, Rogers, Blakeley and Naylor were complemented by four Blakeley conversions.
Steve Blakeley, a star performance in 1998.
The second-half was always likely to be a damage limitation exercise.
A record defeat threatened as Salford doubled their lead to 48-0 with 15 minutes still to play through a brace of tries apiece to substitutes Martin and Randall with Savelio also crossing the whitewash.
Widnes got on the scoresheet with a try from Jason Hunter with just over ten minutes remaining.
A big win for Salford set up a home tie in the Quarter finals against Hull.
The teams that day;
Widnes: Cross, Long, Bloem, Hunter, Smith, Wilson, Manihera, Makin, Howell, Measures, Harris, White, Myler.
Subs, Emery, Gartland, Briers, Connor.
Salford: Broadbent, Coussons, Naylor, Mcavoy, Rogers, Blakeley, White, Platt, Edwards, Eccles, Hulme, Bradbury, Crompton.
Subs, Martin, Randall, Savelio, E. Faimalo.
Referee, Robert Connolly
Widnes have made a solid start to 2021 progressing in the cup after comprehensive victories over West Wales and Whitehaven. The Vikings drew 30-30 away at Newcastle Thunder in a dramatic match to start their League campaign. Losing a 14 point lead in the final 10 minutes was disappointing with some big games coming up in the weeks to come. The Championship looks a very exciting competition. Featherstone and Toulouse are the bookmakers favourites but Widnes have plenty of experience in their squad to be in with a chance.
Former Salford half back Matty Smith is now with The Vikings along with Steve Tyrer, Logan Tomkins, Lee Jewitt and Adam Lawton who’ve both pulled on the Red shirt in previous seasons. Widnes coach Simon Finnigan is also a former Salford player having played at The Willows between 2005-2007. Finnigan has coached Newcastle Thunder as well as being assistant at Toronto Wolfpack.
The 2021 Widnes squad has a large contingent of young players that the club will be hoping to nurture over the coming seasons.
Salford have started the new Super League season with two defeats to St.Helens and Hull respectively. The Red Devil’s gave a good account of themselves in the Saints game with individual errors eventually proving costly. The Hull game was a different kettle of fish. After a tight opening quarter Salford alarmingly unraveled with the Airlie Birds clicking into gear recording a 4-35 victory.
Playing games behind closed doors isn’t ideal and for new coach Richard Marshall it must be difficult not having the supporters behind him in the stands. Usually when a new coach takes over he’s announced to the supporters and there is always a reaction from the players, an energy and buzz that can be worth a win or two. With the current situation of crowds returning on the horizon it’s definitely something for the players and coaching staff to look forward to.
Despite Widnes being a league below Salford this match could be a potential banana skin. The Red Devils will need to work hard and do the basics right. Widnes will be full of energy looking for the upset.
The importance of the match can not be underestimated. The winners are through to the last eight, the quarter finals. The Challenge Cup is a magical competition. In a way Salford were cheated last year in what was a bittersweet situation. A first Wembley final in 51 years and supporters couldn’t attend. The build up in Wembley week was very exciting but just imagine how good it would be in 2021 once crowds are allowed to savour the day and attend the match.
We can’t think that far ahead and their is a job to be done on Saturday first and foremost.
The action gets under at 12:15.
Keep safe and enjoy the match.