The Road to Cardiff

Powergen Challenge Cup glory beckons for 28 amateur teams when the second round takes place on Saturday.

Victory will secure a third round game against professional - or, possible, French or Russian - opposition in the third round.

All eyes will be on the Army following their crushing 38-8 victory on Humberside, over National Conference League giants West Hull. Indeed, in the 2000 campaign the Army progressed to the fourth round before going out to the professionals at Rochdale Hornets. The Army have to travel again, this time to Oldham to play Division Two team Waterhead.

Similarly, South London Storm, who defeated arch rivals West London Sharks in a first round non-stop thriller 24-20, now travel north to meet the powerful Conference Division One side Castleford Lock Lane.

Barrow Island receive Pennine Champions, Elland whilst the North West Counties Champions, Halton Simms Cross receive Thornhill Trojans, Premier Division pace setters, in what promises to be a titanic struggle between these two in-form sides.

Other Inter-County games include Haydock receiving Normanton Knights, Illingworth play Eccles & Salford Juniors, Rochdale Mayfield entertain Stanningley, East Hull travel to Thatto Heath, whilst Wigan St Judes receive BARLA?s oldest club Millom from Cumbria, with West Bowling and Hull Dockers proving an all Yorkshire clash.

One of the highlights of the second round is the tie between Lancashire National Conference League Premiers Oldham St Annes and Leigh Miners Rangers. The sides met in a league fixture at Higginshaw Road back in September when the Miners staged an astonishing recovery from 16 points down eight minutes before half time to beat the Saints 31-24 and completed the `double' with a 16-8 victory shortly before Christmas which ended Oldham's four-match winning run.

Oldham, however, are noted cup fighters and have appeared in the last two GMB Union BARLA National Cup Finals, winning two years ago against West Hull but missing out last May in a thriller.

Coach Chris Deakin said: "It was very close at our place, and just as hard at their place. Games between Oldham St Annes are always an arm-wrestle, played very hard on the pitch and with a good atmosphere afterwards. I'm glad we've got home advantage, that's all you can ask for really.

"It will be good to meet up with Miners coach Warren Ayres; we played together at Rochdale Hornets for four or five seasons and we always have a pint or two afterwards. With a bit of luck I'll be smiling over mine like a Cheshire cat!"

National Conference League pacesetters Wath Brow Hornets, who beat St Annes at Blackpool last season, visit Milford of Division One in an early re-acquaintance of sides that met last month in Cumbria in the National Cup. Hornets sauntered through that game 56-6 and player/coach Ian Rooney said: "Milford must be getting sick and tired of us."

Wath Brow will travel to Leeds with confidence, while Sharlston Rovers, who set the competition alight last year with the defeat of Dewsbury Rams, will also start as favourites at home to National Conference League Premiers Oulton Raiders.

The CMS Yorkshire League champions overcame Oulton in the Challenge Cup four years ago, nilling the Raiders in the process, and a big crowd is certain to gather in anticipation of a derby repeat.

Elsewhere, National Conference League champions Siddal host fellow Premiers Wigan St Patricks. South London Storm travel to Castleford Lock Lane, and the Army visit Waterhead.

Powergen Challenge Cup Round Two;

Barrow Island v Elland

Castleford Lock Lane v South London Storm

Halton Simms Cross v Thornhill Trojans

Haydock v Normanton Knights

Illingworth v Eccles & Salford Juniors

Milford Marlins v Wath Brow Hornets

Oldham St Annes v Leigh Miners Rangers

Rochdale Mayfield v Stanningley

Sharlston Rovers v Oulton Raiders

Siddal v Wigan St Patricks

Thatto Heath Crusaders v East Hull

Waterhead v The Army

West Bowling v Hull Dockers

Wigan St Judes v Millom