x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Rugby league minnows must be allowed their big day out

The amateur and part-time players from smaller teams relish the chance of playing a leading club. The prospect of them turning out at a top ground would be a highlight of their careers.

Wigan Warriors' success this year has been built on good defence.
Wigan Warriors' success this year has been built on good defence.

A 98-4 score is not the best advertisement for any sporting competition. However, suggestions that lower-level teams should be prevented from playing Super League sides in rugby league's Challenge Cup are complete nonsense.

The magic of knockout competitions is the chance of seeing a giant-killing performance.

Football supporters still talk about non-league Hereford United's 2-1 extra-time triumph over elite side Newcastle United in an English FA Cup third-round replay in 1972.

The 94-point victory margin by the Wigan Warriors over the North Wales Crusaders at the weekend does not disgrace the Welsh side. The Warriors are full-time professionals, the Crusaders are not.

But the amateur and part-time players from smaller teams relish the chance of playing a leading club. The prospect of them turning out at a top ground would be a highlight of their careers.

"I'm sure that the Crusaders players have gained so much experience playing against the Wigan players," Iestyn Harris, the Wigan assistant coach, said. "There's nothing wrong with having these contests in the early rounds."

And upsets do happen in the Challenge Cup. Lower league Featherstone beat Super League-Castleford in a thrilling fourth round encounter.

Their reward? A home tie against the cup holders Wigan. Now, that's the magic of the cup.

sentwistle@thenational.ae

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