Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
| Help
Last Updated: Thursday, 17 February 2005, 10:23 GMT
Eagles re-united in Challenge Cup
by Julian Shea

The BBC Sport website has been following the fortunes of one club in the Powergen Challenge Cup since the competition began at the start of January.

West London Sharks were our first pick but, after beating Fife Lions in the preliminary round, they fell to city rivals South London Storm in round one.

Now we focus on the Storm as they look to keep their Cardiff dream alive against Castleford Lock Lane.

Mark Aston and Paul Broadbent celebrate Sheffield's 1998 Cup victory

Sheffield Eagles' 1998 Challenge Cup Final win over Wigan was a special day for Matt Crowther and Rob Powell.

For player Crowther, it was the highlight of his career. For fan Powell, it was a day-out in London and a day-off his A-Level revision.

This Saturday, they meet as coaches when Crowther's Castleford Lock Lane take on Powell's South London Storm in the Cup second round.

Few clubs can match Lock Lane when it comes to Challenge Cup tradition.

Ex-Great Britain captain Harry Poole and Paul Broadbent both lifted the Cup having started out at Lock Lane, and the club holes the record for the most consecutive third-round appearances by an amateur side - eight, from 1995-2002.

Current coach Crowther told BBC Sport the magic of the Cup still exists at Lock Lane.

"In my time associated with the club, they've never played as well as they do in the Challenge Cup," he said.

"They won't need any motivating from me, if anything I'll have to calm them down."

A Cup winner in 1998, Crowther could reasonably have hoped to still be playing in 2005 until fate intervened on 5 May 2003, the day before his 29th birthday.

Playing for Hull at Castleford Tigers, he suffered a career-ending leg break, and now combines a full-time physiotherapy degree with coaching Lock Lane.

For me, the Challenge Cup is definitely as good as it gets
Castleford LL's Matt Crowther

"After my injury, I had about six months of not going to games, then the job came up just as I was getting back on my feet," he says.

"It was a way of still being involved, and I'm with my friends as well. I thought I might be too laid-back for it, but I'm really enjoying it."

Powell's playing career was also ended by injury, at the age of 19.

Raised in a union part of Sheffield, he only played league briefly at university before injury turned him towards coaching.

In his three years in charge of the Newcastle University side, they won the North East Cup and twice competed in the Challenge Cup.

Now, at the ripe old age of 24, he already has serious career ambitions.

"I want to coach at the highest level possible," he says.

"I appreciate I'm very young but I've learnt a lot in a short time. Coaching full-time at a professional club, in however many years, is my long-term goal."

Powell is realistic enough to admit the odds do not favour his team on Saturday, however.

As long as it's a positive experience, that's winning for me

South London coach Rob Powell

"This is the biggest challenge I've faced so far. It's a completely different ball game to coaching at university level," he says.

"They're in a BARLA winter competition whilst we're in an RFL summer league, so it's hard to compare the level of the teams.

"My biggest concern is that they're coming into the game at the peak of their season, whilst it's still pre-season for us. We're doing game-specific training when we should just be doing conditioning."

Crowther admits the timing of the match may favour his side.

"Both sides will be a bit blind about one another, but they're used to summer rugby so maybe that'll help us," he says.

It also seems the Storm have caught Lock Lane at the strongest point of their season.

"Up front, we take some beating. We've had problems at half-back but I think we've got the blend we need now, and once we get a settled team, we'll be one of the best teams in the Conference," says Crowther.

But for Powell, Saturday is about more than just the scoreline.

"As a coach, I like improving people. If the lads get good experience and lose, that's not the end of the world. If they learn from it, they're better players," he says.

"If we train hard and have the right frame of mind, we can beat then. If not, we'll get turned over. As long as it's a positive experience, that's winning for me."

Whilst Powell is already setting out long-term plans, Crowther's injury taught him life is not so straight forward.

But at least he had the joy of lifting the Cup at Wembley, and that, for him, is what you play the game for.

"The Grand Final may be the ultimate accolade, but I still find it hard to compare it to the Challenge Cup," he says.

"When I was a boy, to go and see Castleford at Wembley was the biggest thing. Youngsters may have grown up with the Final being on the road, but I can't wait for it to get back to Wembley.

"For me, the Challenge Cup is definitely as good as it gets."

Castleford Lock Lane play South London Storm on Saturday (1330 GMT) at Lock Lane Sports Centre, Castleford

Challenge Cup makes capital gain
02 Feb 05 |  Challenge Cup
Cup draw throws up London derby
20 Jan 05 |  Challenge Cup
Clubs start long road to Cardiff
17 Jan 05 |  Challenge Cup
Animal magic as Lions face Sharks
12 Jan 05 |  Challenge Cup

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail services | Sport on mobiles/PDAs


Back to top

Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability Sport | Olympics 2012 | Sport Relief | Other Sport...

BBC Sport Academy >> | BBC News >> | BBC Weather >>
About the BBC | News sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy | Contact us
banner watch listen bbc sport