1895 Cup final analysis - Pre-match chaos can’t prevent Featherstone and York from serving up lunchtime treat

Many people may have initially wondered about the merits of the 1895 Cup but that cannot be the case now.

Many people may have initially wondered about the merits of the 1895 Cup but that cannot be the case now.

Developed to give clubs outside of Super League the chance to play at Wembley, it arrived with little fanfare and some bemused looks when Sheffield Eagles defeated Widnes Vikings in its inaugural year 2019.

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Covid meant it did not happen last season but it returned on Saturday when Featherstone Rovers and York City Knights produced a thrilling final and occasion.

Played before the Challenge Cup final - unlike two years ago when strangely positioned after the main event - and with thousands of fans from the respective clubs creating a vibrant atmosphere, it proved a real success.

Featherstone, as expected given their 100 per cent winning record in the Championship, prospered 41-34 but York played their part with the fixture only given the go-ahead after the City Knights passed their last Covid tests on the morning of the game.

There was so much drama and intrigue even before kick-off.

For instance, Featherstone captain James Lockwood travelled to London with the team on Friday, then immediately headed back north on a train from Kings Cross after his wife Stacey went into labour.

We've done it!: 1895 Cup Winners Featherstone Rovers with captain James Lockwood lifting the trophy. Picture Bruce Rollinson

It turned out to be a false alarm, though, and the prop caught a 5.30am train back to the capital on Saturday, rejoining the team at 8.15am.

Lockwood, 35, went on play a pivotal role in the final, setting up one try for Craig Kopczak, and lifted the trophy as Featherstone - playing at Wembley for the first time since their 1983 Challenge Cup win - shrugged off the loss of so many players to Covid-related reasons to complete the job.

He eventually became a dad for the second time on Saturday night by which point team-mates were well into their celebrations.

“For someone under pressure and with the world on his shoulders he certainly put in a massive performance and led from the front,” said assistant Paul March, in charge after head coach James Webster also caught Covid.

Four-some: Fa'amanu Brown scores Rovers' fourth try at Wembley. Picture Bruce Rollinson

But there was so many other stories, too, on a remarkable day for the West Yorkshire club.

Given so many players were absent, Featherstone needed to look to some of their rookies meaning former Castleford Tigers academy product Joe Summers came off the bench to make his senior debut – at Wembley of all places.

Young winger Jacob Doyle scored a brace of tries in only his second senior game while a third Castleford academy product Jake Sweeting impressed at hooker.

Full-back Craig Hall only came out of isolation on the day of the game and travelled down to Wembley on his own before claiming man of the match with a try and six goals.

Points feast: Kriss Brining scores a try for York. Picture Bruce Rollinson

March said: “That was another massive effort. Big occasions mean big time players come out.

“Jacob did well on his debut when we played Sheffield and for him to come in and score two tries at Wembley is really good.

“Joe Summers isn’t going to want to play anywhere else, after making his debut at Wembley.

“When he plays at Fev he’ll be wondering what all the hype is about! I am chuffed for him.”

March - who spoke of his “honour” at leading Rovers out - will take the trophy out into the community today as part of his dual-role as a development officer.

Hundreds of fans emerged on the town’s streets to wave them off for Wembley and he said: “It showed on Friday what it means to everybody.

What is means: Jake Sweeting celebrates his opening try for Featherstone. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“Schools were out, there were people down Station Lane and the full community spirit was there. I am going to go into schools (on Monday) and I will have the trophy with me.

“It is about educating the youngsters that Featherstone Rovers are one of the top teams and you support your local team. I am glad we have done it for them, as well as ourselves.”

Featherstone had seen their 22-10 interval lead chalked off after Kriss Brining and Jason Bass tries but they hit back with 18 points inside just eight minutes to take control.

James Harrison and Nu Brown struck in that period and Dane Chisholm had also scored the first try of the game.

York - on a six game losing run - had their own selection issues but produced some great rugby with Ben Jones-Bishop, Perry Whiteley, Mikey Lewis and Marcus Stock their other scorers.

Coach James Ford said: “I’m really proud. We gave ourselves the opportunity to win the game with two tries in the second half. But Featherstone have such threats.”

Featherstone Rovers: Hall, Gale, Hardcastle, Davies, Doyle, Brown, Chisholm, Kopczak, Sweeting, Lockwood, Harrison, Ferres, McConnell. Subs Spence, Cooper, Field, Summers.

York City Knights: K Dixon, Jones-Bishop, Dow-Nikau, Bass, Whiteley, Lewis, Washbrook, R Dixon, Jubb, Teanby, Clarkson, Kirmond, Spears. Subs Brining, Stock, Cuthbertson, Scott.

Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).