Royal Navy charting course to equal Challenge Cup record

09 Feb 22, 12:54PM 0 Comments

Written by Stuart McLennan

Photo by Royal Navy

The Royal Navy Rugby League team will look to equal the (Services Rugby League) Betfred Challenge Cup record in Portsmouth when they come up against York Acorn this weekend.

After defeating the well credentialed British Army side 14-10 in Round 2, the Navy have their sights set on progressing to Round 4 and equalling the record achieved by the Army in 2020.

For Navy coach Steve ‘Locky’ Lockton the win last week was a proud moment.

“Win, lose or draw I’m always proud of the players’ achievements. They sacrifice a lot to play rugby league and work hard to obtain time away from work. It’s always great to beat one of the other service sides but we still have a lot of work to do,” Lockton told Everything Rugby League.

“We pride ourselves on the ‘now’ and never really look back on history. This group of young players I have at the moment are trying to create their own (history) and if a 4th round Challenge Cup comes our way the young lads will take it.”

The ‘Brothers’, as they are known, will take on a York Acorn team fresh from a resounding 28-10 victory over Wests Warriors. Lockton is aware ‘the Corn’ will provide the Navy with a stern test.

“Playing any team from up north is hard and especially a team like York, they have a great history and always finish high in their league. I’m sure it will be a physical game on Saturday and every player will give their all due to the rewards for the winners. I haven’t looked at York’s previous games because you just don’t know what will happen in this competition.”

Rugby league was banned in the British armed forces from 1895 until the order was finally lifted in 1994, with the Navy forming a team in 1997. Services teams were invited to enter the Challenge Cup from 2000 onwards.

Royal Navy Rugby League will celebrate their 25 year anniversary with a dinner at the Village Hotel, Portsmouth in March.

Lockton acknowledges the operational side of running a Services rugby league team is challenging and says having good support staff is the key.

“The Navy has a great committee behind the team and a team manager who gives up a lot of his own time to get me the right players for each game. It’s always tough securing the players especially with the operations the Navy are currently in. Players have to work hard in their normal role, work extra hours and do additional duties to secure time off and it’s always easier the next time if the lads go back to work after a win.

Whatever the result on Saturday, Lockton will leave the ground proud of his young and relatively inexperienced team. He is confident of further success if the team can stay together.

“The most pleasing part of the last round’s win was how we never lost our belief and always knew we could beat a very senior Army side, who had been very successful over previous years.

“Over 50% of the Navy’s team who played the Army had only played 2-3 games in our jersey. Also the Navy had to remove itself from the Inter Service (competition) in 2021 due to the amount of players on operations.

“The future is bright for the Navy and if we keep this group of players together, they can go on and do something very special.”

*Royal Navy Rugby League vs York Acorn ARLFC Saturday 12 February (Kickoff 16:00 UK time). Winner to face Batley Bulldogs in Round 4. The match will be streamed live on the Our League Web and App.

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