The current Conference National summer champions host top National Conference League Premier Division side Wath Brow Hornets at Huddersfield YMCA on Sunday in the second round of the Carnegie Challenge Cup (2.00).
At stake is a place in the third round of rugby league’s most famous knockout competition and the chance to lock horns with the likes of Halifax, Batley, Dewsbury, Featherstone and Leigh.
It’s the first time Underbank have come this close to playing in such a major Challenge Cup clash.
But after finishing last season as the Conference National minor champions and then going on to win the Grand Final at Warrington Wolves’ Halliwell Jones Stadium, coach Richard Knight is confident his players have what it takes to produce another big performance when it really matters.
Rangers managed that in the last round when they destroyed National Conference First Division side Stanley Rangers 48-10, and Knight knows that will add to his players’ confidence ahead of facing the big guns from Cumbria.
“Wath Brow have been one of the leading amateur clubs for a number of years and we know we’re going to need to be at our very best to beat them,” said an excited Knight.
“But we know we can do it.
“We’ve shown with our win in last season’s Grand Final that we can handle playing on the bigger stage, and I’m sure when the prize is as big as it is this weekend the players won’t need any motivating at all.
“This weekend’s tie gives us the opportunity to come up against a semi-professional club in the next round, and that’s just one game away from a dream date against a Super League side.
“That’s how big Sunday’s game is. It’s a way of taking the profile of Underbank Rangers to a whole new level.”
Knight is forced into making changes to the side that won so well against Stanley in the previous round.
While centre Michael Lang is unavailable this weekend, hooker Joe Worthington has been ruled out for six months with a cruciate knee injury and prop Dave Valentine is sidelined for at least a month with knee ligament damage.
They are three big losses.
But with Andy Boothroyd, Alex Chatterton and Jayden Covell-Wood ready to return, Knight knows he’s got excellent cover.
“You never want to lose players, particularly when they’re through long-term injuries,” he added.
“Unfortunately, this is part and parcel of the game, so it’s important you have the right quality of cover to deal with such losses, and that’s what we’ve got for this weekend.
“Even though the injuries have come as a blow to everyone, the spirit in the camp remains incredibly high. In fact, Wednesday’s training session was probably the best we’ve had all year.
“We’ve put some new systems in place for this season, and everything has clicked far quicker than we could have hoped.
“All being well, that’ll be the case again this weekend and we can claim what would be an historic victory for the club.”
Rugby League Writer (Huddersfield Examiner)