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Saturday, 04 July 2015

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Millom forced out of Challenge Cup

MILLOM have been forced to concede their Challenge Cup first round tie against Blackbrook.

WIPED OUT: Millom coach Anthony Murray on the frozen Askam pitch, which was unfit for play 10 days ago HARRY ATKINSON REF: 50041853B001

The St Helens side have advanced into round two of the competition after the Woollybacks declined to fulfil the fixture last weekend.

The game had already been twice postponed due to adverse weather conditions, with a frozen pitch at Askam ruling out any chance of play 10 days ago.

Both clubs agreed to try again in early February, but the competition bosses at the RFL demanded the game be played last weekend, an order Millom were both unwilling and unable to comply with.

The Maroons had hoped to follow the example of the Tri-Series County Championship game between Cumbria and Lancashire.

That too was called off at the weekend, due to Lancashire claiming they could not raise a team.

Cumbria bosses were willing to accommodate them and, in a gesture of goodwill, officials pushed the game back to the new year.

However, RFL policy is that a postponed Challenge Cup game must be played as quickly as possible after a postponement, even though the next round of the competition is still more than two months away.

Millom declined to fulfil the fixture as instructed by the competition chiefs and consequently had no choice but to offer the game to Blackbrook.

Coach Anthony Murray could not hide his frustration at the turn of events.

He said: “I am massively gutted by the RFL’s decision.

“We went along with their wishes of going to summer rugby, pulling away from the winter campaign, and here they are now trying to force us to play a game in December, when our season should have been completed in October.

“It has been a long season for our players, they have had enough and just want a break.

“What is the rush to play the game – it’s not as if the next round is next week, it’s not until February!

“Lads have other commitments on the assumption the season would have been over and, with the tie clashing with the County Championship, it was becoming a headache.

“We could not play lads who were to play for the county the same weekend and we had several players in the county squads – enough is enough.

“Millom are a club that has never cancelled games other than for a genuine reason, and this game could have been delayed until next year.

“It’s the same with the county games. Why did they have to be played so late this season and clash with the Challenge Cup? I believe a BARLA tour overseas doesn’t go ahead until mid or late-summer – surely players in contention should be judged on performances next season and not this.”

Millom have been grateful to their rugby union friends at Wilson Park for allowing games to go ahead towards the close of the league season and to Askam for their offer to play the tie.

The Woollybacks were hoping to emulate great Challenge Cup runs of years past.

In 1973, they ran Hunslet close at Devonshire Road in the first round of the competition and in the 1980s, they went down 33-10 to Hull at the Boulevard against a team that was full of top grade players.

Millom treasurer Garry Kelly was disappointed at being unable to set up another tie with professional opposition.

He said: “With the season running on and on and Millom RL having problems trying to find a ground for the tie as our own is out of action due to redevelopment, it was felt the ultimatum to play the game last weekend was not in our interests.

“Obviously, we are very disappointed with the outcome as we have a long history with the competition.”

l Fred Chester, a stalwart of Askam RL for many years, has died in Furness General Hospital. He was 89.

Sons Mike and Peter both played for the Askam club.

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