As expected, it wasn’t easy as Barrow Raiders had to dig deep to overcome a stubborn London Skolars outfit in the Challenge cup last weekend, writes Tony Colyer.

It was 20-18 on the hour mark but Barrow managed to go up a gear and pull away to a 38-18 victory and a trip to Championship favourites Featherstone Rovers today in the fourth Round.

I managed to catch the highlights and it looked like the remnants of ‘Storm Dennis’ played its part in restricting free-flowing rugby, but the exception was the 90-metre dash from Tee Ritson and it is hoped that he wins ’Our League’ try of the week.

I was on commentary duty at Derwent Park where National Conference League amateurs West Bowling, from Bradford, nearly pulled off the surprise of the round in similar weather conditions by running Workington Town close 28-22.

It was a fabulous performance and if they just had a bit more discipline they could well have won. Town’s prize is a home tie against fellow League One title hopefuls Doncaster tomorrow.

Barrow will be looking to repeat their best performance of last season; Rovers were riding high and had won six on the bounce, but Barrow came away with a surprise 38-16 victory with man-of-the-match Luke Cresswell getting a hat trick

Rovers are firm favourites for the Championship title and last week demonstrated their strength with an impressive 30-22 win against Bradford Bulls.

After running Toronto Wolfpack close in last year’s promotion play-off final, they have upped their recruitment with the addition of ex-Raiders favourite Alec Susino and his Australian mate Dean Parata, who played for Barrow in the 2018 season and was recruited from Toulouse Olympique.

Also acquired was Sheffield Eagles star man Ben Blackmore, Hull KR’s goal-kicking winger Craig Hall, French half back Louis Jouffret from Batley and ex-Super League forward Brett Ferres from Leeds Rhinos.

They also have a new coach in former Wakefield boss James Webster, who left his role as assistant coach of Hull KR and has signed a two-year deal as the successor to the impressive Ryan Carr, who went back to Australia for family reasons.

So, Barrow are the firm underdogs and have nothing to lose. All the pressure is on Rovers who are missing their key playmaker Dane Chisholm due to suspension and if Barrow can stay disciplined and complete their sets it should be competitive.

For those of you of a certain age, I’m sure the tie also stirs some memories of the last time Barrow reached the Challenge Cup final at Wembley stadium in 1967, when they were beaten by Featherstone Rovers 17-12 in front of 76,290 spectators.

Played on the same turf as England had won the football World Cup less than 12 months earlier, I remember watching on our black-and-white TV with my dad, who I remember saying: “They wouldn’t have won if Willie Horne was still playing!”

Barrow’s team that day, led by player-coach Jim Challinor, was Eddie Tees, Bill Burgess, Challinor, Harry Hughes, Mike Murray, Tom Brophy, Ged Smith, Ivor Kelland, Maurice Redhead, Ray Hopwood, Mike Sanderson, Henry Delooze and Mike Watson.

There were no substitutes, which is hard to believe; imagine having to play for 80 minutes without being interchanged.

Will we ever return to Wembley? Probably never in the Challenge Cup but there is always a chance in the 1895 Cup final, which again is being staged at Wembley and this year will be played before the Challenge Cup final, instead of after.

The competition will have a fresh look with three Community clubs from the National Conference League Premier Division joining; West Hull, York Acorn and Underbank Rangers.

The first-round draw will be held in Cumbria on March 18 with Barrow in the hat and is due to be played on the weekend of April 18-19.