Wales men’s league champions Bridgend Blue Bulls have drawn the Royal Navy at home in the first round of the 2022 Betfred Rugby League Challenge Cup.

The match will be played at Pyle RFC on the weekend of January 15/16.

The Welsh champions always enter the Cup in the first round and the Blue Bulls have finally broken the first round draw hoodoo. It’s the first home tie for a Welsh community club in this stage of the competition since 2015. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, only professional and semi-professional clubs entered last year’s competition.

“The Blue Bulls are extremely happy to be representing Wales and our community clubs in this historic competition,” said Bridgend chairman Jon Hansen. “As Chairman, I am excited at the prospect of our boys striving to be the best. The hard work begins now as our preparation has to be second to none to play a very strong team in the Navy. We welcome everyone to come to Pyle RFC to come down and enjoy the greatest game of all. Thanks also to the WRL and to the other community clubs for your continued support and hopefully we’ll see a big, vociferous Welsh crowd in January.”

For the first time ever, the second round draw of the Betfred Challenge Cup was made at the same time as the first, and if Bridgend, who qualified for the competition by beating Torfaen Tigers in the Welsh Grand Final earlier this year, can overcome the Navy, they could meet another armed forces side, as the winners of the Orrell St James v British Army clash await them.

The second round, which will be played on the weekend of January 29/30 sees the League 1 clubs entering the competition, and this means two more Welsh entrants. West Wales Raiders will host Swinton Lions, whilst North Wales Crusaders will travel to the winners of the Leigh Miners Rangers v Milford first round tie. The RFL Championship clubs enter the competition in the fourth round in the final weekend of February.

Regan Grace became the latest in a long line of Wales internationals to lift the Challenge Cup in 2021 when he played for St Helens in their Final victory. His St Helens side, along with ten other top level sides join the competition in the sixth round at the end of March. As with previous seasons, newly promoted Toulouse Olympique are once again not entering the competition.

The Final will be held at Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium on Saturday May 28.

First round draw: West Hull vs Upton, Featherstone Lions vs Hunslet Club Parkside, Leigh Miners Rangers vs Milford, Siddal vs Great Britain Police, Lock Lane vs Thatto Heath Crusaders, London Chargers vs Ellenborough Rangers, Thornhill Trojans vs RAF, Jarrow Vikings vs Wests Warriors, Galway Tribesmen vs Pilkington Recs (at Pilkington Recs), Edinburgh Eagles vs York Acorn, Rochdale Mayfield vs Wigan St Patricks, Bentley vs Stanningley, Bridgend Blue Bulls vs Royal Navy, Orrell St James vs British Army.

Second round draw: Edinburgh Eagles/York Acorn vs Jarrow Vikings/Wests Warriors, Rochdale Hornets vs Midlands Hurricanes, Doncaster vs Thornhill Trojans/RAF, Orrell St James/British Army vs Bridgend Blue Bulls/Royal Navy, Oldham vs Lock Lane/Thatto Heath Crusaders, Galway Tribesmen/Pilkington Recs vs Siddal/Great Britain Police, West Hull/Upton vs Rochdale Mayfield/Wigan St Patricks, Featherstone Lions/Hunslet Club Parkside vs Bentley/Stanningley, Hunslet vs Keighley Cougars, Leigh Miners Rangers/Milford vs North Wales Crusaders, West Wales Raiders vs Swinton Lions, London Skolars vs London Chargers/Ellenborough Rangers.

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