THE ROYAL NAVY shocked Leigh Miners Rangers 32-24 in the Challenge Cup at Burnaby Road.
Victory over the Rangers, one of the most famous names in amateur rugby league, put the Seahawks just one win away from a possible tie with a Super League giant.
The hosts roared into a 32-0 lead early in the second half.
Not surprisingly the Lancashire side responded but Danny Johnson’s Navy outfit held out.
‘This is a huge day for Royal Navy rugby league,’ said head coach Johnson.
‘We are immensely proud of our team and are all still coming to terms with this result.
‘This is the FA Cup of the rugby league world and the oldest competition in the game.
‘There isn’t a more famous name in amateur rugby league than Leigh Miners Rangers but we rose to the occasion.
‘If we can get a kind draw in the next round where the championship teams come in, then there is no reason why we can’t make the following round.
‘We are just 80 minutes away from a dream scenario of possibly taking on one of the Super League giants at their ground. It is almost unthinkable.’
In a faultless opening 40 minutes, the home side scored 22 unanswered points.
Former St Helens full-back Darren Bamford chalked up a hat-trick of long-range tries.
Bamford was man of the match with his best-ever performance in a Royal Navy shirt.
Jon Humphrey slotted over three good kicks and Royal Marine Kitione Kamikamica shrugged off three defenders for a try on the stroke of half-time.
Two further tries from Kyle Larvin and Tim Vodonaivalu and a Bamford conversion continued the onslaught at the start of the second half.
Any ideas they could cruise home from that point were soon rudely interrupted by the wounded visitors, who were determined to restore some pride.
Suddenly the northerners launched a ferocious fightback, scoring four tries in 15 minutes to set up a thrilling finale.
Led by skipper Mark Robinson though, the Royal Navy dug deep to regain their composure and stave off the almost constant Miners pressure in the closing stages.
‘We have been threatening to do that for some time,’ said the head coach.
‘It shows the calibre of this team and what they are capable of.
‘I think Leigh Miners Rangers were more than a little surprised.’
The draw for the next round, which takes place on the weekend of March 24/25, is being made on Tuesday.