Navy ready to launch Challenge Cup assault

Darren Bamford. Picture: Mick Young
Darren Bamford. Picture: Mick Young
Luke Simmons slides in for the opening try. Picture: Neil Marshall (171730-1)

Portsmouth closing in on Twickenham dream

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Royal Navy open their season with an attractive Challenge Cup tie against Walney Central at Burnaby Road tomorrow (1pm).

New coach Steve Lockton and director of rugby Dave Garner are expecting a tough baptism from their Barrow-in-Furness-based visitors.

Walney were Cumbrian League champions last season and are also celebrating their 80th anniversary as a senior amateur club.

Services are looking to recapture the glories of their run to the third round of the rugby league competition two years ago.

During that charge they beat top amateur side Leigh Miners Welfare before giving a good account of themselves against Championship outfit Hunslet.

After a disappointing season last year, Services are determined to show a big improvement.

‘We have re-energised with a new coach and director of rugby,’ said Services spokesman Keith Humpleby.

‘They have been able to draw on the experience of a number of players who missed last season’s inter-services tournament because of their service duties.

‘At our training camp last week we had 25 to 30 players who could easily play each week.

‘Competition is tough for places and that can only be good.

‘A number of them are experienced players but they have not had the chance to play in the Challenge Cup before.

‘It won’t be an easy game because Walney will want to get their anniversary celebrations off to a flying start.’

A key figure making a welcome reappearance is full-back Darren Bamford, who scored a hat-trick of tries in their famous win over the Miners.

In his earlier days Bamford was with Super league outfit St Helen’s Academy and his experience is invaluable to the players around him.

‘It is not just his own ability but his ability to keep everyone else on their toes that is important,’ said Humpleby.

‘We are looking to have another good run.

‘The aim of everyone at our level is to reach the fourth round when the big guns of the Super League come in.’

Admission is free.