The opening fixtures of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup are confirmed today, ahead of the competition returning with a new group stage format for 2024.
The opening fixtures of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup are confirmed today, ahead of the competition returning with a new group stage format for 2024. 13 England-based Championship clubs will join eight League One clubs in seven groups of three teams, with the top team in each group – plus the best-performing second-placed team – going forward to the quarter finals.
Holders Halifax Panthers, who held off a late comeback by Batley Bulldogs to win 12-10 at Wembley Stadium last August, begin their title defence with a trip to Boundary Park to face Oldham on Sunday 28 January before travelling to Rochdale Hornets the following weekend (4 February).
Batley, famously three-time winners of the Challenge Cup, including the first in 1897, will hope to go one step further this season and will begin with a home tie against Featherstone Rovers (Sunday 4 February) followed by a trip to Hunslet on Sunday 18. Daryl Powell will lead five-time Challenge Cup winners Wakefield Trinity as they make their debut in the competition against York Knights at the LNER Community Stadium on 4 February, before heading north to face Newcastle Thunder later that month (Sunday 18 February). 2023’s Betfred League One Champions Dewsbury Rams open their campaign at Cougar Park against Keighley Cougars, who were relegated from the Championship in 2023.
Laura Beaumont, Marketing Director at AB Sundecks, said: “We are really looking forward to kicking off the 2024 season with the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup – with the competition expanding it means that even more clubs can get a chance of playing at Wembley Stadium and I know from personal experience what a fabulous occasion it is. “The tournament will be entering its fifth year this season and with competition in both the Championship and League One so tight at the end of 2023 I think we are going to be in for a really exciting road to Wembley.”
Rhodri Jones, RL Commercial Managing Director, added: “We are delighted that AB Sundecks are continuing to support Rugby League and the 1895 Cup, and we look forward to working with them as the competition launches in January with the new look group format. Last year’s final between Halifax and Batley was a nail-biting encounter, and we can’t wait to see who makes it all the way in 2024.”
The seven groups have been seeded and regionalised, which means that Barrow Raiders, Whitehaven and Workington Town are all in the same group, with Town entertaining ‘Haven in the final group fixture on Sunday 18 February. League One clubs have been awarded home advantage in any fixtures against Championship opposition until the quarter finals.
In 2023 Halifax Panthers became the fourth different winners of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup from as many finals. The Panthers followed Leigh Centurions (as they were then known) in 2022, who beat Featherstone Rovers 30-16 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium; Rovers themselves in 2021 when they defeated York Knights 41-34 at Wembley Stadium and Sheffield Eagles, who were the inaugural winners in 2019 when they beat Widnes Vikings 36-18 Wembley.
The 2024 AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final is part of a Finals Day triple-header at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 8 June, alongside the finals of the Men’s and Women’s Challenge Cup. Tickets are available online now at rugby-league.com/tickets from only £15 Adults and £7.50 Under 16s, with family packages also available starting from just £18.75 for one Adult and two Under 16s.
AB Sundecks 1895 Cup group stage fixtures
Round One (28 January)
Workington Town v Barrow Raiders
Keighley Cougars v Dewsbury Rams
Newcastle Thunder v York Knights
Oldham RLFC v Halifax Panthers
Hunslet RLFC v Featherstone Rovers
North Wales Crusaders v Swinton Lions
Midlands Hurricanes v Doncaster RLFC
Round Two (4 February)
Whitehaven RLFC v Barrow Raiders
Dewsbury Rams v Bradford Bulls
York Knights v Wakefield Trinity
Rochdale Hornets v Halifax Panthers
Batley Bulldogs v Featherstone Rovers
Swinton Lions v Widnes Vikings
Doncaster RLFC v Sheffield Eagles
Round Three (18 February)
Workington Town v Whitehaven RLFC
Keighley Cougars v Bradford Bulls
Newcastle Thunder v Wakefield Trinity
Oldham RLFC v Rochdale Hornets
Hunslet RLFC v Batley Bulldogs
North Wales Crusaders v Widnes Vikings
Midlands Hurricanes v Sheffield Eagles