Andrew Jackson’s The Story Of Friday Night Lights

25th May 2022


WITH the 2006 game having been a success despite being a change to the fixture list during the season, Friday Night Lights was set a date from the off for 2007.

The opposition were York City Knights, who had been one of the consistently best-supported sides to come to New River over the previous five seasons.

With the Challenge Cup final returning to Wembley, there were also a large number of neutrals in the 1,288 crowd.

Unfortunately, the game was one-sided, Neil Lowe scoring a hat-trick after coming off the bench as the Knights won 0-34. The referee that night was Gareth Hewer who went onto take charge of the Challenge Cup final in 2016.

The referee for the 2007 Challenge Cup final was Ashley Klein. He was to referee the 2008 World Cup final, having been officating in the London League a few years earlier when he first came over from Australia.

The return of the final to Wembley saw a French side involved for the first-ever time, but it was St Helens who lifted the cup, winning 30-8.

They were to win again the following year, beating Hull 28-16.

The Friday Night Lights visitors that season were Keighley Cougars. Skolars led for most of the game, but a late try by Neil Lowe gave the Cougars a 14-18 victory.

The game saw a record crowd at New River of 1,427.

The Cougars were invited back in 2009. Skolars won just one game all season, that away from home at Workington, so the 10-28 defeat was one of the more upbeat performances that year.

The day after saw Warrington Wolves defeat Huddersfield Giants 25-16 in the Challenge Cup final.

Like York in 2007, Keighley won promotion in 2009, but returned to Friday Night Lights in 2011.

It was their second trip to New River that season having lost 18-16 in June. The visitors’ preparation was less than ideal, arriving five minutes before the scheduled kick-off time, but the 30 minute delay seemed to affect the home side more, with Jason Demetriou scoring after just four minutes and two late tries for Jake Normington sealing a 12-30 win.

The day after saw Wigan Warriors defeat Leeds Rhinos 28-18. The referee Phil Bentham had referred Skolars in the National Conference League in 2002.

Keighley’s final Friday Night Light visit to date came in 2018.

This time it was Skolars that came out firing. Neil Thorman put Sam Nash through a gap on the right, with Mike Bishay finishing off the move on five minutes. Two minutes later Daymeric Pelo dummied before touching down on the left flank.

A fumble by Lamont Bryan from the kick-off gave Cougars a chance to attack, but they lost possession early in the tackle count.

Skolars attacked on the right again, with Sam Nash going over out wide and Skolars were 14-0 up after twelve minutes. Omari Caro raced 80 metres after intercepting before the half hour and Skolars were 18-0 up at the break.

Heavy rain had started falling midway through the half and both sides struggled to control the ball the more the game
progressed. James Feather scored a late consolation try for the visitors, but a late Neil Thorman penalty saw Skolars triumph 20-6.
History was made the following day when Catalan Dragons lifted the Challenge Cup, a first for a French side, after beating Warrington Wolves 20-14.

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