Cup Rules and Match Card

County Cup Rules and Match Card for Season 2019-20 can be downloaded from the foot of this page.   (Rules are as per the 2018-19 County Handbook.)


Rules of the Challenge Cup Competitions

1.        The Competitions

The following Competitions are under the jurisdiction of Northumberland Rugby Football Union:

The Northumberland County Rugby Football Challenge Cup hereinafter called No.1.

The Northumberland County Rugby Football Challenge Plate hereinafter called the Plate.

The Northumberland County Rugby Football Number 2 Challenge Cup hereinafter called No.2.

The Northumberland County Rugby Football Junior Challenge Cup hereinafter called No.3.

The Northumberland County Rugby Football Junior Challenge Shield hereinafter called No.4.

The Northumberland County Rugby Football Number 5 Challenge Cup hereinafter called No.5.

1.1      The above competitions are open to all member Clubs and teams in Northumberland.  The Northumberland Competitions Committee will, after due consideration of each team’s performance in the various leagues, cup competitions, and friendly games of the previous season, place a team in a Challenge Cup Competition of an appropriate standard.

2.       Management of the Competitions

2.1      The Competitions shall be played in accordance with the rules of the Rugby Football Union and with the "Laws of the game of Rugby Football".

2.2      The Competitions will be managed by the Northumberland Competitions Committee, hereinafter called the Committee, which shall have control over the cup competitions and shall conduct the business connected therewith. This shall include the power to disqualify or otherwise take such actions as it considers appropriate against any Club or player found to be in breach of these Rules.

2.3      The Committee shall have the power to alter or add to the Rules of the Competitions subject to ratification by the County Committee.

2.4      All questions of qualification of competitors and interpretation of Rules shall be referred to the Competitions Committee through the County Administrator.

2.5      Any matters needed to be addressed urgently may be dealt with by a sub committee of the Competitions Committee consisting of at least three members. 

2.6      Any complaint or protest about the failure of any Club to observe the Rules of the competitions, or the spirit of the game in the interpretation of these Rules, must be submitted in writing to the Committee within seven days of the alleged breach. This requirement does not preclude the right of the Committee to investigate and take action upon any alleged breach or misinterpretation of the Rules which comes to its attention.

2.7      Clubs desirous of entering any Competition must complete the entry form and return it to the County office before the date specified on the form. The draws for all rounds will be made by the Competitions Committee.

2.8      The first drawn Club in the case of Club First teams shall have the option of playing on its own or its opponents' ground unless some other ground be mutually agreed upon, the gate receipts to be divided equally between the two Clubs after deducting the expenses of the referee, the touch judges, the fourth official and the reasonable ground and advertising expenses of the match. The final ties shall be played on a ground selected by the Committee and shall be played for the benefit of the Northumberland Rugby Union.  Host clubs retain home based sales.

3.       Qualification of Players to Play in Challenge Cup Competitions

3.1      All competing teams shall consist of players (and replacement players) who are bona fide playing members of the Club represented by such teams.

3.2      For this purpose a bona fide playing member of a Club is one who has been duly elected in accordance with Club rules and has paid their subscription for the current season.

3.3      No player shall play for more than one Northumberland Club in any of the Northumberland Challenge Competitions in any one season.

3.4      If during the course of the current season a player has joined the Club from outside Northumberland and he wishes to represent in the Competitions from another club, he must have had prior permission from the Secretary of his previous Club, and he must have paid his subscription to his previous Club. These formalities must have been completed and he must have been a bona fide playing member of his new Club for at least 30 days preceding the tie in any team in any of the Challenge Competitions.

3.5      No player shall play for more than one of his Club’s teams in the Northumberland Challenge Competitions in any one season except as provided for in Rule 3.6 below.  

3.6      In selecting cup sides, clubs are encouraged to do so in the spirt of the game.  Whether or not cup tied, senior players should not be included in lower teams.   Once a player has represented his Club in one of the competitions, he may not subsequently play for a team in a lower competition in the same season unless he is:

3.6.1   A regular member of the lower team


3.6.2   Was specifically called upon to fill a temporary vacancy in the higher team caused by the illness, injury or other unavoidable absence of a qualified higher team player.   Appearance for Club 1st XV’s in August would be considered acceptable.


3.6.3   The player has been approved by the opposing Club and that is confirmed to the County Administrator in writing (e-mail) at least 24 hours before the match takes place.  If no such agreement can be achieved referral is possible to the Competitions Committee.

If clearance has been obtained for a player, it must be sought for each round of the Competition.

It should be noted that players who are named on the match day card, but who do not play, are not cup tied. Players must be idnerified on the matcg card when submiteed to the county office

3.7      A player shall not, if he has played in three Senior County Championship matches in the previous three seasons, be eligible to play in any Challenge Competition other than that entered by his Club's first team or second team unless the Committee otherwise agrees. Application for approval must be submitted to the Competitions Committee not less than seven days before the date of the cup‑tie for which the availability of the player is required.

For any other competition, there would need to be a two year period of time lapse.

3.8      If the Committee finds a club in breach of any part of these rules, that Club shall be disqualified from the competitions in which the breach has occurred and / or any other appropriate punishment that is deemed appropriate by the Committee.

4.       Team Composition and Replacements

4.1      In all rounds of the competitions three replacements or substitutes are permitted. By mutual agreement between the teams prior to the commencement of the game, the number of replacements or substitutes may be increased to a maximum of six whence the number agreed shall be notified to the referee and the fourth official.

Rolling subs should be allowed in the County Cup Competitions (Senior Cup and Plate, Cups 2-5).    For all Cups 10 player interchanges will be allowed regardless of the number of agreed replacements.   The Team Manager must take responsibility and agree that the maximum number of changes have not been exceeded.

4.2      Each team must have at least four players in their nominated match squad, all at least eighteen years of age (unless they are a player falling within RFU Regulation who are suitably trained and experienced to be capable of playing in the front row to ensure that on the first occasion (whether due to injury or consequent to a player(s) being temporarily suspended or ordered off) that a front row player is required to be replaced, the team can continue to play safely with contested scrums. Should the situation arise, for whatever reason, that when required to do so, a team is incapable of providing a first replacement or other player as detailed above capable of playing in the front row of the scrum, then, the Referee having confirmed this fact with the Captain of the team, shall order the match to be completed with uncontested scrums.

4.2.1   In Cups 4 and 5, to encourage matches to be played, teams competing in the No.4 or No.5 Cups can play with less than 15.   Matches should be played with even numbers (15 v 15, 14 v 14, down to 12 v 12 in the No5 Cup) but if this is not possible, there can only be one extra player on the opposition side (15 v 14, 14 v 13 etc).

The match should start with contested scrums.  

If no suitable replacement is available to play in the front row then games can go to uncontested scrums and the final result will stand.   

If one side cannot provide a full front row and the game has to start with uncontested scrums, the offending side will suffer a 7 point deficit.

If both teams are unable to start with contested scrums, the match can be played with wholley uncontested scrums and result will stand,

4.3      If on the second or subsequent occasion a front row player requires to be replaced and his team cannot provide a replacement or other player capable of playing in the front row of the scrum the referee, having made enquiry, the match shall be deemed to be abandoned and the provisions of Rule 7.3 shall apply. The game may continue with uncontested scrums. 

4.4      If two teams from the same club are scheduled to play on the same day and one game has to be called off, the more senior fixture must be honoured.  

4.5      In all rounds of the Competitions, each team must fill in a match card listing the players and replacements names. The match cards will be given to the referee prior to the commencement of the game and then held by the fourth official during the game. After the game, the cards must be signed by the referee and the home club must send them to the County office within three days of the match.  Only official County designated cards must be used.  Match cards will be checked when received.  If match cards are not received within 72 hours, action will be taken and this may mean expulsion from the competition.

It should be noted that players who are named on the match day card, but who do not play on the day, are not cup tied. These players must be identified on the match card when submitted to the County Office.  Failure to identify these players would mean they are cup tied.

5.       Match Officials

5.1      The Referees Society shall in each tie appoint a Referee, and when desirable and possible, Touch Judges. In all cases where the Society does not appoint Touch Judges, competent touch judges shall be appointed by the competing Clubs. Appointed Referees must not be members of either Club.

5.2      The home club must appoint a fourth official for each match save for the finals when the fourth official will be appointed by the Referees Society.

5.3      The match referee shall have the power to order play to be commenced fifteen minutes after the time fixed for the commencement of the game. The kick off for Cup Ties played in December, January and February will be no later than 2.00 p.m.

5.4      If the Referee finds it necessary to abandon a match for any reason other than weather   conditions, then irrespective of the number of minutes played the result of that match shall be reviewed and determined by the Committee in accordance with Rule 7.3. The referee shall provide the Committee with a report setting out the reasons for his decision and the time in the match when it was made.

6.       The Ground – Suitability and Fitness

6.1      Every Club on whose ground a tie is to be played must provide a clear playing space of not less than 85 metres from goal to goal and 55 metres from touch line to touch line, but in the Plate and Competitions Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5, the size may be only 85 metres by 50 metres. Grounds must be provided with a suitable margin round the touch line.

6.2      Any objection under this rule must be lodged with the Competitions Committee prior to the date of the match.

6.3      For the finals of all of the Competitions, the home club shall provide a marked technical area for all games and provide a barrier to ensure that all persons other than permitted personnel are kept at a reasonable distance from the playing area.  Clubs not able to comply must seek approval from the Competitions Committee.

6.4      Permitted Personnel include coaching staff, who must confine themselves to the technical areas other than when a player is about to replace a player on the pitch or for the periods of half-time, and no more than four water carriers per team (including medical staff and replacement players) who are permitted within the pitch side or perimeter fencing or other barrier but must remain within the ‘technical areas’ when not specifically carrying out their duties. Water carriers may only be permitted onto the playing area for the purposes of taking water to the players at such times as shall be approved by the Referee. Any player temporarily suspended when playing must remain in the ‘Technical Area’ or leave the playing enclosure and be clearly and readily identifiable to the Fourth Official.

6.5      The various rounds of the Competitions are to be played on the dates stipulated unless mutually agreed by both clubs and a result is possible before the date of the next round. In the event of the grounds of the home Club being unfit for play the tie shall be played on the ground of the away team on the stipulated date. In the event of a change of venue as stated above the first named team shall be deemed the home side.

6.6      In the event of the ground being rendered unfit by weather, the home side shall notify the visiting side at the earliest reasonable time and arrangements made to play the game at an alternative venue or time. Should the teams arrive at the ground and the two captains fail to agree the fitness of the ground, the referee shall decide the fitness or otherwise.

6.7      If the grounds of both Clubs are unfit, the tie shall be played at a mutually agreed date at least seven days before the scheduled date of the next round on the ground of the home Club or if unfit on the ground of the away Club. If the grounds of both Clubs are still unfit, the tie shall be played on an alternative ground or on an alternative date set by the Committee.

7.       Postponed and Abandoned Matches

7.1      If weather conditions prevent a match being played or a match is abandoned because of such conditions with less than sixty minutes having been played, it shall be played before the date of the next round on a day to be agreed between the two clubs.

7.2      If a match is abandoned because of weather conditions when sixty or more minutes have been played, then the score at the moment of abandonment shall stand and be deemed the final score in the match. The Referees decisions as to the necessity for abandonment and the number of minutes played at the moment of abandonment shall be final.

7.3          If a match is abandoned for any other reason, the matter shall be determined by the Committee who may order the match to be replayed or allow the result to stand and impose such other sanctions as it deems appropriate.

8        Period of play and Result

8.1      If, after 40 minutes of play each way the result is a draw, extra time of 10 minutes each way will be played. If the result is still a draw at the conclusion of extra time, the team that has scored most tries will go forward into the next round. If that does not produce a result, the team that has scored most goals from tries shall go forward into the next round. If a result is still not forthcoming, the visiting team shall go forward into the next round, except in the case of a final tie when:   

8.2      In the No. 1 Competition, Challenge Cup and Plate, the match shall be replayed.

8.3      In the other Competitions, the match shall be adjudged a draw, and the trophy shall be shared.

9        The Trophies

9.1      The President and the Hon. Secretary for the time being of the Northumberland Rugby Union shall be for all intents and purposes the legal owners of all trophies in trust for the Union, and shall only hand them over to the winning Club on receiving from them security for safe return when required at any time after nine months.

9.2      Clubs holding the trophies shall be responsible for the cost of repair for any damage incurred whilst in their possession. Any such repairs that are needed will be commissioned by the Committee.

10.      The Committee

10.1    For the purposes of these Rules, the address of the Competitions Committee shall be the County Office.

10.2    All queries, grievances and appeals must be addressed to the Chairman of the Competitions Committee in writing. General queries regarding fixtures and the like should be addressed to the County Administrator.

10.3    The Committee shall from time to time make special arrangements for playing the finals.

11. Complaints, disputes and reviews

11.1    Complaints and requests for review should, in the first instance, be made by clubs to the Competitions committee via the County office to the Chairman who may, in the case of cup matches, make a decision of his own volition subject to ratification at the next meeting and thereinafter recorded. Otherwise than Cup matters, complaints, disputes and review matters shall initially to be heard by a sub-committee of three with a Chairman appointed from the Competitions Committee.

11.2    The Competitions Committee can, of its own volition, set up a review when information has come to hand which could indicate that there may have been a breach of the rules of a particular competition.

11.3    All grievances concerning the playing or non‑playing of fixtures and the playing of ineligible players must be notified to the administrator within 48 hours of the game taking place (or not).  A formal request for an investigation into allegations must be submitted within 7 days.

11.4    Once investigations have taken place, the administrator will present the facts to the Competitions Committee or a sub group thereof and clubs concerned will be informed of the decision at the earliest opportunity. 

12. Right of Appeal

12.1    If a club does not agree a decision, they may exercise their right to appeal the decision, in writing (or electronically) to the NRU Hon Secretary, setting out the grounds for the appeal, within 7 days (48 hours for Cup matches) of the decision being announced. 

12.2    The NRU Hon Secretary shall inform the Chair of Governance who will set up an Appeal Committee of three members to hear the appeal. If the appeal is oral, a representative of the Competitions Committee should attend as a witness.

12.3    The results of any appeal should be produced in writing setting out the reasons for the decision.

12.4    A club/player always has the further right of appeal to the RFU.