ANTHONY MURRAY will leave North Wales Crusaders at the end of the season after announcing he is stepping down as head coach.

Murray met with the Crusaders’ board of directors prior to Saturday’s 18-4 victory over Gloucestershire All Golds to explain his decision, before informing the players following the win at Queensway.

The former Barrow Raiders coach will now look to bow out in style with the Wrexham-based club, after their latest win - coupled with Coventry Bears’ 46-10 defeat at Newcastle Thunder - meant Crusaders have qualified for the League One Shield final, where they will take on Newcastle.

Murray took charge of Crusaders in June 2014 when he took over the side struggling in the Championship.

Results improved but they were eventually relegated to League One, reaching the play-offs last season and securing the League One Cup with victory over Swinton at Bloomfield Road.

“I told the players after the game that I will step down at the end of the season,” Murray said.

“I think it’s the right time to move on and to seek a new challenge.

“It’s been a really difficult decision and I’d like to thank the current board of directors for their support this season in what have been testing circumstances for everyone connected with Crusaders.

“It’s a great club and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being head coach of Crusaders. The fans have been absolutely brilliant this season in some difficult times.

“They’ve supported and backed myself and my staff and have shown patience with the players.

“Adam Daniels and Alan Hadcroft have been brilliant coaches to work alongside also.”

On the pitch, two first-half efforts from Crusaders saw them take a slender eight-point advantage into the break in torrential rain. 

Rob Massam was the man to grab the first try having been set up by Earl Hurst and Alex Thompson slid over the line to double their lead. 

The second-half started in similar conditions to the first, with multiple errors from both sides.

 However, the visitors managed to reduce their errors as they enjoyed numerous attacks including two efforts which saw them held up over the line.

Crusaders defended superbly and Thompson scored his second of the afternoon, extending the Crusaders’ lead to 12 points.

Steve Parry darted over the All Golds but Jack Hansen sealed the points for Murray’s men with seconds remaining. 

For more on Murray's Crusaders exit, see Monday & Tuesday's edition of the Leader.