Tony Martin admitted he was delighted to put his injury nightmare behind him as Crusaders got back to winning ways with their 44-20 demolition of Bradford Bulls.
Martin, 32, made a sensational return after missing two months with a hamstring injury, sending Gareth Thomas over for his third try in a Crusaders jersey within three minutes of the start.
And the former Melbourne Storm star capped a superb individual display by scoring a try of his own during the second half following a flowing team move. Martin also created a bit of history for the Welsh side, his try taking Crusaders to the 4,000 point mark since they were founded in 2005.
And he couldn’t hide his delight at making a try-scoring comeback in the victory over the Bulls: “It was a great result and it was nice to get some confidence back,” he said. “We started strongly for a change and I thought we worked really hard in defence as well.
“We have been knocked about quite a bit over the last month or so and it is a nice feeling to get back on the horse and hopefully we can build on that for the next couple of weeks.
“For me it was just nice to be out there. It was a great result after what has been a very frustrating couple of months with me being out injured. What made it even better was the result; it was a fantastic team performance against Bradford.
“It was nice to get a try. At least I won’t have to do the nudie run at the end of the year! It was a good try but it was a great team effort that led to it. It was a fantastic team effort against Bradford, everyone worked tremendously hard for each other and it paid off for us.
“It’s just what the doctor ordered after recent results and it has given the team a huge boost.”
Crusaders played some superb rugby at times, but it was their defensive display that earned the plaudits from head coach Brian Noble after the game.
At 26-16, the Welsh side were forced to defend as Bradford had consecutive sets of six in the Crusaders half, and despite the increasing pressure, the hosts held out and managed a score at the other end of the field.
Crusaders defence has been much maligned recently, and Martin believes his side felt the benefits of a tough weeks training: “It is something we have been working very hard on,” he said. “Obviously in recent weeks we have conceded a fair few points and the boys had to work very hard in that department against Bradford.
“Bradford had a lot of ball in the second half, I think it was something like five consecutive sets close to our line and we managed to shut them out, which was hugely satisfying.”
The win moved Crusaders back up to 10th in the Super League table with 12 points, putting them back in the hunt for a maiden play-off place.
However, Martin insists Crusaders are taking things one game at a time and was pleased to simply get back to winning ways, adding: “It is not something we have been looking into in great detail. At the end of the day we are just trying to concentrate on playing to the best of our abilities and winning games.
“The pleasing thing about the win over Bradford is that it has put smiles back on the faces of the boys. We needed that win to boost our confidence and everyone was ecstatic after the final whistle.
“Who knows, if we play with that kind of confidence every week a top eight finish may be on the cards.”
See full story in the Leader